A few weeks ago, I posted an introduction asking the question about whether in today’s digital world it’s still relevant to visit places and see things for ourselves or is seeing a photograph or digital image enough. Since then, I’ve compiled a list of all the reasons I could come up with for and against. Here goes.
First of all, let’s talk about experiences. Being able to say “oh yes, I’ve seen the Mona Lisa” is quite a conversation starter, don’t you think? By actually seeing something in person, you’re doing something that not everyone gets to do, and seeing something in real life could change your opinion of it. You can get closer to it and see all of the details. You can look at it from different angles. You can make your own mind up about it, rather than someone telling you how to feel.
All that said what if it’s a bad experience? Maybe you couldn’t actually see the Mona Lisa closely because there were loads of other people in front of it. Perhaps there were naughty children making lots of noise, or maybe even some rude person shushing you for disturbing the odd quietness most galleries have. None of that is going to happen if you’re reading about a painting in a book, or looking it up online. You could do it from the comfort of your own home; with a cup of tea in your hand and a cat on your lap while wearing your snuggy (It’s almost as if I can see you now, right!)
Another point about experiences is that of your other senses. Take for example contempary artist Damien Hirst’s work. Reading all about it is fine, but faced with a room full of living butterflies or walking in-between two halves of a sheep might change your mind completely. The smell from the fruit left for the insects to feed on, the sound of their wings, having them fly around you – all of this could either be wonderful and awe-inspiring, or absolutely terrifying depending on you as an individual. You wouldn’t get those feelings from seeing a picture of the room.
While standing in a room with the artwork you get a sense of scale. Maybe a sculpture is a lot bigger than you thought it would be or a painting smaller. You can see for yourself how it fills the space and casts shadows. And while yes a book can tell you the measurements, sometimes it’s quite hard to imagine its size in real life.
Perhaps one of the greatest advantages to pictures of things whether it’s in a book or online is that they are always available. An article will wait to be read, but an exhibition might not wait around to be seen. You might not live anywhere near an art gallery or a museum, but you can still access a digital version of the art work.
Another thing to consider is cost. Some temporary exhibitions can cost over £10 per person, and while the money is going back into the gallery, you might not have money to spare when you could potentially find out about it for free.
Personally, I like to go to places and see things. There’s just something about standing almost as close to a painting as the artist did when they were painting it. We’re so used to seeing images through a screen that I don’t think the true beauty of some pieces comes across and can therefore seem underwhelming. Digital copies are okay if I can’t go and see it, but for it to have a lasting impression seeing the real deal with my own eyes is the way to go.
So, that’s what I think. What about you?