Gatherr is back! When Tumblr was a newborn and microblogging as a term had barely been thought of I had Gatherr.com a Tumblr based scrapbook of interesting cultural stuff. Unlike many in the Tumblr universe I tended to write original content rather than just reblog. But then along came Facebook and Twitter and all my other blogs plus the 2008 downturn put me into survival mode. It was too much to keep up with.
After 5 years I posted again on Gatherr. I am proud of the story about Bill Traylor who was born a slave in the US. Without education he spent his life in the grind of survival and the indignities brought on by rampant prejudices. It wasn't easy being a black man in the American south.
One can only imagine the many people who looked into his eyes and failed to see that long after slavery was abolished that circumstance of birth had chained his inner world and prevented him from living his dreams.
Bill Traylor dreamed of being an artist but it wasn't until he was 85 years old that he was finally able to start painting. He may have been untrained but the poetry of his vision was revealed in those last 10 years of his life. It is a very special privilege to be able to see Bill Traylor's artwork. Except for the luck that another artist discovered Traylor drawing in a street the artwork might never have been preserved. The incredible story is in Gatherr.com
Writing new posts in Gatherr or here has reminded me how much life has changed since Bill Traylor's day. I don't romanticize the simplicity of the past for the very reason that Traylor had a simple life but because of the color of his skin his life was not a wonderful one. I hear middle class white people talk about how fabulous life was in the past. They find it difficult, if not impossible, to imagine that it wasn't such a great time if you weren't white, or had a mental illness, or were gay, or believed in a different god, or any of the myriad human conditions that were swept into the never-never world of oppression back then. No, life, back then was not nice and safe for all the Bill Traylor's of that world.
Today we do things in a somewhat different way. The internet has made it increasingly difficult for those who want to enslave others. Revolutions abound as people seek to overthrow past shackles and even in the lands of the free people like Julian Assange or Edward wage a new kind of vigilante justice against government secrecy. It is debatable as to whether or not these efforts improve anything, but it cannot be denied that in the computer age it is hard to hide truth from the human community.
Yet as much as we challenge authority and remove shackles made of steel most of us are very good at putting shackles of another kind on ourselves. That takes many forms but for increasing numbers of people it takes the form of a self imposed bondage to the demands of the internet.
Sometimes it is referred to as computer addiction and given the propensity of humans to all manner of serious addictive behavior there is little doubt that addiction plays a role in many cases. I find it a far too simplistic explanation however as it doesn't account for those who are shackled to their computer for work reasons and would happily walk away without a hint of withdrawal if given the opportunity.
Whether an addictive compulsion or the needs of earning a living or some other cause is ultimately moot. Whatever the reason for it the demands of the internet have become an overwhelming burden for increasing numbers of people. We are seemingly one tweet away from madness.
While I hesitate to use the word burden for myself as I love the world of the computer, I do find the many demands of the internet to be hard to keep up with. There are just too many social networks, too many blog and web site services for any one person to effectively use all of them and yet in an age where the traditional means of consuming culture has fractured into a myriad different internet experiences there is a need for an artist to dabble in a wide variety of ways of presenting their creative vision. To focus on just one is problematic because services flourish and then decline and disappear with disturbing regularity. The only certainty is uncertainty. The iArtist has to be a quick mover.
There is one certainty that cannot be ignored and that is that the old way of the artist hiding away from reality in a studio without connection to the world has vanished. The days of rich patrons and living in Bohemian enclaves is long past. The internet for bad or good has become the human condition. Like the wheel or fire it is one of those transforming inventions that once discovered can never be discarded. The human need to connect with people is so fundamental that having created the idea of networking minds across the planet we will never again be able to survive without it. All the cultural changes it is bringing at lightning speed seems to be bringing collateral damage all over the world but paradoxically is also allowing people to flower like never before. The internet is bigger than all of us, big enough to have plenty of corners that we can call our own.
The problem is keeping up with them all.