To paraphrase Charles Dickens in his famous novel A Tale of Two Cities, we live in the best of times, and we live in the worst of times. It’s easy to see what’s so good in the present day and age. We live in a time where you need to only click an icon, press some buttons to communicate instantly face to face with people halfway around the world war or exactly on the other side of the planet.
Technologically speaking, the world has become much smaller thanks to our gadgets. It seemed almost unspeakably weird to talk about picking up a phone and talking to a person face to face using regular phone transmission signals as early as thirty years ago. Now, people do it all the time thanks to Skype and FaceTime. That’s how exciting things are.
Furthermore, also back in the day, if you were writing an article like or a journal entry like this article, you would have to sit in front of a typewriter (you remember those, right?), put in some paper and then a type your message. If you make a mistake, you have to waste a few minutes using some sort of error correction tape typing over your mistake.
Once you’re happy with the letter, you then fold it carefully and place it in an envelope. You then scrounge around for the right amount of stamps, you walk to the post box (again, do you remember those?), put your letter in, and after a few hours or a few days, the postman comes and picks up your mail, and you’d be lucky after a few days or even weeks, your letter gets to where it’s supposed to go, and if somebody wants to respond, the process repeats itself again.
We no longer have to do that. With e-mail, you can send instant communications to somebody who’s located thousands upon thousands of miles away from you. In fact, you can coordinate to do business with that person in real time thanks to Skype and the Internet.
We live in the best of times when it comes to communication, but we also live in the worst of times when it comes to personal truth communication. More than ever, the whole idea of personal truth is under assault because there seems to be a rising tide of orthodoxy. Now, this orthodoxy is very easy to recognize because there are many traditional analogs of it. It’s not really exactly a new concept.
For the longest time, religious authorities said that there was only one accepted view, and if you somehow deviate from this view, you are a heretic. There were serious consequences to being a heretic. The worst, of course, is finding yourself strapped to a wooden pole, being set on fire.
Well, thankfully, we’re long past those times but, believe me, in terms of social disapproval, the stakes are still as high, and that’s really where we are now. The whole idea of the conflict of truths that play out, and this is why art is so important because art enables a forum where different readings of truths and different meanings and flavors can come out and engage. They engage not in some sort of combat, but they engage in some sort of exchange because the rules of the game as well as the protocol call for decorum, calm and even-mindedness.
This is what’s so promising about Arno Rafael Minkkinen’s work and other postmodernist’s work. There is no judgment. Instead, you have this arena that you are furnished through these images, and you can play around with your own ideas and cross reference it with others without any threat, without any sense of risk that you’re losing out or that somehow, some way your ideas are not going to be part of the “approved” point of view. This is nothing short of liberating if you think about it.