Monday, June 15

#24 - past or future artwork


You wake up and seem to be lying on some sort of operating table. You are unable to fully sit up and take in your surroundings, but you can make out a group of shadowy figures watching you.

You are told by the strangers that you are in no danger and will not be harmed. However, you are have been drafted into a large scale experiment and your participation is apparently out of your control at this point.

The figures tell you that you will wake up tomorrow in your own bed, but you must first make a choice that will affect the rest of your earthly existence. You must choose between being able to experience either the art that you have already seen or heard in your lifetime or art that you have never experienced (which would include anything in existence that you have not yet experienced as well as things that have not yet been created). Your choice will extend to books, movies, music, and works of art.

So, in short, you will be left with the ability to experience just one set of artwork. Should you choose the artwork to which you've already been exposed, you will be forever cut off from anything new. New paintings would appear as blank canvases, books as a set of blank bound pages, music and films nothing but static. Should you instead elect to preserve the art you haven't yet seen or heard, you would lose all access to your favorite works. Though you would retain some memory of these things, an attempt to recreate them (say, starting a cover band or going to a dramatic reading) would prove futile. You would be left with only the fading memory of your favorite novels or songs, with no way to reference them. Even your own singing or humming would be (to your ears) muted if you were to try to produce a tune from the banished set.

The shadowy figures give you an hour to make your decision. If you have not done so before the hour is up, the choice will be made for you. Which set of artwork do you choose?

9 comments:

Holly said...

First of all, this is a sad, sad question, but I think my answer is pretty simple, if not well thought-through. I would choose to keep the art that we have because so much of our identity - both as individuals and cultures - is defined by it.

Man. What a dismal predicament.

Andrew said...

Does this happen before or after the new Harry Potter movie comes out? :-)

I'd have to keep the old stuff. In the areas of music, art and literature this is a no-brainer. However in the case of movies this would make me very sad. On the plus side I wouldn't know what I was missing...

Greg said...

While I understand where the two other posters are coming from, I have to disagree with them.

I would choose the art I have not yet experienced. I choose this option for two reasons.

The first of which is that when I think about the amount of art I have seen vs. the amount of art that I have not seen that is currently in existence in the world I am sure that I have seen or heard a staggeringly small percentage.

The second reason I would choose the unseen option is that it gives me the option to experience the art that will be created during the rest of my life time. Who knows when the next Van Gogh will come along, who knows when the next group like the beatles will come along, who knows when the next Shakespeare or Hemingway will come along and what if Weezer somehow makes another album worth listening to. I want to leave myself open to experiencing those possibilities which may very well happen during my life time.

Matt said...

Let me make a few clarifications...

First, this decision would affect only you. Everyone else in the world (besides the others presumably drafted into this experiment) would still have access to all artwork.

Second, there are a couple of realted points should you choose the "future art" option. As far as pieces of art are concerned, you would still be able to view authentic works you had never seen in person. If you had only seen Starry Night in a book, you would still have the ability to see it in person someday (though you could no longer see it in your previously viewed art book).

Also, you would be able to experience future art multiple times. Your decision merely represents a dividing line between what you will and will not be able to see going forward. In other words, under the "future art" option, a movie you had never previously viewed would NOT fall into the realm of "already experienced" and disappear once you had seen it.

Thanks to Greg for this question, which I feel more divided about than any of the previous either/or questions.

Andrew said...

Hmm - I was assuming that existing art work that I had not myself seen was classified as "past artwork" and would therefore be available to me if I chose the past option.

If that's not the case then it changes things.

JOYCE said...

new, definitely new! the art from the past may be a huge part of our identity and it may clarify much of our history... but culture is dynamic and evolving. though it would be sad to lose old art, i think participating in new art goes in our cultural mandate of making culture. it would allow for me to understand new forms, new people, new cultures... and hopefully i would witness the burgeoning "yellow renaissance"...

Holly said...

Ah. I thought that the decision would also affect others. That definitely makes the choice an extremely tough one...

So...if art that has been seen only in a book can still be viewed in the original form (Starry Night), does that affect the "real versions" of other forms as well - such as strung-together YouTube clips of a good film or an abridged/anthology version of a classic piece of literature?

Joe said...

you know, i think i'd have to go with what i've already heard and seen.

i can't imagine never hearing r.e.m. again...or being able to watch pulp fiction or curb or SATC.

the older i get, the less "new" music i listen to. most of the music i listen to is stuff that i already own. i rarely buy new CD's and very few "new" music works its way into my rotation of music. i'll get a CD from the library of something new, listen to it a few times, but i don't have the urge to buy much of anything anymore. the only recent CD that's come out in 2009 that i can see myself listening to far in the future is lady gaga's "the fame". i dunno. am i lame?

Matt said...

My thought on excerpts is that by choosing "future" you would lose those, too. So if you had seen part of a movie on television, you would only be able to see the sections you had never seen.

I think I would have to choose the new artwork. It would be difficult to never again be able to experience a new album or movie with everyone else, and I think in many cases I do not re-read, re-listen, and re-watch things in proportion to how much I like them. If that makes sense.