Throughout August, HM is on sabbatical.


Extract from Matt Pearson’s essay “No-one Ever Cried At A Website” (April 2013; h/t Kerry Turner).

This is the nub of the problem. Too much attention is awarded to the mechanisms of digital art, rather than the message or intent of the work. Yes, these new technologies are terribly exciting, with the new possibilities for expression that are being opened up, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to label every tech demo we knock out as “art”. Art requires a little more than that. Not much, but a little.

In these shifting times the programmers seems to have a continual problem deciding what they should call themselves. “Digital Artist” seems to have become the current job title. In 2011 they were all “Creative Technologists”. In 2010, “Code Ninjas”. Roses by other names, all smelling just as sweet. Next year they’ll be “Imagineers”, “NeoArchitects”, “Exploraticians”, or whatever jargon-du-jour the culture has farted into the lexicon. It’s not their fault, they have no idea what they do for a living. No-one does. They’ve all suffered trying to explain it to their mum, or a crowd of non-geeks at a party. This may be why geeks don’t go to many parties.

But that doesn’t mean that, in the absence of any better category, they should always be allowed to call their latest experiment “art”. It’s something we often tend to do with things that have no apparent use but are kinda pretty. Digital Art already has enough enemies, it doesn’t need its own practitioners sullying the name with misuse. I won’t embarrass anyone by linking to them, writing as I am from my glass-house here. They’re nice people and they don’t do it with malice.

Go read the whole essay.

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4 thoughts on “Talking Point: Authentic Art

  1. “He repeated the experiment on public computers, rigging display machines in Apple Stores to snap people testing them and upload the photos to a Tumblr (a project that earned him a visit from the FBI). He saw the same expressionlessness on strangers faces. It’s the TV-watching expression, that drone-like state of suggestion that advertisers love.”

    Newsflash: Photos of people looking at demonstration machines in a store reveal consumerist tendencies. Coming up soon, a study that attempts to explain why so many of the closets I open are full of my clothes.

  2. Yes, I’m not fond of that particular point, but I find myself warming to the rage against slapping art on everything.

  3. Yeah that was a weird point.

    “We only call a medium a technology when it is new, when it still has novelty, when it is not widely understood or accepted by the masses. But all mediums start as technologies – drawing, sculpture, photography, cinema; all these were technologies first, mediums later.”

    I do wonder when videogames will leave the technology section in magazines and papers. It bugs me no end.

    “Technology is a means, art is an end product.” I thought this was a great line.

  4. Yeah, Gregg. Although videogames are always “moving forward” it feels as if their perception in some quarters is still 20 years out of date.

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