Although art certainly does change over time, in Gibson’s novel new forms of it are certainly present. One of the more blatant parallels between Marcuse’s description of art and Neuromancer is the idea that “The salon, the concert, opera. theater are designed to create and invoke another dimension of reality”(Marcuse, Chapter 3). Compare this with the passage from Neuromancer that describes Case’s access to the Matrix:
He’d operated on an almost permanent adrenaline high, a byproduct of youth and proficiency, jacked into a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination that was the matrix (Gibson, 5)
His access into cyberspace transcends any concept of “invoking another dimension of reality” Marcuse describes as an effect of art. Here, Case is literally entering a new world via this modern form of cyber-art. In this world Case is capable of doing what would be impossible in the real world. Although some may not agree that what Case is doing could be classified as art, one must examine what it actually means to be art. Merriam Webster defines art as “skill acquired by experience, study, or observation.” With that said, what Case is doing certainly encompasses this definition. It is certainly made clear that what Case is doing is limited to very few people. In the very beginning of chapter 2, Case is presented with the option of reversing the damage of the mycotoxins in order to regain his skill. Molly states, “Like he’s gonna pay these nerve boys for fixing you with the program he’s giving them to tell them how to do it. He’ll put them three years ahead of the competition. You got any idea what that’s worth?”(Gibson, 29). No one would spend the amount of money spent on Case’s operation unless there were few options as far as finding a person who can access the matrix is concerned. Case is, as Ratz would say, an “artiste”.
The next argument that appears is whether this art that Case is a part of is one which accompanies “The Great Refusal” or resists it. Although there is an argument that the society in Neuromancer is one-dimensional, what Case engages in can certainly be described as “a protest against that which is”. In this novel, Case partners with the Panther Moderns in the operation to steal the Dixie Flatline construct from the Sense/Net headquarters. The Panther Moderns are clearly a reference to the Black Panthers, a sixties movement involving civil rights in the African American community. These Panther Moderns live to cause chaos. Lupus Yonderboy states, “Chaos…that is our mode and modus. That is our central kick”(Gibson, 67). These Panther Moderns clearly are not aligned with the norm of society, and as such, one who is an accomplice of the Moderns, also must be one who goes against “that which is”.
Although this form of art is certainly one which goes with the “rationality of negation”(Marcuse, Chapter 3), there are, indeed, form of art in this futuristic society that have had the “gap between the arts and the order of the day…closed by the advancing technological society”. I feel that the alteration of one’s appearance could certainly be considered an art in this modern society. Describing Riviera, Case observes that “[he] was very beautiful; Case assumed the features were the work of a Chiba surgeon”(Gibson, 97). As this is a skill certain surgeons possess, in order to make artificial faces be distinguished as more beautiful than others, it is certainly an art. However, this art form does not appear to be a threat against the norm. It seems that anyone with enough money can manipulate their appearance to be exactly what they want. In turn, this process has become commercialized. As Marcuse would say, concerning art which has been assimilated into the society’s standards, “they become commercials--they sell, comfort, or excite”(Marcuse, Chapter 3). This, therefore also exhibits Marcusian elements, however on the opposition of art as “The Great Refusal”.
Gibson’s Neuromancer appears to be greatly influenced by Marcuse’s “Great Refusal”. It shows how productive art allows people to be taken into another dimension, and experiencing that which could not occur in the world they are engaged in most of the time. People are capable of seeing what is wrong with society and what they could potentially achieve if they set their minds to it. When this quality of art is removed, art becomes a utility of those in charge of society, rather than a tool for the individual to influence others for the better. Neuromancer itself can be considered this form of art, as it engages the reader, allowing them to enter another dimension, while simultaneously keeping ourselves conscious of our role in our own society.