Can’t Help Myself (2016). Courtesy of Sun Yuan and Peng Yu @Guggenheim.org
Is technology just a tool or a co-creator? In the world of art, many mediums and avenues of creativity have been sought out to conjure the visual manifestations of artistic minds. When speaking of these mediums, many often think of the usual paints, etchings, sculptures, etc. However, one medium is often ignored as being a prominent character in the manufacturing of art itself. Especially as we continue to have these discussions on what art is and what is considered an extension of this creative tree, it is about time to boldly acknowledge the helpful hand technology has in this evergrowing definition.
When discussions about technology get brought up in artistic spaces in our present-day minds of 2023, most will be quick to reference the controversial Artificial Intelligence or AI. Luckily art is a vast well filled with diverse takes and AI is just an attempt at what has already been conceived. The marriage between tech and art has been growing strong for decades and it definitely didn’t start from the generated pictures made solely by machines. The two worlds of technical and creative engineering merged together to create what is now known as Digital Art. There is no pinned time of when the first occurrence of technology was used to create an artistic image however, “the earliest 'digital' artwork in the V&A collection, Oscillon 40 (1952), was created by American mathematician Ben Laposky, using an oscilloscope to manipulate electronic signals and photograph them in the shape of waves... were not intended as an artistic medium and Laposky's unexpected use anticipates later fusions of art and computing” (V&A, para. 3). Even though this was an accidental occurrence, this discovery catapulted the movement for digital expression and how it can be used. As time progressed so did the advancement of technology and that influenced these digital waves to grow into more than just frequency. More ideas began to prosper and by the time the 1980s came rolling around the vibrant colors and abstract aesthetics of the period also pushed the envelope of what digital art can be.
'Oscillon 40' (1952). Photograph by Ben Laposky.@Victoria and Albert Museum, London @vam.ac.uk
But it is limiting to think that tech can only be seen in the influential graces of the digital world. Tech is more than computer generated, it is the computer. With the growing abilities of engineers, accessibility, and creativity we are growing to see more use from robotic beings in all facets of life. With this comes an ominous feeling, because if a person isn’t creating it we must’ve lost control right? Or at least that’s what some may think. However, have you stopped by your local museum and left without seeing the influence of robotic arms or technological influence? It is already in our galleries. It is there not to replace but to add to the feeling, it is that feeling and emotion that many artists try to translate in response to our societal and economic status in the world. It is the feeling you felt while watching The Matrix or the unease of an uncanny valley, it is the waking up of discomfort and unrest within ourselves but also something we feel is familiar. That is the marriage of Tech and Art.
Female Figure (2014). Figure by Jordan Wolfson. an animatronic sculpture of a woman. Courtesy of Getty Images @news.artnet.com
Sources: Guggenheim.org Vam.ac.uk news.artnet.com