Art, meet Tech
When art and technology cross paths
June 19, 2020 | by Maryam Israelyan
We work by ZOOM, track friendships on Facebook, and search for love on dating apps. As the most fundamental human experiences undergo their digital transformation, so too does art. These six creators have not only adapted to technology. They’ve adopted it as the foundation of their new creations.
Removing the frames
Not that many years ago, museums were filled with frames. It was how artists were capturing concepts, ideas, people. Today, art doesn’t need these boundaries to communicate. In many ways, visual art has transcended boundaries imposed on it throughout history. Now, technologies shape limits.
For Daniel Rozin, your reflection is the limit. He is the creator of a series of interactive mirrors, made out of wood, toy penguins, textile, and even candy packages. But just like mirrors, they need someone to reflect something back. Unlike its framed predecessors, quirky-looking pieces are lifeless without the spectator. To engage you in the work, the artist uses a series of motion sensors, cameras, and mechanical motors. They help detect movement and display it on the unusual surfaces, forming silhouettes that turn the audience into a co-creator.
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In performance art, technologies always had a presence. First, their role was documenting. Then, enhancing stories by being in the background or the background. Today, technologies are what defines performance.
Moon Ribas and Neil Harbisson are cyborgs. Not the scary Terminators but humans whose abilities have been enhanced with the help of technology. Moon Ribas can feel seismic waves in real-time; Neil Harbisson can hear colors. The duo has been using their usual newly gained perceptions to create art, communicating their unique experience through movement and sound. For them the technology is not just a tool — it is the defining element of artwork creation.
History in your hands
Film is one medium that cannot be imagined outside of technology. Ever since the invention of the first camera, it has been combining technologies to tell better stories. Now, when the lines between what is shot and computer-generated have been blending in, the film is a space that does not just depict or capture but also creates and imagines. In that context, what else can technology do for the industry?
One director has been asking and answering these questions. Ben Tricklebank has dedicated his directorial career to exploring boundaries between filmmaking and digital technologies. He crafts a personal, non-shared experience, that is delivered directly to the person. In his interactive documentary — Clouds Over Cuba — he lets the viewer decide the course of history, through numerous what-ifs. For him, the next stop is not just redefining the relationship between the technology and the creation, but a conversation between the audience and the story.
Digital Kung Fu
Motion-based arts have always implied a human as the central piece — whether as a choreographer or a performer. Sport, dances, martial arts were inseparable from human bodies. But technologies allowed rethinking those relationships. What if the person has nothing to do with the performance but only its code? Can it still be considered a dance?
Tobias Gremmler has tried to answer those questions. With motion capture, he made computer-generated metal pieces perform an elaborate Kung Fu routine. His final work did not have a human. Elegant shapes performed the dance instead, merging into a graceful art piece. It is a statement about how technologies can allow us to remove the monopoly on performance from living beings.
Not The Beatles’ Song
Modern music has been embracing the sound of technology for decades. Today pop-songs rarely feature traditional instruments and electronic music even has its own genre. What we are less familiar with is the usage of Artificial Intelligence in music production. Soulful lyrics and impressive scores have always involved a human but now they do not have to. And here is just one example.
The Beatles might have never written Daddy’s Car but according to an AI, they very well might have had. The song was entirely composed by an A.I that was taught all the legendary band’s discography. While the song is hardly a masterpiece, the fact that it doesn’t have human input is dazzling. But many of us would still nod along with the lyrics, even though they have no intended meaning.
Travel through words
It feels like Virtual Reality is the medium artists have been waiting for. It gives everyone the power to create entire worlds from scratch. Construct universes that do not adhere to conventions and where possibilities are defined by imagination.
Laurie Anderson developed one such a world for her The Chalkroom, a very popular VR piece displayed at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. By putting on the VR headgear, she allowed viewers to become one with words, traveling through corridors made of sentences and immersing — quite literally — into the stories of people and place. In her universe, a viewer can also do something they would have been punished for in any other museum. They can leave a mark on the work, telling their story.
Technologies allowed artists to exponentially increase their vocabulary, giving them tools and media that let them explore ideas that have been out of reach before.
The future of art is the territory of speculations. We cannot say where it will take us with confidence. What we can do, by looking at the works of artists working with the revolutionary technologies now, is discern that the new art will ask even more questions about the relationships between the artist, the work, the observer… and the robot.