Painting as “information”? : Globalisation and Abstract Art
A common belief regarding globalisation is that it is driven by ‘information’. For Maurice Castells (1996) the primary vehicles of networked information were the internet and the media. This paper sets out to explore whether art works, particularly paintings can be regarded as containers of information which participate in the process of globalisation. Today, identification of what counts as a painting is sometimes problematic, nevertheless a painting still has certain basic physical and visual characteristics. Do these characteristics constitute ‘information’ ? I suggest that, to be able to read and understand what the characteristics might signify, we need to know about the artist and the historical context in which the work was produced. Thus, I argue that the characteristics of a painting might rather be regarded as raw ‘data’, hence the retrieval of ‘information’ depends on a process of interpretation of the data by the viewer, using verifiable data from other sources. The extent and veracity of the retrieval and interpretation of the data will depend on the cultural/socio-political baggage that the viewer brings to the encounter with the painting, in context. Art, particularly painting, has been used in the process of globalising cultural colonisation since at least the 1400s, and this has never been disconnected from power politics. The conclusion highlights problems with treating any visual material as ‘information’, and also the deeper problem with the concept of ‘information’, and its ambiguous relationships with constructs of truth, reality, authenticity, and with the operations of power and money.