Response to Chapter 3 – Christiane Paul

Chapter 3 is all about the themes of digital art. While I think its tough to pin down the themes of an entire media, I do find it interesting that so much work was concentrated on these themes especially in the beginning of the media’s promenence. Paul outlines “artificial life,” “artificial intelligence and intelligent agents,” “telepresence, telematics and telerobotics,” as well as “body and identity” as well as themes of gaming and activism.

What I find to be one of the most interesting aspects of early digitial art especially is its reliance on the developments of science and vice versa. Most of the examples in this chapter are talking about projects at universities or private labs. MIT is mentioned who knows how many times because they are the ones aiding the development of this cutting edge technology. I find it very telling that artists are the ones to pick up on those technologies and take an interest before any other groups. It is equally as important to remember that developments have been made first by artists then perfected or explained by science.

Another element that I find really interesting and forward is the demand of much digital art to interact directly with viewers. Traditional media can be quite passive, but I think the demands of digitial art fit in very well with our need for stimulation. Digital art can come in many shapes, sizes and scales, but a lot of times what is shared is a game-like feel. There are spontaneous elements to these projects, gamelike interfaces or directions. They require interaction from either participants in the room or from elsewhere via the net. An even greater feat is the success of the participation. Getting viewers to interact with sculpture or performance is incredibly difficult, often times they are embarassed or worried about making a mistake. However, when it comes to interacting with a machine, people volunteer and have little or no reservations about causing damage or embarassing themselves.

The only other observation I wanted to make about the digital art in this book was by and large how absolutely ugly it all is. I suppose its the development of the technology. I’m not particularly interested in the changes in graphics or pixel resolution or memory which all effects the way these images look, but I find it interesting even considering all of that, even the colors in these works are bright, garrish, and inhuman looking. Is that the point? I wouldn’t doubt that while making these works their creators wanted to distance them as much as possible from a natural palette, but still, it is all so ugly.

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