Defining Digital Art

Posted by Christopher Fahey | Sat Jun 28th 2003 5:25 p.m.

  • curt cloninger | Sat Jun 28th 2003 7:22 p.m.
    Hi Chris,

    To me, that definition of "digital art" is too broad to be useful.
    According to that definition, a CD of Steve Reich's "Music for 18
    Musicians" is digital art, but a cassette tape of the same album is
    not. "The Seven Samurai" on digital TV is digital art, but the same
    movie projected by an analog film projector is not.

    The technical means of storage and transference are relevant as media
    distinguishers only to the extent that they effect the inherent
    nature of the work itself. In the above examples, all "digital" does
    is make those works a bit more readily transferable and (debatably) a
    bit more hi-res.

    One could argue that almost everything produced today in the first
    world has been "touched" somewhere along the way by the digital
    process. Terms of definition such as "digital art" are meant to
    single out certain things at the exclusion of other things for the
    purpose of more precise understanding. "Digital" fails as an
    adjective in this regard, because it almost always means more than
    what people want it to mean. "Interactive" fails for similar
    reasons. People fall into using "new media" because it can basically
    be defined any way you like, since it semiotically means nothing (new
    as compared to old, starting when exactly?).

    peace,
    curt
    _
    _

    ++++++++++++++

    Christopher Fahey wrote:

    > I like this:
    >
    > http://www.amoda.org/about/digitalart.php
    >
    > -Cf
    >
    > [christopher eli fahey]
  • ruth catlow | Sat Jun 28th 2003 8:38 p.m.
    would it be helpful to know why?

    Ruth

    > I like this:
    >
    > http://www.amoda.org/about/digitalart.php
    >
    > -Cf
    >
    > [christopher eli fahey]
    > art: http://www.graphpaper.com
    > sci: http://www.askrom.com
    > biz: http://www.behaviordesign.com
    >
    > + ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup
    > -> post: list@rhizome.org
    > -> questions: info@rhizome.org
    > -> subscribe/unsubscribe: http://rhizome.org/preferences/subscribe.rhiz
    > -> give: http://rhizome.org/support
    > +
    > Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
    > Membership Agreement available online at http://rhizome.org/info/29.php
  • Miguel Leal | Sun Jun 29th 2003 7 p.m.
    Following this broad definition almost everything that is being done
    in the art scene is digital art (digital as product, as process or as
    subject). And, by the way, is it so important to establish a border
    line betwwen analog and digital art? I thougth that the question of
    the medium was burried, or at least no so central as for Clement
    Greenberg... :-)

    ml

    >I like this:
    >
    > http://www.amoda.org/about/digitalart.php
    >
    >-Cf
    >
    >[christopher eli fahey]
    >art: http://www.graphpaper.com
    >sci: http://www.askrom.com
    >biz: http://www.behaviordesign.com
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >+ ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup
    >-> post: list@rhizome.org
    >-> questions: info@rhizome.org
    >-> subscribe/unsubscribe: http://rhizome.org/preferences/subscribe.rhiz
    >-> give: http://rhizome.org/support
    >+
    >Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
    >Membership Agreement available online at http://rhizome.org/info/29.php
  • Geert Dekkers | Sun Jun 29th 2003 7:35 p.m.
    Is this really to be a discussion? When I saw the subject I thought the
    thread would soon die out. The definition the Austin Museum of Digital
    Art uses is boring to the extreme, however noble the cause.

    As always, my answer would be that art is not about the medium, but
    about commitment, strength, and being to the point. If there is to be a
    true discussion on digital art, it should be about the way art should
    or could propogate though the art community. If the art happens to be
    digital, the medium it uses might be a temporary obstacle on its way to
    acceptance (as in collectors buying it). But it'll get there, just as
    Nam June Paik has. And "decollage". And Cubism.

