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by: Bernard Teo

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Copyright © 2003-2012
Bernard Teo
Some Rights Reserved.

Wed 10 Nov 2004

The Job of Art is to Chase Ugliness Away

Category : Commentary/JobOfArt.txt

"The job of art is to chase ugliness away", I thought I heard Bono say in the U2 iPod special event. I had to rewind to be sure. Yes, it's there and I think it's a wonderful statement.

I was watching the event on QuickTime, while I was coming to the end of the book I'm reading by Jeremy Rifkin, "The Age of Access", and I think it's one of those days when everything resonates.

I was writing the other day about the idea of key concepts - about how it's important to learn how to learn quickly from scraps of knowledge.

But when you've built lots of these key concepts, you need an overarching framework to tie everything together, so you get a holistic feel for how everything is going, and thereby make your own sense of what's happening to our world today.

Jeremy Rifkin's "Age of Access" is one of those rare books that come along that does a credible job of tying lots of diverse impressions into a central theme, where you're able to see the patterns and interconnections.

We're moving into a time where we value the ability to access an experience more than the possessing of physical goods. For example, when I hear Bob Dylan's "You're a big girl now", lots of memories come flooding back and that's feeling I live for, no matter if I hear it off a radio or an iPod. What's important is to have the rights to turn it on when I want to - I don't need or care to own the CD.

Another example - I like the ability to whisk my family off to a few places quickly over the weekend - but I hate the chore of owning and maintaining a car. I'd rather lease one and I can see a day coming when somebody will use the web to coordinate the logistics to make the system work better than it currently does.

And I've stopped buying books - I bought enough to fill two life-times and they are just so much baggage when we shift house or office. I never finished Rifkin's last book "The End of Work" and it's now just collecting dust. But I found "The Age of Access" in the library, and I thought the worse that can happen is that it'll just go back into the hole if it's no good.

So, I'm glad I read it. But I'm not going to attempt a synthesis; just wanted to make the recommendation. This, and other books like Leonard Shlain's "The Alphabet versus the Goddess", have shaped my thinking about why Apple, alone among the technology companies, have grasped the true signficance of what's changing in our world today, and it's the company that is doing the most interesting and relevant things against this backdrop.

In what is coined The Experience Economy, art, aesthetics and alignment with spiritual goals take center-stage. The job of art is to chase ugliness away. And we're willing to pay for it when it does.

Can anyone watching the Apple U2 Special Event imagine anyone other than Steve Jobs being there on stage with Bono and company - for example Bill Gates or Sim Wong Hoo? Banish the thought. That's why the iPod's success is more than just massive spending on advertising, as Sim Wong Hoo thinks and is now trying to emulate. This may be Creative's waterloo.

Posted at 9:12AM UTC | permalink

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