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Digital Art and Philosophy #1

In this original Digital Art and Philosophy class, we will become familiar with different forms of digital art and related philosophical issues. Digital art is anything related to computers and art such as using a computer to create art or an art display that is digitized. Philosophical aspects arise regarding art, identity, performance, interactivity, and the process of creation. Students may respond to the material in essay, performance, or digital art work (optional). Instructor: Melanie Swan. Syllabus:

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Digital Art and Philosophy #1

  1. 1. Image: Emese SzorenyiDigital Art and Philosophy #1 Melanie Swan University of the Commons and the Emerald Tablet Gallery Syllabus: Slides:
  2. 2. What is Digital Art?Probably not what comes to mind! 2
  3. 3. What is Digital Art? 3
  4. 4. What is Digital Art? ‘Official’ Definitions• “Digital art is anything involving computers and art such as using a computer to create art or digitized art displays” – EB Boyd, Writer• “Digital art is using new technologies for the digital, computer-based composition, display, and reproduction of images and sounds” – Katherine Thomson-Jones, Professor• “Digital art is a general term for a range of artistic works and practices that use digital technology as an essential part of the creative and/or presentation process” – Christiane Paul, Curator 4
  5. 5. Reading: What is New Media? by Lev Manovich (2001)• New media: – Internet, websites, computer multimedia, computer games, CD-ROMs & DVDs, virtual reality, and possibly many other areas• New media revolution: – Shift of all of our culture to computer-mediated forms of production, distribution, and communication• Simultaneous development of modern media and computers (1800s daguerreotype, punch card loom, Babbage analytical engine): – Media machines and computing machines are necessary for modern mass societies to function• Situating digital art: Art eras: representational art (reality), abstract art and photography, digital art 5
  6. 6. "Every culture will use the maximum level of technologyavailable to it to make art" - Scott Draves, Generative Artist 6
  7. 7. What is [regular] Art? 7
  8. 8. Classic definitions of art• “Art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture” – Wikipedia• Art “…is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings … towards the well-being of individuals and of humanity.” – Leo Tolstoy• “Art is a discovery and development of elementary principles of nature into beautiful forms suitable for human use.” – Frank Lloyd Wright• “Art is not a thing — it is a way.” - Elbert Hubbard 8
  9. 9. An Essay in Aesthetics by Roger Fry (1909)“A certain painter, not without some reputation at the present day, once wrote a little book on the art he practices, in which he gave a definition of that art so succinct that I take it as a point of departure for this essay. The art of painting, says that eminentauthority, is the art of imitating solid objects upon a flat surface by means of pigments. It is delightfully simple, but prompts the question - Is that all?” 9
  10. 10. An Essay in Aesthetics by Roger Fry (1909)“A great part of human life is made up of instinctive reactions to sensibleobjects, and their accompanying emotions. But man has the peculiar facultyof calling up again in his mind the echo of past experiences of this kind, ofgoing over it again, in imagination as we say. He has, therefore, thepossibility of a double life; one the actual life, the other the imaginative life.”“Between these two lives there is this great distinction, that in the actual lifethe processes of natural selection have brought it about that the instinctivereaction, such, for instance, as flight from danger, shall be the important partof the whole process, and it is towards this that the man bends his wholeconscious endeavour. But in the imaginative life no such action is necessary,and, therefore, the whole consciousness may be focused upon the perceptiveand the emotional aspects of the experience. In this way we get, in theimaginative life, a different set of values, and a different kind of perception.” 10
  11. 11. An Essay in Aesthetics by Roger Fry (1909)“The graphic arts are the expression of the imaginative life.Art is an expression and a stimulus of this imaginativelife, which is separated from actual life by the absence ofresponsive action. Now this responsive action implies inactual life moral responsibility.”“In art we have no such moral responsibility - it presents alife freed from the binding necessities of our actualexistence. Art is the chief organ of the imaginative life; it isby art that it is stimulated and controlled within us, and, aswe have seen, the imaginative life is distinguished by thegreater clearness of its perception, and the greater purityand freedom of its emotion.” 11
  12. 12. What is Digital Art? 12
  13. 13. What is Digital Art?Democratized Creativity: Performance, Music, VR, Gaming. 13
  14. 14. What is Digital Art? 14
  15. 15. What is Digital Art?Design Aesthetics of Meaning-Making: Info Visualization. Social network visualization of voting patterns of U. S. Senators during 2007 15
  16. 16. What is Digital Art?Design Aesthetics of Meaning-Making: Info Visualization. 16
  17. 17. What is Digital Art?Natural Aesthetics: BioArt, GenArt, SynBio, Biomimicry, CrowdArt. 17
  18. 18. What is Digital Art?Portable ArtTech: Identity, Wearable Electronics, the Future. 18
  19. 19. What is (early) Digital Art? Hypertext, hypermedia,, web art. 19
  20. 20. What is Digital Art?Tactical Media, Hactivism, Electronic Civil Disobedience. Graffiti Research Lab and Stiktu augmented reality social graffiti app from Layar 20
  21. 21. Why Philosophy?• Branches of philosophy – Metaphysics – Epistemology – Aesthetics• Aesthetics deals with the nature and expression of art and beauty 21
