Simon Reynold's new book Retromania suggests a causal relation between two conditions: (i) that for the past 10 years we've had easy access to a cornucopia of past expressions in the form of digital archives such as YouTube and iTunes and (ii) that art and music are trapped in a backward-looking malaise. Unfortunately item (ii) is just wrong--once a critic reaches this place of boredom no advocacy is possible and every trend becomes grist for "hyper-stasis," as Reynolds calls the current moment of high speed technological change and stalled paradigm-shifting.
We don't lack for exciting developments right now, but rather the ability to recognize, articulate or even proselytize for new work, in particular without lapsing into the techno-boosterish cliches of the art-and-technology websites such as "cutting-edge," "game-changing," etc. In music, new gear and software give us new sounds--the difficulty is finding a common frame of reference for describing them, when people have only the vaguest idea how anyone else did something. In the art arena, a few months ago we spent several threads yelling about whether GIFs did anything that Flash or YouTube couldn't do. This wasted energy from discussing specific examples of how GIFs are currently being used.
"Phone Arts" or "blog art" almost by their very nature couldn't be in a book called Retromania unless you were indulging in perverse nostalgia for the art of one day ago. With "phone art" we know most of it is made on Apple products but perhaps not which programs are used, or how "easy" an effect is. Easiness isn't really even the point since the work is by its nature disposable and ephemeral. But one thing we could agree on is that a group blog of mostly abstract art that is "phoned in" is not an artifact of the past.
Reynolds writes mainly about music but he mentions a recent Frieze panel where experts weighed in on the relationship of YouTube-era accelerated meme-exchange and garden variety postmodernism, so it's fair to say his concerns are larger. Speaking of crossing disciplines, one bristles at his pairing throughout of such purely cynical, commercial phenomena as the boomer TV show remake glut with artists' complaints about the difficulties of being original, if the latter is even as common as Reynolds suggests. The issues of the suits and the avant garde may sometimes converge but that's not enough material for a book.
Update: Ongoing rewriting for clarity, style, and sussing out the main point.