Thursday, February 25, 2016

50 years of art and computers




Deep Face by Douglas Couplan.


At its base, art is communication.

It transmits a reaction, it conveys an emotion (or two or three), it makes a statement or reflection (or both) about the times in which we live. Towards that latter purpose, there have been no shortage of art galleries and installations that attempt to describe our relationship with computers. An article from Wired last week looked at this connection between art and software programming and algorithms.  From the article:

"Right now, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, Laura Poitras’s Astro Noise exhibits uses film footage and document to reveal her life under surveillance. The New Museum’s 2015 Triennial, Surround Audience, focused exclusively on how the digital world permeates art. At last year’s Future of Storytelling show at the Museum of the Moving Image, VR headsets were everywhere—and that’s a mere fraction of this genre."

Of immediate interest to me are accounts in the article of artists composing via material they've found online. The virtual collides with the actual and new expressions are created and discovered. An example cited in the article is a series of screenprints based on random pattern generations. Deep Face, featured above by Douglas Couplan, is meant to be an introspective piece, prodding the viewer to contemplate what facial-recognition software will mean to our day-to-day life.

Integrated thinkers have been among the more interesting people I have ever known. Stereotypes lock us into terribly binary views. Programmers are quiet, numbers-oriented, capable only of thinking in logic and not in the abstract. Artists are incoherent, inhabiting only sylvan environs, and unable to operate the actual intricacies of technology. While stereotypes do have elements of truth to them, they neglect the wider middle of the truth.

Art pieces and exhibits such as the ones described are examples of this middle ground. While they are more of the fine arts, museum pieces end of things, I am also thinking of more practical applications. Computer graphics? Animation? Without integrated thinkers would we have whole industries such as video games and special effects, facets of our entertainment that we today take for granted?

There is a place for art in everything.


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