  22. 22. What Philosophical Issues arise with Digital Art?• What is art?• Why does art matter?• How does art engage us?• How does digital art change our notions of – Identity – Performance – Interactivity – Creativity 22
  23. 23. A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) by Jeff Wall (1993)
  24. 24. Travellers Caught in a Sudden breeze at Ejiri by Katsushika Hokusai (1832) fromThe Thirty-six Views of Fuji 24
  25. 25. Philosopher: Mark Hansen Production of Images“The disembodiment characteristic of the virtual image is synonymouswith its dependence on the activity of the body-brain: lacking anymaterial autonomy of its own, the image does not preexist itsactualization and can be given body only through this activity.... here itis the very divide between the virtual and the physical that is mostsignificant. The aesthetic experience solicited by these worksjuxtaposes a spectatorial synthesis that seamlessly fuses virtual andphysical space with a background awareness, triggered by certainmaterial elements, that the events thus fused belong to incompossiblespace-times. In this way, attention is drawn to the capacity of thespectators body-brain activity effortlessly to produce a virtual imageout of heterogeneous material.” - New Philosophy for NewMedia, 2006, p. 61 Summary: The virtual image lacks any material autonomy of its own and is produced by the viewer 25
  26. 26. Digital Artist: Jeffrey ShawThe Legible City by Jeffrey Shaw (1988-1991) 26
  27. 27. Digital Artist: Douglas GordonPlay Dead Real Time by Douglas Gordon (2003) Henry Rebel (2011) Video installation, two HD video projections, sound, 93 min, looped 27
  28. 28. Digital Artist: Bill ViolaThe Crossing by Bill Viola (2009) 28
  29. 29. Production of the Virtual Image• The image in digital art goes beyond the merely visual• The digital image encompasses the process by which information is made perceivable• The virtual image lacks any material autonomy of its own and is produced by the viewer• ‘Image’ or ‘image’ and story 29
  30. 30. Philosopher: Dominic Lopes• Reading: “A Review of A Philosophy of Computer Art by Dominic Lopes” by Timothy Binkley (2010)• Sudden ubiquity of computers and their ability to turn abstractions into experiences• What features of computer-based works make them works in the computer art form and set them apart from other kinds of art? – Digital art: it is art, made by computer or made for display by a computer, in a common digital code – Computer art: it is art, run on a computer, interactive, interactive because it is run on a computer 30
  31. 31. Digital Artist: Jeffrey ShawGolden Calf by Jeffrey Shaw (1994) 31
  32. 32. Digital Artist: Ken GoldbergTelegarden by Ken Goldberg (1995–2004) 32
  33. 33. Digital Artist: Scott SnibbeBoundary Functions by Scott Snibbe (1998) 33
  34. 34. Digital Artist: Hisako YamakawaKodama—Mischievous Echoes by Hisako Yamakawa (2005) 34
  35. 35. Audio example - EMI REWORK Interactive Philip Glass remixes by Beck, Amon Tobin, and more 35
  36. 36. Computer Art• It is art, run on a computer, interactive, inter active because it is run on a computer 36
  37. 37. Why is Interactivity so important?A-Volve by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau (1994) 37
  38. 38. Interactivity Text Rain by Camille Utterback (1999)• Audience can be in conversation with the work• Audience can create the work• Artist has more ways to communicate with the audience• Artist can be in conversation with his/her own process• Interactivity is evocative 38
  39. 39. Interactivity: a complex cognitive behavior Model of Interactivity Developed by Don NormanSource: Understanding Interactivity, p. 34 39
  40. 40. Merleau-Ponty• The Phenomenology of Perception (1945)• Perception is not stimuli reception• Perception is a process of continuous interaction involving the subjects intentions, expectations, and physical actions in "communion" with its surroundings – Perception is related to intentionality (goal-directedness)• Two threads re: philosophy of digital art – Dominic Lopes: Interactivity is related to deeply evocative viewer responses, complex cognitive behavior, and the process of perception – Mark Hansen: Virtual image production is the process by which information is made perceivable 40
  41. 41. Digital Art Critique• Diversity• Dynamism, co-creation• Ephemerality, archivability• Role of critics• Standards• Valorization, value-determination• Collecting 41
  42. 42. Philosophy of Art A Pair of Shoes by Vincent Van Gogh (1886) 42
  43. 43. 43
  44. 44. Cultural unification: art and technology• “Two Cultures” lecture by CP Snow (1959) – lamenting the division between arts and science – At Cambridge a gap between the “science culture” and the “arts” or “literary culture” where the "two groups had almost ceased to communicate at all" – Nostalgia for earlier times when science and humanities were more closely aligned• Digital Art crosses the rift – Art developed with computers and computing methods, digitally displayed – Design, aesthetics, and elegance in technology (Apple) 44
  45. 45. Agenda and Upcoming Sessions2/12 - Introduction "What is digital art?" and what philosophers are sayingabout it?2/19 - The Design Aesthetics of Meaning-Making: Information Visualization. “Aesthetics of Information Visualization” (Warren Sack, 2013) “Authenticity and Computer Art” (Margaret A. Boden, 2006, pp 1-11) tutorial or download/test Tableau Digital art interpretation of Van Gogh’s ‘Pair of Shoes’2/26 - Democratized Creativity: Performance, Music, Virtual Reality, Gaming.3/5 - Natural Aesthetics: Generative Art, SynBio, Biomimicry, CrowdArt.3/12 - Portable ArtTech: Identity, Fashion, Wearable Electronics, the Future. Comments and Feedback: 45
  46. 46. Thank you! Image: Emese Szorenyi Digital Art and Philosophy Melanie Swan University of the Commons and the Emerald Tablet Gallery