My picks for the five most interesting stories we gathered this week.
- The Arts’ Existential Challenge Arts organizations, along with every business sector trying to cope with sweeping changes wrought by the internet, are struggling with how to reinvent for the future while not alienating its past or present. “What’s the answer? Some would say that reinvention invariably is brutal — in the corporate world, it is often perceived as being accompanied by pain. Others would argue it’s mostly a matter of keeping one group happy while simultaneously appealing to another and not letting the one know what you are so carefully doing for the other.” Simultaneously, as baby boomer arts leaders retire, arts leaders wonder about the best ways to hand off to younger generations. The Hewlett Foundation broadens its consideration of arts leadership: “Members of younger generations often see leadership as the fostering of a culture of connectedness, collaboration, and change—they believe leadership is rooted in the efforts of many. This view is in contrast to the more traditional, hierarchical structures and practices of many arts organizations and funders.”
- Is Technology Transcending “Technology” to Become Culture? In a week where computers beat humans at complex games, virtual reality is touted as the next transformative new thing, and renewed warnings about the power of artificial intelligence, visitors to SxSW, where technology trends rule, and the new new thing is the focus, some came away wondering if technology has become a way of thinking rather than products. “This year SXSW, as the festival is known, feels like a story of how the tech ethos has escaped the bounds of hardware and software. Tech is turning into a culture and a style, one that has spread into new foods and clothing, and all other kinds of non-electronic goods. Tech has become a lifestyle brand.”
- Where Did We Get The Idea That Art Was Just Supposed To Comfort? We’re shaped not just by the things we agree with but by those that we find difficult. People turn to art to be challenged, to be provoked, to have their world expanded. But increasingly, in an era of “safe spaces” and micro-aggressions” some seem to believe that uncomfortable points of view shouldn’t be permitted. This is antithetical to the nature of art, however. “Never apologise for art. Art entertains and delights. It also shocks us into awareness. It shows us aspects of life we may prefer to turn away from. If you are seriously sensitive, enquire ahead.”
- A Battle Over When (And Where) You Get To Watch Movies This week a company announced plans to allow people to buy movies to watch at home the same day they launch in movie theatres. You’d pay a premium of course, but investors bet there are enough people who would pay to make the service profitable. The pushback from Hollywood was swift. Of course, the movie industry wants to protect movie theatres, which have already had a tough time. “More sophisticated window modeling may be needed for the growing success of a modern movie industry. Those models should be developed by distributors and exhibitors in company-to-company discussions, not by a third party.”
- Should Museums Be More Moral? Holland Cotter argues in an essay in The Times that museums ought to be truth-tellers about the objects they present. In his view, as museums have become brands and big business, needing to make deals for corporate sponsorship, they have lost their moral transparency. “To some degree, the museums have benefited, at least financially. Urban museums that have mastered these strategies most successfully are crowded places — destination brands; busy, event-driven entertainment centers. But as generators of life lessons, shapers of moral thinking, explainers of history, they no longer matter, because they’re not asking people to look for any of that. Could anything change this dynamic? Maybe telling the truth about history, including their own, could. Periodically, in past decades, they’ve been forced to do this.”