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Artists Talk On Art first went online in October of 1995, courtesy of A. D. Coleman, in a section devoted to ATOA at Coleman's website, The B.Y.O. Café, subsequently renamed The Nearby Café ( www.nearbycafe.com). This ATOA web presence, donated by Coleman as a support service for ATOA, remained operative until the fall of 2001. Some of the transcriptions and digital-image files at our current site come from that project. ATOA wishes to thank A. D. Coleman and The Nearby Café for this contribution.






Is It the Future Yet?

"Humanism 2000: Fast Science, Fast Society.
What Role for the Arts?"


Moderator: Georgo Ennenga; Panelists: Jim Carse, Kim Levin,
Leon Golub, Carter Ratcliff

Artists Talk On Art, NYC; April 7, 1989

George Ennengo: In sci-fi films, there's usually a sub-plot, where one member of the mission is not a human being; he's an android! But we don't know which one . . . Recent developments in genetic engineering and artificial thinking make some of our age-old convictions of what it means to be human a lot less compelling than they used to be.

For the Greeks, human meant the animal who coul reason. But today, we have machines that do that a lot better than we do . . . Another example would be that even if we don't honor our parents, at least we have them, but there may be a time when there will be people who don't have parents.

Tonight we'll try to take on what kind of society can have such a re-defined man [sic], and what role artists can play in such a society.

Leon Golub: I will take a pessimistic view, given how I view the world. Our society is certainly getting richer and more developed, although at least 50% of the world's population is hungry.

[But] in highly developed areas of extreme technological sophistication, new theories and developments follow other at an accelerating pace. Human history gets faster all the time. So the world is changing right under our feet. We are going to be the last of the "hand" people, as everything becomes technologically coerced . . . .

Science Fiction was always ahead of science in projecting all sorts of amusing and horrific possibilities we knew couldn't take place. But now, science fiction has a hard time keeping up with science. Science [starts] to move faster the imagination. We are on the verge of genetic revolutions of which we haven't seen even the beginning . . . There's a real possibility of transformation of the species, which is frightening. I think that will affect artmaking, too.

Kim Levin: I'm having a problem with the assumption of this panel, which is that "progress" is good and that everything is going to be better in the future with all these miraculous technological inventions. When Leon said he was going to take a pessimistic view, I thought, "this sounds interesting." But his presentation was rather optimistic. What good is it to have test-tube babies in an environment where nobody is going to be able to live, when we have holes in the ozone layer and toxic rain and oil spills destroying the fish and the birds?

"Humanism" itself is the problem -- we are so self-centered we don't realize that the animals and the earth and plants and atmosphere are our support systems. [We may be] good and kind and gentle, but we're also greedy and acquisitive and destructive and we are destroying our support system. We shouldn't confuse inventions with wisdom. I don't think humans are any smarter than they were 5000 years ago. We are a barbaric culture, probably the most barbaric that ever existed, in terms of the planet. . . .

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