Rdeveux’s Weblog

Chapter 1 review: Digital Technologies as a Tool

Posted on: September 12, 2008

In this day and age, digital media has become our lives, surrounding us in just about everything we see. More and more artists are using this art form in some fashion or another. Digital work can look as plastic as traditional media. The pieces of art that employ this method however owe as much to traditional methods and art forms as they do to the new digital world. One basic characteristic of digital art is that it allows for collaging and seamless manipulation of the art. It makes easy what was once difficult. The following will provide just a few examples of this.

            Using math to create digital photographs was a technique that began to be developed by Charles Csuri. As it developed, it started to not only encompass portraits but classic and modern artwork as well. One example of this is the Mona Leo, a piece that splices the two famous pieces by Leonardo Da Vinci (the Mona Lisa and Leonardo’s self-portrait).

            As artists continued to experiment with photo-doctoring and composite images, people began to realize how the images were excellent advertising tools, both for the tangible and the idealistic. Composite images were an excellent way to bring creativity to bear in the advertising world. To draw on an example from the book, the image of the coast of Spain is too blurry for people to see, but the small stickers at the bottom of the piece communicate beautifully what the seller wants people to do…come vacation at Calpe! Another example given is of Annu Palakunnathu Matthew’s Bollywood Satirized series which depicts racial and gender-related stereotyping according to our text. Here is another example that shows both the tangible AND idealistic.  


Another function of digital art as it relates to photography is that of creating a constructed reality whether that reality is past, present, or future. Any doctoring of photos, old or new, creates a constructed reality. This can be achieved through adding elements, erasure, and enhanced nature. One type of constructed reality that is interesting to examine is that of bioengineered organisms. For example, our text discusses the Klone series by Dieter Huber and the organisms by William Latham. Using digital media, these two artists have produced fascinating pieces of art that look as real as any plant, yet look nothing like anything ever seen before. The work below is by Martin Naroznik.


Part of what became interesting specifically about Latham’s work is the use of algorithms and mathematical formulas that created the programs for his organisms. The exploration of “algorithmic” art continued as time went on, blending science, math, and art into one mass.  In part, this method is coupled with sign systems that represent actual information turned into art.  


One other area of digital photographs and prints that I will mention briefly is an emerging area of art. This method is when the artist uses an interface to complete his work. This is accomplished through digitizing traditional art, creating a piece digitally and then painting it, or using machines and programs to alter your art, jus to see what happens. While some protest that it is not by a particular artist simply because it is manufactured by a machine, others argue that the work is art by a certain artist because it bears the mark of his own creativity. Here is a eye drawing by Jochem Hendricks.


 Today, digital art and sculpture are media that are becoming increasingly interesting to work with. Rather than just use tools to create more tools for their craft, such as a carver to create sculpture moulds, artists are starting to use these tools to create their work itself. One interesting subject that is used in most of the examples from the book is warped human anatomy. According to the text, this can be achieved through rapid prototyping, a method that creates prototypes or moulds by carving it out of a block of material or building it layer by layer. Perhaps someday soon this technology of 3-D printers will be available to the general public. This piece is a digital sculpture by Robert Michael Smith.


 It is interesting to think about all these different types of art in this era of technology and speed. We are asked the question, “How does digital art/ new media relate to or impact different aspects of our western culture?” How doesn’t it? The classic saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I would venture to say that most things in today’s society are image-driven, especially ad campaigns. Digital art makes the mass production of such imagery far easier than it ever would have been before. To approach it from a different angle, digital art, as examined in all its uses in this chapter, is reflecting the advances in science that our culture has found. In a strange way too, this reflection of our society is shown to us in a far clearer sense after it is turned into an art form.


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