Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Art Remediated...

According to Bolter and Grusin, digital arts is defined as graphic, static images made of pixels rather than oils or watercolors. That is, computer programs and the algorithms which support them are the tools that the digital artist uses and the computer screen is their canvas. Content varies from immersive illustration to highly mediated multimedia imagery.

The goal of the digital artist, with respect to immediacy, tends to vary depending on the composition and the elements used within the imagery. For example, Bolter and Grusin note that fantasy illustration is a popular theme among digital artists. In this genre, the digital artists attempts to achieve immediacy by creating a space in which they imagine to be real. On the other hand, digital artists who use a variety of elements that are clearly derived from different forms of media, seek to enhance the experience in a way that the viewer is well aware of the use of multimedia objects.

What differentiates the digital artist from the analog artists of the past? Some might claim the computer aids in the creation of a piece of digital art, thus discarding the artist's claim that what they have created is indeed art. The critic asserts that the digital artist has many menu options at hand in order to determine the most appealing look; a "happy accident" it is sometimes called. In comparison, the artists from the past spent hours painting and repainting over areas they were not happy with and only stopped when they were. A true artist is not satisfied until what they envisioned in their mind is executed properly, be it paint on canvas proper or pixels on a computer screen.

The masters of the past were experts at manipulating their tools, their canvases, and their palettes to achieve their vision. So too are digital artists. They achieve their visions with different tools, different palettes, and a different canvas. And like the artists of the past, they too react and contribute to the culture in which they live in.

The difference between the artists of the past, particularly pre-Impressionism, and the artists since, is their focus on immediacy. Prior to Impressionism the objective for the artist was to remove his presence from his work. Techniques these artists worked slavishly to master were proper perspective and proportion, realistic execution, and erasure of their brushstroke. Once photography claimed a more immediate reflection of nature, artists abandoned their attempts of immediacy for a much more hypermediated experience. Impressionistic techniques created only implications of form. Picasso, inspired by the invention of film, attempted to create multiple views of the person in a single form. Pollack, among others, had no problem leaving his paint on the surface of the canvas which created a three dimensional texture, wholly contradicting the erasure processes of the past. And Dadaism removed any effort at immediacy that might have remained. All of these styles were indeed meant to be abosrbed, but by no means intended to be realistic.

Two centuries after the evolution away from immediacy in art, the digital artist relishes in hypermediacy in its purist definition. The more the visibility of mediation, the better. As mentioned above, some digital artists do still attempt immediacy by attending to proper perspective and proportion, however, it is more common to witness the hypermediated alternative.

As Bolter and Grusin note, everything has been remediated since the beginning of writing. On a larger scale, and with centuries of impressions burned in our minds, as artists, it is difficult not to remediate. We often create with styles and images from the past in our minds. A type of Creative Commons if you will. We borrow from the past to create the cultures of today. Our tools and canvases have changed, as too have our intentions. The culture of today is one deeply ceded in technology, specifically digital apparatuses that we must master in order to stay employed. But even as we use our remediated tools and canvases, we are only responding to the generations of remediation that have come before.


  1. You've identified some important parallels in the methods used by both digital and analog artists. I wonder if there are similar parallels in audience reception, engagement with art, etc.?

  2. I think people who truly appreciate art are as impressed with today's creations as they are with the creations of the past. I think art will continue to evolve and amaze. I know a lot of modern art amazes me. What I love about art since the beginning of Impressionism is that it's much more expressive. Conventions still play a role if the artist so desires, but expressions typically play a much larger role.

  3. Great post! I agree that it is very hard nowadays to not have a remediated piece of art. We are constantly bring up past media to create something new, and art is no exception. Hypermediated art is definitely more prevalent today, but I don't necessarily see that as a bad thing. Just as having something that is more immediate isn't either. I think there's a time and place for both.