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Chapter 2: Digital Technologies as a Medium

Posted on: October 17, 2008

In their next chapter on Digital Art and its uses, Thames and Hudson examine the use of digital art as a medium. They discuss how it is “interactive, participatory, dynamic, and customizable.” Digital art is interactive in how it enables the viewer to experience complex interaction in an image that goes beyond a mental event. It is participatory in how it sometimes relies on a multi-user input. It is dynamic in the sense that “[it] can respond to a changing data flow and the real-time transmission of data.” Finally, digital art is customizable in how it tailors itself to the viewer’s needs.

There are several forms of digital art today. Some of these include installation art (videos, films and the like), internet art, software art, musical art, and virtual realities.   Installation art is one of the bigger categories here. This form of art does its best to combine the physical world with the virtual one. With installation art, there has been experimentation in creating virtual worlds using purely digital mediums and creating locations with light to name two examples. As the art continued and began to even fuse with science, a need for a distinction between representational and presentational art was needed. Representational art was cinematic…an electronic image. Presentational, however, was considered to encompass all of digital art.
As virtual space is explored, people have started to realize the amounts of interfaces needed—an input device, a monitor, plus anything that makes the artwork unique from other pieces. Perry Hoberman is one of the artists who studies these interfaces; one result of these studies is his work, titled Cathartic User Interface, is shown here.

Installation art asks about the construction and perception of space. Some argue that the space that the digital world creates is more of an idea than a reality—“symbolic space” as he puts it. It brings up the classic question, “It is a pipe or an image?” Peter Anders declares that “space is actually the product of complex mental processes and cyberspace is an extension of consciousness.” It deals with perception and cognition. An example of this is Shaw’s The Golden Calf.
One definite aspect of digital art is that used in film. Movies consistently move the viewer into a quasi-reality; this technique requires digital art to create impossible places and people within videos, as well as situations that would be hard to film live. Digital-video media is not confined to movies, however. It addresses the issue of spatialization of moving images. This can include projects such as Luc Courchesne’s The Visitor—Living by Numbers. Here is an example of a similar work.
Digital work can extend to methods that make the audience the content of the work such as Campbell’s Hallucination.

The worlds of internet art, nomadic networks, software art, and virtual reality are all interlocked. Generally speaking, the definition of virtual reality is anything having to do with reality on the computer. To categorize them a little bit, internet art and nomadic networks are found via the world wide web mostly. It helps the user experience and access all the information on the web in an appealing and clear way. Software art also falls in this category to a certain degree. The difference comes in the fact that software art does not have to come from the internet. One interesting example of both categories is Webstalker which was referred to in the text. Virtual reality is still coming about since users cannot yet completely immerse themselves in a fabricated scenario. People are thinking about this, and the idea appears on shows like Star Trek. Virtual reality can be in a room, as shown, or created with helmets and goggles.

Music and digital art are a class all their own… there are many installations that combine technology in general with music and digital art. One example of this is Toshio Iwai’s Piano—as image media. Setting the pattern determined which keys would be struck, which in turn also determines what color pattern appears on the screen.

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