Interview: Devin Coldewey
Monday, 28 February 2011
After reading a few of his innovative posts, I couldn’t resist e-mailing Devin an interview request. A tech writer who also likes waxing philosophical? Perfect.
Devin responded quickly, but more importantly, responded with intelligent and unique answers to my fairly flat questions. Now there’s a feat.
- The Danger of Externalizing Knowledge
- Generation i: Middle Children of the Information Age
- Fanboyism as Existential Distress
- The Ad-Supported World
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How do you engage art on a daily/regular basis?
I spend most of every day online writing pretty mundane stuff, so in a way it’s hard for me to engage art the way one thinks about “engaging art” – going to galleries, performances, and such. But the internet is such a deep resource that I can’t really say that it matters.
I think that because I essentially live on the internet, I engage art through it, in ways that only the internet offers: instant access to some of the most rare and obscure pieces of art and literature ever to be created.
I recently found some enormous scans of the 1728 “Cyclopedia,” which is filled with the most wonderful and elegant diagrams, beautiful typography, and maps and illustrations of all kinds.
To find something like this ten or twenty years ago, I’d have to check this rare book into a reading room at like Oxford. Now there are literally millennia open to us to peruse from our chairs. I don’t know if I even have any appetite for contemporary art when I’ve only scratch the surface of the past.
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E-reader or book?
Book – I love books. E-readers are great, and I’m glad they exist, but they’re not good enough yet (they should be faster, writable, foldable, etc), and also they’re primarily about convenience and only secondarily about the reading experience. While they enable a lot, at the moment there’s really no reason to read a Kindle edition over a paper edition except for portability.
I collect old books, they’re wonderful objects, and you also begin to be familiar with them as you would with your phone or car or house. That’s not the case with e-books, which are all content and no container.
With writings like The Danger of Externalizing Knowledge, and Generation I: Middle Children Of The Information Age, you obviously have some philosophical persuasions. Where do you think postmodern art is headed? More of the same, or something new?
To be honest, I wouldn’t be able to pick “postmodern” art out of a lineup. The worlds of art and literature have stretched so much, and encompass so many things now, that I feel judgment and criticism has become totally perfunctory.
And the result of this permissive environment is that many artists don’t feel there are any standards. And that’s a question, right? Are there standards?
I think there are, partially internal and partially external, and I think people are afraid that if they admit these standards, their art simply won’t make the cut of their own conscience.
I think art is always necessary, since art is nothing more than the communication of beauty, and that’s not something I see the world living long without. Whether we find beauty in a canvas or in, say, a procedurally-generated fractal animation or just the sublime vastness of social networks, it’s there and it’s art.
At the same time, I don’t think people are willing to expend much of their attention on art right now, since they have so many other claimants on that particular resource.