Posted by: Yorgos | March 5, 2008

Text 6 – New Art?

I have always wondered (well, not always, but for a long time now) if there is a possibility that all those new technologies can be made somehow into art. Even though I don’t really follow the subject closely, I know for a fact that 3D art is starting to become popular and more and more people are turning towards that direction. But is it really art or is it something resembling more a kind of graphics art, something that looks nice and impressive but in the end does not do something to you the way art does.

As with everything else, I am not sure. I have arguments for both sides and I am going to try to state them here.

Firstly, technology is indeed changing the way we look at things, the way we do things and the way we live in general (by mistake, I wrote the word “live” as “love”; maybe I should have left it that way). But does it change what we are? This does sound like a trivial question, but it is a legitimate one. Art, being inherent to humans and something that distinguishes us from animals, will exist as long as we do. The fact that we can use new tools, does not mean that the definition of art (whatever that is; I found some rather horrid ones online, I won’t even bother to give the links to) can change. A painter’s brush was not always available, nor the chisel, yet somehow, even before those inventions we were managing to create art. In that sense, technology can be used in order to create art. Cinema is a fine example for that. Computer technology and 3D art can become another example, if they haven’t already.

Two objections to this position (to which I will object as well, later). The first one has to do with the way technology is used. A painter is in direct contact with his work of art, a sculptor the same, a writer, even if he is using the word processor, can see the novel realizing in front of his eyes. As much as a word processor can change the way a writer thinks and writes (copy-pasting comes to mind and a million other things), his work is still building itself while he works at it. Music, someone may object, is scribblings on a paper that turn into movements from the violinists and the guitarists. But the composer has (or should have) the melody in his head, he can hum it and he can test it on a piano, if he wants to. In order to create art in the computer, you either have to write your own code, which means that instead of a picture or a text or some music, you have some letters that do not make sense to anyone, but to a fellow programmer and a compiler, or you have to use some software (Autocad? Something more advanced?) which provides tools that you can use. In the first case, the artist is completely detached from his work and in the second, that piece of software is actually limiting one’s abilities rather than enhancing them. It’s great that the application can offer use of vertex and pixel shaders, of phong shading and cell shading, of anisotropic filtering and anti-aliasing, but all those things are actually limiting to one’s imagination. There are so many things you can do, but they are not infinite. And good art can sometimes seem infinite.

The second objection is more practical. I always thought of art as something that even if someone showed me how to do it, I wouldn’t be able to. I would never be able to lead the brush the way Rembrandt did. But, right now, if someone can teach me code or show me how to use the necessary software, I can come up with something that will be called (by whom?) art.

Objection to the first objection: If we consider the artist crucial to the realization of the work of art, then the artist’s imagination will have a complete image of the finished product (even if it isn’t an accurate one) without having to be completely in touch with it. Beethoven and Smetana composed while being deaf, Borges and Joyce wrote while being blind (or almost blind). A code, in the eyes of the artist, will be his own work of art either transplanted into a different context or still in its pre-birth state. Unfortunately, I am not so sure about that, as I tend to lean towards the other side.

Objection to the second objection. There has been art that can be done by myself, even if they weren’t using teachable code and techniques, but a brush and paint. An interesting argument against the “I could have done it as well” statement is the “Yes, but you wouldn’t want to”. But this is not the strongest argument. The strongest argument is unity. A true work of art has the feeling of a work of art, a feeling of unity (among other things). Even if the lines do seem to have been drawn by kids, all those lines put together form a total which can be aesthetically pleasing, open to interpretation and everything else that a work of art can do. This kind of feeling, this kind of unity needs an artist to be realized. I understood that while looking at a painting by Van Gogh. And this unity can appear no matter what the artist is using or how easy or difficult it is to learn to create the structural units of the particular art.

This post is already too long and I apologize. Maybe I will have some more thoughts on that at a later date. For now, I just need yours.



  1. Here you have an example of a good digital art..

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