The question, “Is digital art real art?” has been and continues to be a raging internet debate.
First considered a threat to traditional art forms, digital art has evolved into many forms and is now widely considered a legitimate art form.
In a recent article the Irish Times criticized the perception that digital technology transforms for the better.
It was argued that analogue methods are on the verge of extinction and that this has created nostalgia for old forms in mediums such as photography, music and film.
Well, yes. It’s pop psychology 101 – we only want something when it’s taken away.
The author suggests a different explanation, that the convenience of digital has erased the charm of analogue. Digital can make something look and sound better but that this difference does not necessarily make it better.
It is an interesting point that breathes fresh air into a rather stuffy argument.
If digital technologies do not transform for the better, and creators are looking back to analogue for an alternative, what does this mean for the value of digital art?
Value of digital art
On a fundamental level, at least, digital works may be considered art.
The OED defines art as any expression or application of human skill and imagination. Digital art involves the same expression or application except that its creation is aided by digital technologies.
The aid of digital technologies does not however translate into a lack of skill and creativity on the part of the artist.
Much like a sculptor or painter has to know how to use his tools and materials to create something worth viewing, a digital artist must have a working knowledge of the relevant digital technologies.
Sure, there is a lot of junk out there, but the rubbish pile in the traditional art world is arguably just as big (insert the fruit-throwers here).
Digital artist guilds and competitions curate works online to separate the average from the extraordinary.
Digital art is also filtering into exhibitions in museums and art galleries all over the world where individuals can decide for themselves what is good and what is not.
Social media also aids in circulating works that are considered exceptional, for example, the Modern Living/Neurotica series.
Evolution of digital
Just as digital art seems to have found its proverbial feet as a legitimate art form it is also evolving.
German artist Gerd Jansen’s evolution is in the form of countune, a social art experiment.
The Internet project is an on-going graphic representation of the sequence of natural numbers. Users are invited to create their own countune image strip by selecting a number value and colour palette.
Each individual countune uses prime number distribution to create patterns and is added to a larger strip. The strip is currently 647, 6 meters long.
The Happenstance Project, launched in January this year, is an experiment of a different kind.
The project funds six residencies in three UK cities. The selected residents are all digital experts who have been placed with arts managers of various arts organisations.
The aim is to inject digital thinking into the art world with the hope of changing the way that technology is used in the arts. Residents are encouraged to blog about the project and provide updates on its successes.
Such investments in digital art suggest that the form retains value despite the trend to return to analogue methods.
Whether one is better than the other is a matter of opinion and perhaps their respective value should not be measured against the other but rather intrinsically.
Is beauty not in the eye of the beholder?