I ran across a fun art intervention project today while catching up on Khoi Vinh’s Subtraction blog: Stickers that read Not Available on the App Store. Intended to be stuck to basically anything that isn’t a portable touchscreen device, the stickers (and associated website) are a fun reminder to look away from the glowing rectangles every once in a while.
Tangentially related: when Douglas Adams wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he called out the absurdity of spending so much of our time staring at our digital watches. He’d have had a field day with smartphones…
I’ve been doing much reading about digital art this weekend, and it occurs to me that the evolution of computer art described in these books (and in my own experience) fits into three distinct categories.
At first, the computer’s place was before the art: an algorist would feed code into a machine, which would compute or produce a physical work that would then be shown as an individual work. Computers were large and unportable, so they could only be relied upon for the genesis of a piece.
Later, and in fact continuing through to this day, the computer can be beneath art: whether a piece of art is generated digitally or not, we primarily experience images as pixels displayed on screens. The ubiquity and decreasing scale of computers have allowed us to shorten the feedback cycle so that a work created programmatically can be experienced on the same machine that gave it form.
Finally, as the logical extension of that feedback cycle the computer is now also within art: through the real-time dimensional interactivity with a Kinect, the output of a preconceived program onto a screen, or the networks creating an artistic result out of multiple discrete experiences. Not only are works in this category dependent on computed instructions to determine their form: since the computations happen continuously and in real time, computers are integral to the experience of the work.
At Eyebeam on Saturday I heard the gallery attendant describe needing to “turn on” the installation. Computer art began long before the machine needed to be present in order for a work to be experienced. Today, the computer and the ability to experience art are more often than not an inseparable whole.
I wonder what the next stage of this evolution will look like.
While gallery-hopping today in Chelsea we stumbled upon Eyebeam, an art and technology center currently located on 21st Street (though it appears they’ll be relocating to Brooklyn this summer as they begin construction on a new space in Fort Greene). The current exhibition is called The New Romantics, and gathers contemporary digital work reacting to 19th century Romanticism.
Among the works on display was a beautiful piece called Peer-to-Peer Sunset. It is an interactive work in which you visit a website, and if another user connects at the same time you both experience the impression of a sunset via synchronized color gradients drawn in the browser. To experience the piece yourself you can head over to duskjacket.com/SUNSET with a friend—or just open up two different browsers, if you’re the solitary type.
Eyebeam was a great discovery; if you’re in NYC, definitely try to check out the current show. They’re also running a significant closeout sale on older books and catalogues relating to technology and art, if you’re looking for library fodder!
I am excited to be exhibiting my photos for the first time during this year’s Somerville Open Studios, the city-wide open studios event in which I last participated back in 2010 (though with a completely different body of work). As part of the build-up to SOS weekend, I volunteered last month to deliver a talk to the local artist community on easy ways to set up your own artist website. The presentation was a success, and I had the opportunity to deliver an expanded, WordPress-focused version of the material a week later at our monthly BostonWP meetup. The video is below; enjoy, and let me know what you think!
The theme of this year’s TEDxSomerville event is “Movement;” fittingly, the first block of speakers ended with a demonstration by Esh Aerial Arts.