Art Critic Robert Hughes produced a difficult documentary in 1980 that assaulted the mind and eye with images and ideas associated with modern art, the visual arts of the 20th century. Now 35 years later and well into the 21st century, Hughes’ concept of things that are both new and shocking is more compelling than ever. This little essay is peppered with a few things which I think encapsulate The Shock of the New circa 2015.
Let’s start with the upcoming Trip to Mars. Last month it was announced that 100 people had been chosen from a field of 200,000 candidates worldwide to start to prepare for a one-way trip to Mars, slated to launch in 2024. Come’on, really? A one-way trip to Mars? It may sound like a way-cool nod to someone’s pluck and courage to be chosen for the trip, not to mention the technological tour de force needed to get the vehicle and passengers there — but do we honestly want to admire anybody whose death wish includes a long freaky trip to a planet that cannot support any of the life forms we’re aware of, including us? Really?