Truly Virtual Web Art Museum

            The Incredible Shrinking Art

       by Rodney Pygoya Chang
March 13, 2013

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     Time’s a changing.  Time was when a larger monitor screen for one’s personal computer system was considered better or desired.  Like viewing television, “the bigger, the better.”  But now I just read that most American 14-19 year olds go online using their smartphones (making it more difficult for parents to control their offspring’s viewing habits).  It’s wireless, portable access to the Internet, along with texting, reading email, doing schoolwork research, getting the news, accessing music - and even taking photos.

     And I thought designing art with and for the iPad, instead of the PC, was a major lost of ground, literally, for the digital artist!

     Then there are competing websites offering online free photo editing (thereby exposing users to display ads).  Digital images can also be routed to free “cloud” storage offered by these sites, bypassing the need to store picture data on the home PC.  The spruced-up photos are then conveniently linked to Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking Web sites, making it unnecessary to go to the sites on a PC but to just do-it-all from one’s pocket smartphone as one integrated task.  Time’s a changing.

      What does this mean for art?  It’s always been the bigger the picture, the better, and also more expensive.  Larger frame is needed for a 24x30 instead of a 16x20 (inches) canvas.  Artists mostly price their artwork by the size of the canvas or paper.  I am a painter.  I always thought reducing a painting to a reproduced image on a postcard didn’t do the image justice.  “A postcard is just too small for full appreciation of artwork,” I would think. 

     Then suddenly, this young generation is viewing images on their cellphone, a surface even smaller than the 6x4 inch postcard!  This reduction of size and detail may be partially acceptable because of the wired community’s mindset of, the-smaller-the-better.  For example, the mini-iPad and today’s thinner, lighter and sleeker laptops replace larger and more bulky predecessors.  Now Google is experimenting in Web browsing from a pair of glasses!  My, my, … the future looks bright for miniature art, but threatening extinction of expansive works of art, such as the mural.

      A positive development in the evolution of high tech art viewing is vastly improved advances in image clarity (more pixels/sq. area, better resolution).  For example, Apple’s “retinal” display on the latest iPads.  Also, with much increased memory capacity for image constructing (and downloading rates) as well as image processing speed, graphic programmers can now offer more refined and complex software for us digital artists.  So progressive reductive image viewing hasn’t been completely negative for digital art.

     My hunch is that at some point in the future, folks will want their art viewing experience to expand once again, instead of continued diminution until one needs a microscope.  Possibly by that time television and the desktop computer are one and the same (fulfilling today’s warning of the “demise” of the PC).  Then again, television viewing time is decreasing, due to the competition with other ways of accessing multi-media entertainment (as well as the overall quality and selection of programs, which are also not interactive like digital gadgets).

     A final outcome?  I think we’ll someday be able to insert a tiny object into our bodies (maybe not even require brain surgery, but merely swallow the thing), then instantly be “online” by just thinking about it.  It could be biodegradable on a schedule, thereby requiring subscription for updates.  The “cloud” descends into our body, becoming “portable,” just like our smartphones.

     Time’s a changing… for better or for worse.