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 a big fan of art created through glitches, overload and feedback loops (I think the first thing I ever put up on Pinterest was an image of the distortion resulting from scanning an iPad). I’m just discovering the work of artist Phillip Stearns, but I’m already a big fan of the fantastic list he’s put together of glitch art tools, techniques, writing, theory, and practitioners.
See the full list of Phillip Stearns’ Glitch Art Resources here.
The longer I don’t update this, the more entropy tears apart the fabric of existence. Good news is, a full site design makeover is in the works, and that ought to make both maintaining and visiting this site a much more coherent, pleasant experience.
This is Maggie, who graciously posed for me while I took care of her during my friend’s recent vacation. The sketch and the coloring are both pretty quick and rough, but I’m pleased with the pose.
Quick update to show the vector version of my earlier sketch:
It took a combination of Flash and Illustrator to pull it off, but I’m pretty pleased with how it came out!