    Geert

    On maandag, jun 30, 2003, at 00:57 Europe/Amsterdam, miguel leal wrote:

    >
    > Following this broad definition almost everything that is being done
    > in the art scene is digital art (digital as product, as process or as
    > subject). And, by the way, is it so important to establish a border
    > line betwwen analog and digital art? I thougth that the question of
    > the medium was burried, or at least no so central as for Clement
    > Greenberg... :-)
    >
    >
    > ml
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >> I like this:
    >>
    >> http://www.amoda.org/about/digitalart.php
    >>
    >> -Cf
    >>
    >> [christopher eli fahey]
    >> art: http://www.graphpaper.com
    >> sci: http://www.askrom.com
    >> biz: http://www.behaviordesign.com
    >>
    >>
    >>
    >>
    >> + ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup
    >> -> post: list@rhizome.org
    >> -> questions: info@rhizome.org
    >> -> subscribe/unsubscribe:
    >> http://rhizome.org/preferences/subscribe.rhiz
    >> -> give: http://rhizome.org/support
    >> +
    >> Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
    >> Membership Agreement available online at
    >> http://rhizome.org/info/29.php
    >
    > + ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup
    > -> post: list@rhizome.org
    > -> questions: info@rhizome.org
    > -> subscribe/unsubscribe: http://rhizome.org/preferences/subscribe.rhiz
    > -> give: http://rhizome.org/support
    > +
    > Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
    > Membership Agreement available online at http://rhizome.org/info/29.php
    >
    >
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    ---------------------------------------
    Geert Dekkers | 2e Keucheniusstraat 8hs | 1051VR Amsterdam |
    http://nznl.com
  • Christopher Fahey | Sun Jun 29th 2003 7:55 p.m.
    curt wrote:
    > To me, that definition of "digital art" is too broad to be useful.
    > ... Terms of definition such as "digital art" are meant to
    > single out certain things at the exclusion of other things for the
    > purpose of more precise understanding.

    Not a "precise" understanding, but a "deep" understanding. An art
    definition should help understand the subtleties and exceptions inherent
    in talking about the subject. Is there an art definition you can think
    of that is *more precise* than Amoda's page? Certainly not "painting",
    "drawing", or "sculpture".

    I agree that it seems overly broad (and you know that I am usually among
    the first to express skepticism about calling many artworks "digital
    art" or "net art" -- including a large percentage of what is currently
    in the Artbase, I might add), but I do like the fact that the Amoda page
    specifically includes a breakdown of how there *can* be several ways of
    talking about and/or making "digital art". I think that the Amoda
    "digital art" page is a great example of how it is impossible to make a
    succint, strict definition of any art genre, that there are always
    exceptions and room for discussion. In art-talk, a "definition" is, at
    best, a living, multifaceted conversation - not a strict "rule".

    I think the Amoda definition allows artists, audiences, and curators to
    forge affinities that a stricter definition might not allow. My
    drawings, for example, which are almost all simply pen and paper, are so
    wrapped up in the culture of digital art that it would be ludicrous to
    not talk about them as such.

    > One could argue that almost everything produced today in the first
    > world has been "touched" somewhere along the way by the digital
    > process.

    If you stretch it a bit, the Amoda definition can also allow us the
    flexibility to *not* talk about certain works of art as digital art,
    even if it might technically fit under the initial definition. For
    example, artists who use computer graphics software to generate virtual
    landscape images generally have more in common with traditional
    landscape painters than they do with, say, you or I. Their work should
    probably be discussed as part of that tradition. I think the Amoda page
    allows us to think that way.

    Like porn, digital art is something that I recognize when I see it. The
    Amoda page permits this kind of flexibility. That's why I like it.

    Ruth wrote:
    > would it be helpful to know why?

    I dunno, you tell me. Was the above helpful?

    Miguel wrote:
    > Following this broad definition almost everything that is being done
    > in the art scene is digital art (digital as product, as process or as
    > subject). And, by the way, is it so important to establish a border
    > line betwwen analog and digital art?

    Are those two sentences contradictory? One implies that an overly broad
    definition is useless, the other implies that precision of definition is
    unimportant.

    Anyway, as I say above, I think that it's cool to have a definition that
    implicitly says that the definition is flexible -- but that there are
    also some general concepts that you should bring to the table when
    choosing to talk about digital art.

