Why Culture Has Come to a Standstill

A Times critic argues that ours is the least innovative century for the arts in 500 years. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

We have every ability to live in a culture of beauty, insight, surprise, if we could just accept that we are no longer modern, and have not been for a while; that somewhere in the push and pull of digital homogeneity and political stasis we entered a new phase of history. We have been evading our predicament with coping mechanisms and marketing scams, which have left all of us disappointedly asking, What’s new? Surely it would be healthier — and who knows what might flower — if we accepted and even embraced the end of stylistic progress, and at last took seriously the digital present we are disavowing. And the perpetuity of “Back to Black,” still playing in the background of avocado-toast dispensaries in East London and West Hollywood after 17 years, suggests to me that we have not lost our ability to identify voices of our time, even if they are fated to speak a language yoked to the past. Culture is stuck? Progress is dead? I died a hundred times, a poet once said, and kept singing.

Read Article