It’s just like a photo, we think.
We viewers cannot paint perfect figures, so we don’t make art. We don’t have the time, so we don’t make art. We watch a video on TikTok and the end result looks more real than our goddamn reflection in the mirror, and so we don’t make art.
Value is a funny thing to measure art by. Talking about conceptual art as if it holds no “value” is wrong in several ways and correct in a couple more. Let me explain.
On social media an artist–very talented in a very specific, hyper-realistic style of painting–posts a time-lapse film of their work from start to finish. We, the viewers, are stunned by how true to life the figure in the painting looks, how the eyes look so wet or the cheeks look so soft. It’s just like a photo, we think as we watch, impressed by this artist’s ability to represent life exactly as it is.
We’ve been looking at perfectly drawn figures and swooning over them forever. But now the artist films the process and speeds it up to less than a minute, and shares it with millions of viewers on an app designed algorithmically to show us things we will react to.
The glorification of hyper-realism we’re seeing right now is fascinating to me, not because I am a fan of the kind of exact replication of form that seems to stun viewers, but because this shift to labor-intensive, exacting, time consuming, rigid art makes perfect sense in the context of our waveringly democratic reality.