THE MERGING OF DIGITAL ART AND CONTEMPORY CULTURE|
Interview with Scott Ligon, award-winning digital artist, author and filmmaker
Interview conducted by James and Maria Huntley
Adapted fom the online journal Digital Meets Culture
As coordinator for the digital foundation for curriculum at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Scott Ligon has been on the forefront of emerging technology in fine arts. As both a digital artist and professor, he has seen students and colleagues explore this new way of making art. "Digital technology is, by definition, disruptive," said Ligon. "It changes the way that creative endeavors can be conceived, experienced, and publicized. This is a time of a true paradigm shift. There are many rewards and opportunities of being a digital artist in these pioneering times. Not only are there galleries showing digital art of some kind, but digital technology opens up new methods for showing and selling art, enabling the artist to bypass the gatekeepers."
Many in the contemporary art world see digital art beginning to make its impact. Ligon sees the boundaries being stretched. "The traditional gallery system relies on the idea of one-of-a-kind objects that have perceived value because of their scarcity. Anything that is created digitally can be replaced endlessly with no loss in quality," said Ligon. "But the great attribute that digital artists can have is networking with others. "Many creators do this on a regular basis so they are getting better at their craft instead of waiting for someone's permission to get started. They develop an appreciative audience who tell others about the work, which results in an even larger audience. We have entered an age where digital technology is becoming more and more integrated with the physical world. Digital interfaces are becoming more mobile and more intuitive.
"As mobile devices become more and more powerful, we will increasingly see 'digital technology' as an enabling quality that enhances our lives and our creative endeavors, as opposed to something separate from our regular lives that is created in a windowless computer lab. I foresee a time when the term 'digital art' becomes virtually meaningless because technology will be more and more imbedded into real world creative endeavors."
While digital technology and the contemporary art world are merging, Ligon acknowledges that some in academia view these trends with mixed opinions. "If anyone introduces an original idea about digital art or technology in an academic setting, there are some fairly predictable reactions," Ligon continued. "A few people will dislike digital technology entirely and feel that it is having a negative effect if it replaces a previous technology that they are more familiar with. Others will embrace digital technology but feel that you are introducing the wrong type of technology or emphasizing the wrong aspects of technology."
Ligon feels processing power is constantly expanding and new territories are constantly being pushed. "Digital technology is simply ones and zeroes that we never interact with directly, like atoms in the real world," he said. "These ones and zeros can look or behave in an unlimited variety of ways. Because it's so vast and adaptable, people who are interested in digital technology can have many different opinions and points of view."
Ligon is currently working on his first feature film, a documentary about the 21st century convergence of creativity, technology, commerce, and creativity, called "The Big Picture."
Scott Ligon is the author of the book "Digital Art Revolution, Creating Fine Art with Photoshop", published by Watson-Guptill, a subsidiary of Random House. It has received uniformly fine reviews.
Don Archer published a review in July 2001 of a digital art exhibit held in New York City. It was called the The New York Digital Salon and was held at the Corning / Steuben Glass Gallery on upscale Madison Avenue. It was held in collaboration with the School of Visual Arts.
Five images from the show are shown in the adjoining column.
The review follows:
This show is best described as an advertisement for themselves: Corning (Steuben) and the School of Visual Arts (NYC).
Housed in Steuben's expensive retail store on Madison Avenue in midtown NYC at one of the shopping world's most exclusive addresses, this exhibit spreads a warm self-congratulatory glow over Corning's high-tech philanthropy (Corning is one of the major developers and purveyors of the fiber optic cable; Steuben is its artsy sub-divison). Perhaps the exhibit will also help to enhance the prestige of Steuben's designer glassware and sculpture (available at this location at prices often in the thousands of dollars, thank you) by such stalwarts of the art as James Houston.
The New York Digital Salons are annual exhibits that have been going on for at least eight years and are sponsored by the School of Visual Arts in New York City, a private, degree-granting, high-tuition institution with roots in the graphic arts industry. They are juried affairs of still digital art and animation videos, curated by Bruce Wands, described as "chair" of the MFA Computer Art program at the school. These salons have been notable for the exceptional quality of their art (full disclosure statement and sour grapes admission by this reviewer: my own art has been rejected by the Salon on the two or three occasions that I submitted it), but I have always felt the Salons had a kind of inbred hot-house atmosphere about them, as the jurors were often closely associated with the school and the artists were often students or graduates of the school as well.
This show is described as "An exhibition of the best works of computer art selected by juries of the last eight New York Digital Art salons." With Corning's patronage, the exhibit lends to the School of Visual Arts a glitzy platform with which to promote itself and its Salons.
Does the show do much for computer art? I don't think so. It is premised on the idea, as the promotional literature accompanying the show advises, that computer art has come of age, but this is something computer artists have known for years. Witness the thousands of websites (maybe tens of thousands) dedicated to digital art, to fractals, to 3D rendered art, to computer manipulated photographs, to computer-painted and -drawn art, and to mixed-media computer art that may integrate different techniques and traditional art as well. What computer art needs now is not another celebration of its great achievements in an orgy of self-abuse, but careful and rewarding study of the work of individual artists, and how an artist's work may have changed and flourished, and how his or her style may have developed and matured, and of how one artist's style and subject may differ from that of another artist, or how the the artist may have adapted his or her art, if he or she has, to the onslaught of new hardware and software. I am tired of group shows, and want to see an artist's work in depth and over time, to gauge and measure it. It is time we take the art form for granted and look past it to the artist.
The remarkable art displayed at this exhibit includes 23 pieces of still art by almost as many artists and several short animation films or videos, along with two or three interactive computer displays responding to mouse or keyboard input. One of the more memorable animations is "Burning Desire" by Avi Renick of two cigarettes courting and making erotic love and burning themselves out in the process.
The still art was generally outputted at large size by Iris or other inkjet printers, but there was at least one electrostatic print on display, and a print produced in 1993 by a pen plotter, almost an extinct technology today. It was good art then and is good art today.
See five striking images from this Salon show in the adjoining column.
MUSEUMS, COMMUNITIES, GALLERIES|
Digital Art Gallery Online
Digital gallery of best pictures and photos from portfolios of digital artists.
Digital Art Served
Soho Arthouse (Soho Gallery For Digital Art)
DAM - Digital Art Museum
Los Angeles Center for Digital Art
Museum of Computer Art
Digital Art Online
Museum of Digital Fine Arts
Read review of Salon show in adjoining column.
Second Age by Enrique Cabarcos
Labyrinths of Love by Uri Dotan
The Dancers by Uri Dotan
970717_01 by Kenneth Huff
Precision Solutions by Joan Truckenbrod
Fred Rowley wrote flatteringly:
"Your new blog is very enjoyable. It is informative, lively and stimulating. Obviously, others think so too. I'm personally hoping that you will generate a much needed, inside conversation about Digital Art and its artists in all their flavors and styles. If you and your associates can do with words what you have done with your collected images - that is: assemble over time, a written, informal compendium of Digital Art in all its fullness, then I think you will have really built a second, complementing treasure to the one you already have established- i.e., M.O.C.A itself."
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DON WELCOMES YOUR ART
Art by Valentino Sani
The Muse of Colors
Fear of the Dark
Mixed Media 001
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