Creating Art In the Digital Age

By Joseph Kim

Hi, my name is Joe, and I’m an intern here at Red Summit Productions. And today is my last day. For the past 6 months, I’ve helped with professional digital projects, as well as develop some of my own original digital content, like narrative vlogs and music videos. So, at the end of my time here, I wanted to ask the question:

What does it mean to create art in the digital age?

The number of content creators, like myself, is growing more and more each day. There are those who, in order to profit from their content, have to prioritize quantity over quality, creating a digital presence with their ever-growing audience. And there are others who, in order to craft more impactful/creative works, must risk lack of exposure and audience growth. Regardless of these strategies, artists try to find ways to sustain a worthwhile career in the media industry. So, from a consumer’s and an artist’s point of view, in this age when thousands of hours worth of content are uploaded every day, from original digital content to transcoded broadcast/cinematic works, on a plethora of platforms, what is the value in creating meaningful art in a media-saturated culture?

Well, it’s all a manner of perspective, isn’t it? Digital art could now be seen as transcendent, as it has expanded beyond its original purpose, permitting for remix culture to thrive. It could be seen now as solely consumerism, with companies, brands, and even creators trying to sell themselves to potential customers every day. It could be seen as connective tissue, with global experiences becoming more visible day-by-day.

But this is all assuming that art has any meaning at all. What I realized over the course of my internship is that art, videos, and content don’t have any inherent meaning attached to them. We instill much of what makes videos “special” into them. Like, a viral video of a dog bouncing on a trampoline can have as much of an emotional impact as a blockbuster film.

Take YouTube, for example. The platform hosts millions of independent content creators, professional and amateur, alongside corporations pushing ad campaigns, and film studios pushing rentals of the biggest blockbusters, all while YouTube pushes their own original scripted content. The digital era has created a playing-field that anyone can participate and succeed in. So, if content creators across the spectrum are competing with one another to deliver the relatively same feeling (joy, fear, concern) to audiences, and there are thousands of videos across multiple platforms similar to each other, then what makes any one of those videos special? What gives those videos meaning?

The digital age has saturated consumable media to the point where it’s removed any veil of “high-art” or “low-art”, allowing the consumer to choose what they want to enjoy. Because all these entities are vying for your attention; all of their content can leave an impact on you, one way or another; and all of these creators have relatively equal opportunity to attract you, the consumer. I know this is becoming more relevant because, from my own personal experience, I’ve had a more impactful experience watching 30-second comedy videos filmed on a iPhone than watching a well-polished documentary. And sure, that may just apply to me, but isn’t that the point? We can choose what impacts us. That’s what makes digital content special. We have the power to be as open to contents’ effects as we’d like them to be. We can be as abrasive or accepting to a viral body-wash campaign as we want. We can like what we like, regardless of medium. We give content meaning.

I also wanted to take some time to talk about what digital art meant for me personally, as a creator. I’ve been online as a creator for awhile, starting out on YouTube, filming on a laptop camera. And over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to evolve my craft, getting access to better equipment, and educating myself on film language and technique. But if we follow the thread of art losing its inherent meaning, then where does that place me as an artist?

I think it removes the weight from my shoulders. As a creator, I have this tendency to pour my heart into whatever project I’m working on. So, this means devoting my time, energy, and sometimes finances into a single work of art, regardless of how well it is received in the end. And although this mindset is something to hold onto when tackling any body of work, it can also be exhausting.

So, if art is meaningless, allowing the consumer and creator to place whatever meaning they want onto a piece of work, then I’m able to remind myself:

Not every video is a masterpiece. Be aware of what needs to be done, how much of yourself you want to invest, and get the job done.

And ultimately, this mindset allows me to focus less on the art, and more on the important things in life: spending time with friends and family, and enjoying life to its fullest.

That’s my big takeaway from Red Summit Productions. Thank you to Mike Krentzman for giving me the opportunity to work with yourself and other industry professionals. And thank you to our audience on Medium, for supporting the intern-created content that we release.

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