This Week: Why is it so hard to tell if American theatre is thriving or not?… Have art and technology had a falling out?… Perhaps TV is the solution to our political polarization… The music industry seems to be finally getting it together… A cautionary tale about getting swallowed up by the online world.
- Theatre: The Best of Times or the Worst? Why is it so difficult to judge the state of American theatre right now? Looked at one way, things have never looked brighter. Yet in another way there are problems and challenges everywhere. Helen Shaw has spent the last 12 years as a theatre critic in New York. She says the state of the field is mixed. “As recently as 2007, critic Robert Brustein could say on a panel that we had 35 ‘really fine’ playwrights; even the hardest-to-please observer would say now that the number has more than quadrupled. Some theatre lovers don’t like to categorize the flood because of the canon’s long history of exclusion.” Even if you look just at play writing, it’s impossible to tell whether this is a Golden Age or really a bear market.
- Are Art And Technology Friends Or Enemies? Everywhere we look people are talking about the convergence of the arts and technology. Creativity as broadly defined is found across science and technology and that’s where some of today’s most interesting ideas are to be found. There is a historical precedent. “It was the assertion of the Romantic movement that art makes us appreciate the beauty, richness and sheer size of the world. And technology, used appropriately, brings us closer to that sublime.” But more and more technology is bumping up against that idea. “Even if that was true in 1939, it’s not true now: not now our drones do our flying for us; not now our technology has got away from us to the point where large portions of nature are being erased; not now we live mired in media and, indeed, have to make special efforts to escape it.”
- How Are We Going To Have Our Toughest Political Debates If We’re So Divided? The Answer: TV TV critic Emily Nussbaum says our politics are so charged that as soon as an issue is brought up it is so polarized that it’s impossible to hear the arguments. But there are TV shows that have fans across the political spectrum and talking about the politics in these shows can be an interesting stand-in for the arguments we can’t have directly. This is an updated take on what art has often been able to do – stand in as a translator when the world seemingly can’t agree.
- You Mean The Music Business Isn’t Dying Anymore? The recording business has been mired in a slump as long as digital distribution started to crater old business models. Suddenly though, things are looking up. There’s been a big surge this year, following on a strong 2015. “U.S. streaming revenue grew 57 percent to $1.6 billion in the first half of 2016 and accounted for almost half of industry sales, more than countering shrinking purchases of albums and singles. Subscriptions totaled $1.01 billion, according to the RIAA data.”
- Is Real Life a Casualty of Our Online Obsessions? Ex-blogger Andrew Sullivan holds himself up as a cautionary tale and in a thoughtful essay explains why he had to largely quit his digital life. “By the last few months, I realized I had been engaging — like most addicts — in a form of denial. I’d long treated my online life as a supplement to my real life, an add-on, as it were. Yes, I spent many hours communicating with others as a disembodied voice, but my real life and body were still here. But then I began to realize, as my health and happiness deteriorated, that this was not a both-and kind of situation. It was either-or. “ I respond by suggesting technology is about choices about how and whether to use it. “We can be unconscious of a choice when it’s not yet a choice. When technology extends our grasp however, we then have to choose it or not. Having chosen it, we can be consumed if we’re not also conscious of learning when not to use it.”
[This is my weekly roundup of stories from ArtsJournal that fit longer term trends in the arts]
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