Arts and Architecture

How is technology changing art?
Answered by John Maeda, Alexa Meade and 2 others
  • John Maeda

    John Maeda

  • Alexa Meade

    Alexa Meade

  • Lu Fong

    Lu Fong

  • Martha Barksdale

    Martha Barksdale

  1. John Maeda President, Rhode Island School of Design


    Oh. I think that computers and the advancedness of computers hasn't changed art very much. It's enabled more to happen. Again, that counts a bit more. Better resolution, longer lengths, more color variety, but all in all it's the same thing. It's what experience can I deliver to you that is provocative, that can change how you think. How can I, the art piece, change your relationship -- not to me, but to something else or to the world? That question has nothing to do with technology at all.

    I would say that if it wasn't for the computer, my art wouldn't be known because my art is so linked to it. It's how it's defined. I made art with the computer, writing computer programs. I made things that could morph and change and if it wasn't for the Internet maybe a thousand people would know about it. Or like when I walk into MOMA, and that work I made as I sat on the second floor of my flat in Tokyo on a small ironing board with my Macintosh and between my legs I'm typing or whatever. Sat with a fan because it's very hot in Japan, the little piece of code I made is living in a museum now. I find that very odd, interesting, very fortunate, very lucky.

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  2. Alexa Meade Interdisciplinary Artist

    I think that today we're seeing a big breakdown in how people use traditional media. Before it used to be that someone would just make a sculpture, but now, it's a performative installation experience. The genres are getting blurred and it's kind of creating this whole new vocabulary within the art world of how we define different media.

    I do definitely have a difficult time communicating to people what my art exactly is because it's not just photography and it's not just painting, performance, or installation. It's really all of them together in this very specific way. I think that we're seeing a lot more artists who are kind of breaking down the boundaries of media and also looking outside of traditional art media to incorporate other aspects into their work.

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  3. At one point in history, the color blue was bleeding-edge technology. A near impossible pigment to obtain, ultramarine could only be made using lapis lazuli, a rare semi-precious stone that most commoners -- not to mention starving artists -- couldn’t afford. (This is why blue and purple are considered the colors of royalty.) When artificial pigments burst onto the art scene, suddenly skies were literally bluer and artists were faced with a whole new palette of choice [source: Pastoureau].

    This is what artists are facing now with the onset of new technology: more tools, more options, and in some cases, whole new ways of stimulating people’s senses. New York City’s Museum of Modern Art featured an Augmented Reality art exhibit in the fall of 2010 that asked museum-goers to use a smart phone app to view the semi-virtual exhibit. So, if nobody with a smart phone was on the 7th floor of the museum, to the naked eye, it appeared to be completely devoid of art [source: Hughes].

    This is only one example of what technology has enabled in the 21st century. Artists around the world have harnessed a stunning range of advancements to express themselves in different ways. The University of Gronigen in Netherlands has found a way for viewers to use 3D glasses and handle empty boxes covered in Augmented Reality tags. The tags then translate into 3D images of sculptures and models that people can handle and inspect [source: Veldman]. And of course, this only brushes the surface of what’s out there.

    More than providing art lovers with immersive, science fiction-esque experiences though, technology has given art a global audience. It’s everyone’s favorite globalization mantra but thanks to the Internet, communication and connection has never been easier. Over the past few decades, artists and collectors who wouldn’t have otherwise had a chance to participate in the conversation have sprung into prominence from all over the planet. (No, Justin Bieber does not count.) Some art critics even assert that the Internet has wiped out any remaining distinction there is between fine art and pop culture [source: Tanneeru].

    On a purely pragmatic scale, technology has enabled far more accurate restoration and upkeep of classic artworks. Art restorers now have access to cameras capable of magnifying artwork so precisely that you can see Leonardo da Vinci’s thumbprint, clear as day [source: Palmer]. With this level of technology, the upkeep of old and new art alike can help preserve our culture’s art history.

    Ultimately, you could easily argue that art is unchanging, that the need to express is ancient and static … and you’d be right. But whatever the future holds for both technology and art, there’s little doubt that their fates are intrinsically tied.

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  4. There's no question that technology is changing art. Computers have given us new ways to create music, paintings, poetry and sculpture. Thanks to the Internet, artists can share their work with millions of people -- far more than would have ever seen an exhibit in a gallery. But no matter how we use technology, the human mind will always be at the center of art, guiding the tools to create the artist's vision.

    Technology has made art more accessible to its audience, but also to the artist. Some sculptors now use computer programs to design their works in an abstract environment before sending their specifications to stonecutting factories that rely on computerized equipment to chisel out a statue. Painters no longer have to lug their supplies around with them if they want to create an image outside the studio. They can whip out their smartphones, open a program and use their fingers as brushes to create masterful paintings. These artists say they like this technology because it is immediate; they can capture a moment as it happens [source: Daily Mail]. They can also share those paintings quickly via social networking sites.

    This growing accessibility is breaking down walls. Technology available to everyone means that we no longer look at art as just for the elite class. Artists aren't limited to just one medium. Computerized multi-media productions combine music and visual arts into stunning concerts of sight and sound not possible a few years ago [source: Thompson]. Nobel laureate Toni Morrison was guest curator for a program at The Louvre that combined digital art, lectures, readings and slam poetry [source: Tanneeru].

    Technology may be changing the way we think of art. In the past, art took physical forms that could be kept in their original condition with proper care and protection, but digital art poses new problems for preservation and restoration: File format conventions change, software is always evolving, and the programs needed to open these digital works will eventually become obsolete. Even if we have the programs, the computers of the future may not be able to run them, and so the works will be lost. At the same time, many digital artists say the impermanence of their work is part of its allure [source: Thorpe]. Perhaps the introduction of this uncertainty is another way technology is changing art.

    Archaeological Artifactsqa1
    (Getty Images)

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