Following on from the recent consultation about life in Oxford in the year 2050 by the city council, I have been mulling over what an exciting landscape for the visual arts Oxford might be in the decades ahead.
Art has always responded to new technologies and I fully expect that it will continue to do so in the coming decades, both in terms of its appearance, ideas and in reaching new audiences.
We can already see evidence of this in the latest forms of visual art being made today, where artists are increasingly referencing and using digital technologies in innovative ways, and where developments in technology are creating dynamic new cultures in which the distinction between those who create art and those who consume it are collapsed.
Just look at how many people are creating personal content – imagery, ideas, opinions and experiences – via social media.
Historically, it was the role of the artist to respond to contemporary life in this way.
Now everyone is able to share their views on and experiences of the world with vast audiences online, and this is transforming the nature of art, how it is produced and the places where it is being seen.
As the world becomes more virtual through digital technologies, I believe there will be a shift in where culture is made and seen by different online communities.
It will no longer be primarily experienced in conventional art spaces like museums and art galleries such as Modern Art Oxford, but it will be more embedded online as well as in the fabric of the everyday environment.
Visual art in the urban environment will reflect wider trends in consumerism fuelled by new technologies, becoming more immersive, participatory and interactive.
This will enable audiences to create art experiences unique to them that will fuel their own creativity in return.
As our visual environments become more dynamic and interactive, certain types of art will become more spectacular, employing augmented realities and Artificial Intelligence.
These will form part of everyday urban living – at the shopping mall, the gym, in bars and clubs – as well as at home.
It is possible to imagine digitised holograms or 3D printed replicas of famous art works decorating your home in your own virtual art collection.
I can also see changing mood boards of art works, edited with personal images, forming part of digital walls that change depending on your mood.
If technology is available to everyone then this exciting new landscape should be more inclusive and democratic than the art world as it is seen at present, celebrating and showcasing the rich diversity of 21st century society.
Of course, a city like Oxford, with its world famous architecture and cityscape, will need to consider carefully how it can respond to this new type of visual culture.
Negotiation will be needed to both protect the heritage of the city’s past and embrace the future.
This will also be true for the public museums and galleries in the city, which will benefit from being the keepers of real and original art works and objects of an increasing virtual world.
However, one thing seems certain to me: in a city as rich in terms of diversity, intellectual capital and technological expertise as Oxford, the future looks like a very exciting place to be – I only hope I’m still here to experience it!