There are no more artists. There are only machines. The musicians were the first to go. They did not all go at once. Of course, the electronic musicians were the first ones to fail, cannibalized by their own machines.
The first Aphex and Squarepusher releases were made using gear that looks positively stone age now. Anyone can make electronic music by dragging and dropping samples into Logic. The earliest electronic musicians used samplers that could hold a single sound on a 1.44mb floppy disk. That took talent. Dragging and dropping samples and applying a few AU effects in Logic does not.
At some point, machine-aided music started becoming machine-created music. The dumb terminal is not the machine, it is you.
But other musicians went quickly too. First the singers were eaten by Autotune. Then, most people who played an actual instrument suffered the same fate. They were effectively produced to death. This is why all modern music sounds the same.
First the machines came for the musicians, but since I was not a musician, I did not care. Then the machines came for the photographers. The machines came with Photoshop first, then with Lightroom, finally, with Instagram. Now all photographs look the same. You do not need talent to apply a filter. You do not need to worry about aperture settings, exposure, film. The digital camera takes care of that for you. It has a built in memory, so you don’t need one. Just point and click.
And don’t even think about becoming a muse, either. Anyone can become a model. We just stretch you here, airbrush you there, and before you know it, you look like Edie Sedgwick. To anyone who’s never met you.
Now the machines are coming for the pen, pencil, and paintbrush people. The machines are coming armed with Wacom tablets and pressure sensitive screens. The machines are coming with apps on the iPad and, regardless of what David Hockney says, these machines will soon diminish art. We are in the process of churning out a generation of illustration students all schooled in Adobe Illustrator, obsessed with typeface weights, yet without an iota of creativity. They copy, they trace, they use the computer to edit and change. But they do not create.
Of course there are still artists. It takes skill to paint with oil or to sculpt marble, it even takes a modicum of intelligence to come up with (or steal) the idea of a pickled shark. Yet Hirst and, of course, Warhol before him, were absolutely correct. Art was no longer about the hand that drew (one could always hire an amenuensis or two to handle that), it was about the idea and more importantly the ability to promote it.
Sadly, the Internet has made self-promotion far more important than the creation of the idea. On the web, he who shouts loudest gets the most notice. He who is reblogged, tweeted about, liked. The work of the talented is a whisper in a wall of white noise.
Big ideas are dead. Replaced with mass-produced, computer produced music and art.
Only the writer struggles on. While there are few writers still producing manuscripts in longhand, his tools have changed little since the typewriter. He still works by hand, unaided, transcribing the contents of his heart without a computer to interpret his brush strokes or iron out the flaws in his voice.
Of course the writers are under attack.
If the visual and audio spectra are cluttered with the white noise of machine-made art, so too do decent writers find it hard to rise above the slop and drivel of a million wordpress blogs all singing the same bullshit chorus in unison. It used to be that publication took time and cost money, now anyone with five minutes can set up a blog and start talking.
Look at me, I should know.
Yet the difference is that while our words may be published by the machines, they are not written by them — not in the same way the machines have begun to compose our music and draw our pictures.
In this sense, writing may well be the last creative process not entirely dictated by the machines.
It remains, for me, the purest, possibly the last, form of art.