If you read just one article this week, no, make that this month, make it Kevin Kelly’s “Becoming Screen Literate” from last weekend’s NY Times Magazine. It is essential reading for anybody who works in the visual arts. In the piece, Kelly argues that images have replaced words as our dominant form of expressive currency, though we have not yet achieved “screen fluency” that allows us to utilize and manipulate moving images in the same way that we can do with text.
It’s interesting to note that a lot of Kelly’s descriptions of contemporary live-action filmmaking basically describe the process that animation artists have been pioneering for the past century. Even before CGI, animation has always been a more flexible and fluid art form than live-action. Finally, live-action is achieving that malleability, he writes:
For directors who speak this new cinematographic language, even the most photo-realistic scenes are tweaked, remade and written over frame by frame. Filmmaking is thus liberated from the stranglehold of photography. Gone is the frustrating method of trying to capture reality with one or two takes of expensive film and then creating your fantasy from whatever you get. Here reality, or fantasy, is built up one pixel at a time as an author would build a novel one word at a time. Photography champions the world as it is, whereas this new screen mode, like writing and painting, is engineered to explore the world as it might be.
Another major theme in Kelly’s piece is that the line between creator and consumer is blurring to the point where average people are not only consuming visuals but also creating their own through remixing and repurposing existing imagery.