No art for oil

In 2002, Chin-Tao Wu wrote,

Since 1990, the regular rehanging of the Tate Gallery collection […] has been sponsored by BP. For around £150,000 a year, a sum which can buy only two-and-a-half minutes’ commercial advertising on prime-time television in 1990, the BP logo appears all year round on the Tate’s large banners advertising the New Displays and on the front cover of the gallery’s publications.

After 2014’s order to reveal further details, 2015 saw the news that over a 17 year period, BP’s sponsorship had an average value of £224,000 per year.

In 2017, BP’s sponsorship will end after 26 years. 34 years of sponsorship of the Edinburgh International Festival are also at an end. Can the new sponsorship deal with the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Opera House and Royal Shakespeare Company survive? 217 “arts and culture professionals, scientists and campaigners” hope not.

Your brain is not a computer.

How do contemporary technologies shape our understanding of ourselves?

By the 1500s, automata powered by springs and gears had been devised, eventually inspiring leading thinkers such as René Descartes to assert that humans are complex machines. In the 1600s, the British philosopher Thomas Hobbes suggested that thinking arose from small mechanical motions in the brain. By the 1700s, discoveries about electricity and chemistry led to new theories of human intelligence – again, largely metaphorical in nature. In the mid-1800s, inspired by recent advances in communications, the German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz compared the brain to a telegraph. Each metaphor reflected the most advanced thinking of the era that spawned it. Predictably, just a few years after the dawn of computer technology in the 1940s, the brain was said to operate like a computer, with the role of physical hardware played by the brain itself and our thoughts serving as software.

More on this, and why the same stimulus may not lead to the same experience, at Aeon.

‘The Myth of the Computer’

John Searle, NYRB, 1982:

A lot of the nonsense talked about computers nowadays stems from their relative rarity and hence mystery. […] Until computers and robots become as common as cars and until people are able to program and use them as easily as they now drive cars we are likely to continue to suffer from a certain mythological conception of digital computers. This book is very much a part of the present mythological era of the computer.

Plus ça change. More here.

New year, same old creative industries

It’s January, so it must be time for the annual celebration of the value of the UK’s creative industries.

The UK’s creative industries are now worth a record £84.1 billion to the UK economy, figures published today reveal.

British films, music, video games, crafts and publishing are taking a lead role in driving the UK’s economic recovery, according to the latest Government statistics.

Strange (as always) to mention the creative activities with some kind of cultural or artistic bent, but not to flag up the ‘creative’ sector which accounts for almost half of that £84.1bn figure – ‘IT, Software and Computer Services’.

More here.

“Bye-bye radioactive jockstrap”

Taylor Orci on the rise and fall of radium:

Numerous are the ads of this time for wares like “radium silk lingerie” and decks of cards with the word “radium” emblazoned on them. In one ad, a pastoral landscape dotted with grazing cows near a pristine stream are bathed in the warm glow of a rising sun. Above the sun are the words, “Radium Brand Creamery Butter.”

More at The Atlantic.

‘The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t’

Does digital reproduction drive down the cost of all cultural content to zero? Are artists doomed to penury in the 21st century? Steven Johnson in the New York Times Magazine suggests not:

Writers, performers, directors and even musicians report their economic fortunes to be similar to those of their counterparts 15 years ago, and in many cases they have improved. Against all odds, the voices of the artists seem to be louder than ever.

More here.