In partnership with Digitalarti
As its name implies, digital art is in sync with our times, where our everyday lives are transformed by new media technologies and the Internet.
Unlike contemporary art, however, digital art not only challenges esthetic codes but also uses all the resources of current techniques—particularly those inherited from the electronic and digital revolution.
This alliance of digital art and technologies has given way to new artistic practices, new forms of artworks and new relationships with viewers.
As in other fields, “digital” art was born in the 1980s, when computer science and the first PCs started becoming mainstream.
From then on, software would enable us to, for example, compose music or draw differently. But soon the media themselves—that is, the computer and the technical objects connected to it (printer, Internet connection, etc.)—would become the object of artistic practice. Hence, the first “bricks” of digital art were laid.
But the foundations of this new artistic edifice are built on video art and kinetic sculpture, on image and motion. Video art is already expressed on screens and machines. The pioneers of the field, such as Nam June Paik and Bill Viola, prefigured digital art and its audio-visual performances.
Similarly, kinetic art, as symbolized by Calder’s mobiles and Vasarely’s optical illusions, is already a “motorized” art, characterized by mobility and interactivity with the environment or the public—another characteristic of digital art.
Digital art grows in complexity and diversity along with technological progress. For example, motion sensors allow artists to experiment with art forms that were until then unseen in terms of interactivity.
In return, the artist is also a technician, at least until he relies directly on scientific laboratories to finalize his installation.
All these artistic experiments, which could just as well be done within participative workshops such as fab labs (FABrication LABoratories), break up digital art into multiple trends according to the media and techniques used.
The symbol of digital art is Net Art—art that borrows the mobility, fluidity and virtuality of the Internet, art that changed the intrinsic nature of an artwork.
By investing the Internet, artists such as Olga Kisseleva, JODI, Maurice Benayoun and Mouchette have in their hands a formidable creative tool, an enormous bank of data, images and sounds.
The Internet is a space not only for producing, but also for exhibiting, participating, experimenting and communicating. It’s a space that is unrivalled by galleries and museums.
A digital artwork is, among other things, according to its supposed intention and techniques, a “multiple-choice artwork” (Gregory Chatonsky, My Life is an Interactive Fiction), an interactive artwork that responds to public sollicitation (Daan Roosegaarde, Lotus 7.0).
It’s an artwork in constant flux, animated by algorithms (Miguel Chevalier, Fractal Flowers), a mechanical, robotic artwork (Robotlab, Bios [bible]…).
And in extreme cases, it’s a “living” artwork, such as in bio-art, which combines art, science and biotechnologies (Eduardo Kac, Eudenia).
But it’s also a fragile artwork, which is dependent on a technical environment, on its obsolescence (programmed or not), on its maintenance and its conservation. The next centuries will reveal whether or not digital art will be as timeless as the traditional arts.