Not so long ago people firmly believed the world was a flat disc, and perhaps this fallacy will raise it’s head again sometime, just as soon as »the-past-was-so-much-better« crowd beam themselves far back enough. In fact it is a bit like that already, in that for many people the real world is only perceived through a flat rectangle. A campaign by the Vienna Tourist Board last November was, I thought, both successful and pointed: For three days in the Belvedere a big red hashtag was pasted over Klimt’s masterpiece »The Kiss« (or rather a copy of it), accompanied with the words: »See Vienna. Not #Vienna« (which probably didn’t stop people taking a snapshot). Nowadays people aren’t even viewing works of art from the front through the mobile phone, but with their backs to them, as they wave their selfie sticks to ?evidence their »interest« in culture.
Of course this self-limited horizon is not restricted to just museums. Once isolated picturesque corners of the world are being overrun lately by tourists working through Instagram lists. Which of course means these places become something less than idyllic – Case in point: google the town of Hallstatt in Upper Austria. Recently I, too, had the experience of watching an award ?ceremony on a 9 x 13 cm display. Not my choice, I assure you, but the gentleman in front of me was holding his smartphone up with both hands high in the air to film the whole thing. And no, this was not the Oscars and his wife had not unexpectedly been named as Best Actress … Also memorable was a boat trip I took on my last holiday – a lovely warm evening, superb scenery and a breathtaking sunset, viewed from the back of the boat … the fireball of the sun sinking down towards the horizon for almost half an hour, before finally disappearing. One of those moments than can bring a tear to the eye because they are so beautiful. What I remember though is that one middle-aged man filmed this spectacle from start to finish instead of taking his girlfriend in his arms. Why in all the world would you want to watch a sunset at home in front of the TV when you could have experienced it live?
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with capturing memories. And what harm does it do if people think their food tastes better after turning it into bits and bytes. Yet I do feel that it does something to us when we lose our perspective for the big picture and only see things in tiny excerpts (apart from wondering just what good it does for mankind to post the Mona Lisa for the millionth time on Insta …) Is the new »real« only really real when it has been uploaded? Isn’t it actually those fleeting, irretrievable moments or impressions that spark creativity? Because they are not captured for ever, but exist only in the head where they can be further imagined or changed?
Having once broadened our horizons when we discovered that the Earth is a sphere and that it definitely does not orbit the sun, we are now backtracking and compressing 360° views into a rectangle. Congratulations! – What progress!
This article was first published in novum 03.19 – single copies are available here