A confused sense of history

There’s an exhibition at Moma at the moment called The Forever Now. It’s hooked on William Gibson’s idea of ‘atemporality’ — or the feeling of being in more than one time at once. It’s the strange sense you get from many of his books and to be honest in life — you’re never quite sure whether you’re in the past, present or future. Bruce Sterling explains the idea more in this talk he gave in 2010.

As this Guardian review says, the show doesn’t really work, mainly because painting is very temporal. It is almost always of the moment which is why nearly all large galleries show work in some sort of chronological order. The contemporary artists in the show are no different — they fit into a lineage and don’t manage (or possibly want) to try and combine or transcend different eras.

It made me realise that it’s a tricky time to be an artist. Representing our time is hard — most artists I come across just focus on the bad but I think you need to hold a sense of optimism and pessimism at the same time to make sense of the 21st century. That’s a really tough ask.

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