Friday Freak Out: Artistry That Destroys

I'm not talking performance art gone violent, though there certainly is such a thing. In the late 1950s, Gustav Metzger created a fine art form he called "Auto-Destructive Art" and it involved self-destructive painting, sculpture, construction, and collaboration between scientists, engineers and artists. 

Of course later you get radical visual artists like Rauschenberg, Nitsch, and Pollock--destroying everything from a perfectly clean studio floor to disemboweling large animals atop a blank canvas.

Weird stuff.

No, I'm referring to the economic phenomenon labelled "creative destruction." Its textbook definition is the ongoing, or rather incessant, production and innovation by which new [technological or industrial] units replace obsolete ones. It is sometimes called Schumpeter's Gale because Joseph Schumpeter, an Austrian-American economist, came up with the lingo. Really, he was regurgitating Marxist theories on labor, production and industry.
It seems they were both commies. 

However, they were definitely onto something. I mean, be honest. Have you waited in line to upgrade your iPhone 5 to the new 6? Or the 6Plus? Or the 7, 7Plus and, oh yeah, the 8 is coming out soon. Anyone over the age of 40 can attest to the blinding speed of technology and can probably dig actual evidence out of attics and forgotten drawers of devices made obsolete by the incessant march of progress. 

In order to innovate, improve, and to produce something altogether new and better, the artist/creator becomes a destroyer by default. In a fun little article by George Dvorsky, he lists more than 20 pieces of everyday technology that have gone the way of the dinosaurs though we thought such devices would be around forevermore. I had to laugh at more than one of the things on his list because I LIVED THROUGH almost all of these. 

Ugh, I'm old.

Here's a recap in no particular order and with a few of my own ideas:
  • rolls of 35mm film
  • cassette tapes
  • printed newspapers
  • printed maps (though, I'm saving some for the apocalypse)
  • answering machines
  • phone books
  • (which reminds me) rotary phones
  • (who are we kidding?) home phones or land lines in general
  • dial-up Internet
  • paying for long distance calling
  • public phone booths (sorry, Dr. Who)
  • the U.S. Postal Service
  • Palm Pilots, beepers & Blackberries (not the actual fruit, that we still have)
  • email account you have to pay for monthly
  • Blockbuster Video (need I say more?)
  • fax machines
  • printed dictionaries & encyclopedias (no more creepy door-to-door salesmen)
  • CDs, CDRoms, floppy disks
  • typewriters & word processors 

Speaking of typewriters, as a writer I've decided to start collecting the antique models. They're so cool! But pricey. Look at this absolute beauty--wish I had one of these! It's from Martin Howard's Collection of Antique Typewriters which includes devices from the very beginning of the industry (roughly 1880s). It is the largest collection of its kind in Canada and contains rare and historically significant typing machines.

Anyway, to my point, the obvious artistry in a piece like this is, in effect, destroyed in order to make way for the DELL computer on which you may be reading this blog right now.

We could get super sentimental, or existential, and discuss the great circle of life and how, unless a seed die, it cannot bear fruit. But we'll stick specifically to the fourth industrial revolution and the prevalence of urban decay. Here are some statistics that will astound you. Annually, what environmentalists now call e-waste, 20 to 50 million metric tons are thrown away worldwide. Also every single year, Americans dump phones containing over $60 million in gold/silver into the trash. And you can be sure there are a bunch of mice in those garbage piles. In 2010, 61,400 tons of keyboards and mice went into landfills throughout the US. I couldn't find the stats for 2016, but I'm guessing its comparable or higher. In fact, properly disposing of and recycling technological waste is becoming a HUGE deal in our first-world nation. There are dos and don'ts, as well as a myriad of organizations who advocate for and promote the recycling of obsolete tech. Here's what my city is doing about it, and I'm sure your city may be doing the same or better.

I guess my favorite part of all of this creative destruction, besides the antiquing potential, is the emergence of a new fine art photography genre simply called "urban decay." And for your viewing pleasure, I have included several of my personal favorites below:

[PLEASE NOTE: all unlabeled images used in the post are credited to Pinterest, H.I.A.T., lovetoknow,, and Beauty in Decay: The Art of Urban Exploration]


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