Online digital art discussion- email posted

April 2003


I read with some interest and amusement Rodney Chang's "Correlations

between 20th Century Art and Digital Art" located at: His thesis is

interesting; that is, art movements of 20th century are isolated

cultural elements of the times, but when viewed as a pluralistic

melting pot, "digital art" can be seen to emerge as a logical

extension or correlation of all of what we call Modernist Art. Of

course, he is looking back, re-writing history, through digital

colored glasses; but it is interesting. For example, Pointillism and

Impressionism being fully expressed by the use of pixels to create

imagery. Surrealism as it is expressed in photo-manipulation and in

3D synthetic environments. Dadaism is seen in the appropriation of

imagery and the use of found objects generated through random image

processing. OP Art, as well as, the bright electronic colors of Les

Fauves; every Modernist art movement seems to be reflected in what we

see and do, today, on the CRT.

But, in the end we must realize that digital tools are not alone in

their ability to correlate or operate in any or all of these various

movements. In fact, each of these movements were given expression in

Painting first. What seems significant to me is that each "ism" as

it was developed changed how we made or viewed painting and/or Art,

in general. The style, subject matter, means of production, the

critical paradigms for viewing and thinking about painting and Art

were changed with each new movement. Can we say the same about

digital art? Has "digital art" significantly changed the way we

think about Art? Not the way we make it, but the way we think about

it. If not, then it is not likely a "movement" per se.

Certainly, all artists today feel the pressure of "newness" bearing

down on everything we do. The oppressive standard of artistic

innovation, the need to be "different", "fresh", "shocking"…"new for

the sake of newness"…has brought about some really questionable work

of late. And, I have had to begin to consider that artistic

innovation in general may have played itself out. For example, what

work have you seen or made, yourself, lately that you could not

easily pigeonhole into one of the established "isms" of Modern Art?

Perhaps, we can no longer judge the value of works based on the

requirement to innovate some, heretofore, unseen style. Is stylistic

innovation, itself, dead?

As the major means by which we value and evaluate the work, I

certainly hope so. But, when we look toward "digitalism", as a way

by which we can take a fresh look at what Art is and what it means;

what do we find? Please add to these suggestions: 1.)

Democratization of art making… 2.) New materials and methods for

distribution and display… 3.) Synthetically mixed media… 4.) Virtual

appearance of light and texture over the actual substance of the

same… 5.) Exploitation of the computer's internal imagery based on

chaos and infinity based algorithms (fractals and filters)…

If we want to play the newness game, I think we can. But, we will

have to be willing to break some eggs, step on some toes and, oh yes,

risk…really risk, failure.

Best Regards,