    -Cf

    [christopher eli fahey]
    art: http://www.graphpaper.com
    sci: http://www.askrom.com
    biz: http://www.behaviordesign.com
  • Christopher Fahey | Sun Jun 29th 2003 8 p.m.
    Geert wrote:
    > Is this really to be a discussion? When I saw the
    > subject I thought the thread would soon die out.
    > The definition the Austin Museum of Digital Art uses
    > is boring to the extreme, however noble the cause.
    >
    > As always, my answer would be that art is not about
    > the medium, but about commitment, strength, and
    > being to the point. If there is to be a true discussion
    > on digital art, it should be about the way art should
    > or could propogate though the art community.

    LOL! First you say that defining digital art is a tiresome topic and
    that the Amoda definition is boring. Then you immediately proceed to
    enthusiastically discuss your own opinion on the issue.

    Furthermore, I think your definition ("art is not about the medium, but
    about commitment, strength, and being to the point") is totally
    compatible with Amoda's point: that we should keep our minds open and
    use definitions to inspire communication and conversation, not to
    classify and compartmentalize. I don't think either you or Amoda are
    boring.

    -Cf

    [christopher eli fahey]
    art: http://www.graphpaper.com
    sci: http://www.askrom.com
    biz: http://www.behaviordesign.com
  • marc garrett | Sun Jun 29th 2003 8:06 p.m.
    Hi Geert,

    Yep, you hit it right on the nose...

    Personally, I'm not bothered about whether net art is collected or not. Soo=
    ner or later it will become such an eyesore that an abundance of people are=
    viewing net art and its ilk - instead of watching, visiting the latest bre=
    ed of the year 'Cruffs', the Turner prize. It is, as you declare, just a ma=
    tter of time.

    There are more important issues for the likes of ourselves that need to be =
    dealt with. Such as breaking down the imposing walls that net art has had b=
    uilt up around it. This means artists getting off their art plinths and con=
    structed pedestals & actually get serious with collaborating for real, rath=
    er than by pretence. Involve others who would not normally get involved wit=
    h net art. Explore areas that are not necessarily art related alone, this i=
    s a our way out of the perpetual trap that most artists sadly, submissively=
    adhere to. After all, the myth of the genius/artist has been debunked, so =
    why not a net-art-person? Get out there, become part of the world & not jus=
    t in the already colonized, traditional art community alone, but to people =
    (which there are many) who should be allowed to be a part of this amazing j=
    ourney as well, that we ourselves have chosen to embark on...

    best wishes - marc

    Is this really to be a discussion? When I saw the subject I thought the t=
    hread would soon die out. The definition the Austin Museum of Digital Art u=
    ses is boring to the extreme, however noble the cause.

    As always, my answer would be that art is not about the medium, but about=
    commitment, strength, and being to the point. If there is to be a true dis=
    cussion on digital art, it should be about the way art should or could prop=
    ogate though the art community. If the art happens to be digital, the mediu=
    m it uses might be a temporary obstacle on its way to acceptance (as in col=
    lectors buying it). But it'll get there, just as Nam June Paik has. And "de=
    collage". And Cubism.

    Geert

    On maandag, jun 30, 2003, at 00:57 Europe/Amsterdam, miguel leal wrote:

    Following this broad definition almost everything that is being done in=
    the art scene is digital art (digital as product, as process or as subject=
    ). And, by the way, is it so important to establish a border line betwwen a=
    nalog and digital art? I thougth that the question of the medium was burrie=
    d, or at least no so central as for Clement Greenberg... :-)

    ml

    I like this:

    http://www.amoda.org/about/digitalart.php

    -Cf

    [christopher eli fahey]
    art: http://www.graphpaper.com
    sci: http://www.askrom.com
    biz: http://www.behaviordesign.com

    + ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup
    -> post: list@rhizome.org
    -> questions: info@rhizome.org
    -> subscribe/unsubscribe: http://rhizome.org/preferences/subscribe.rh=
    iz
    -> give: http://rhizome.org/support
    +
    Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
    Membership Agreement available online at http://rhizome.org/info/29.p=
    hp

    + ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup
    -> post: list@rhizome.org
    -> questions: info@rhizome.org
    -> subscribe/unsubscribe: http://rhizome.org/preferences/subscribe.rhiz
    -> give: http://rhizome.org/support
    +
    Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
    Membership Agreement available online at http://rhizome.org/info/29.php

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------=
    --------------------------------------
    Geert Dekkers | 2e Keucheniusstraat 8hs | 1051VR Amsterdam | http://nznl.=
    com
  • Eduardo Navas | Sun Jun 29th 2003 8:25 p.m.
    Hello all,

    Check out what Jonah Brucker Cohen said:

    http://www.ontherundesign.com/Artists/Johan_Brucker-Cohen4.html

    He breaks it down prettttyyyy well.

    Peace
    eduardoN.
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: marc.garrett
    To: Geert Dekkers ; list@rhizome.org
    Sent: Sunday, June 29, 2003 5:06 PM
    Subject: Re: RHIZOME_RAW: Defining Digital Art

    Hi Geert,

    Yep, you hit it right on the nose...

    Personally, I'm not bothered about whether net art is collected or not. S=
    ooner or later it will become such an eyesore that an abundance of people a=
    re viewing net art and its ilk - instead of watching, visiting the latest b=
    reed of the year 'Cruffs', the Turner prize. It is, as you declare, just a =
    matter of time.

    There are more important issues for the likes of ourselves that need to b=
    e dealt with. Such as breaking down the imposing walls that net art has had=
    built up around it. This means artists getting off their art plinths and c=
    onstructed pedestals & actually get serious with collaborating for real, ra=
    ther than by pretence. Involve others who would not normally get involved w=
    ith net art. Explore areas that are not necessarily art related alone, this=
    is a our way out of the perpetual trap that most artists sadly, submissive=
    ly adhere to. After all, the myth of the genius/artist has been debunked, s=
    o why not a net-art-person? Get out there, become part of the world & not j=
    ust in the already colonized, traditional art community alone, but to peopl=
    e (which there are many) who should be allowed to be a part of this amazing=
    journey as well, that we ourselves have chosen to embark on...

    best wishes - marc

    Is this really to be a discussion? When I saw the subject I thought the=
    thread would soon die out. The definition the Austin Museum of Digital Art=
    uses is boring to the extreme, however noble the cause.

    As always, my answer would be that art is not about the medium, but abo=
    ut commitment, strength, and being to the point. If there is to be a true d=
    iscussion on digital art, it should be about the way art should or could pr=
    opogate though the art community. If the art happens to be digital, the med=
    ium it uses might be a temporary obstacle on its way to acceptance (as in c=
    ollectors buying it). But it'll get there, just as Nam June Paik has. And "=
    decollage". And Cubism.

    Geert

    On maandag, jun 30, 2003, at 00:57 Europe/Amsterdam, miguel leal wrote:

    Following this broad definition almost everything that is being done =
    in the art scene is digital art (digital as product, as process or as subje=
    ct). And, by the way, is it so important to establish a border line betwwen=
    analog and digital art? I thougth that the question of the medium was burr=
    ied, or at least no so central as for Clement Greenberg... :-)

    ml

    I like this:

    http://www.amoda.org/about/digitalart.php

    -Cf

    [christopher eli fahey]
    art: http://www.graphpaper.com
    sci: http://www.askrom.com
    biz: http://www.behaviordesign.com

    + ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup
    -> post: list@rhizome.org
    -> questions: info@rhizome.org
    -> subscribe/unsubscribe: http://rhizome.org/preferences/subscribe.=
    rhiz
    -> give: http://rhizome.org/support
    +
    Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
    Membership Agreement available online at http://rhizome.org/info/29=
    .php

    + ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup
    -> post: list@rhizome.org
    -> questions: info@rhizome.org
    -> subscribe/unsubscribe: http://rhizome.org/preferences/subscribe.rh=
    iz
    -> give: http://rhizome.org/support
    +
    Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
    Membership Agreement available online at http://rhizome.org/info/29.p=
    hp

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------=
    ----------------------------------------
    Geert Dekkers | 2e Keucheniusstraat 8hs | 1051VR Amsterdam | http://nzn=
    l.com
  • curt cloninger | Sun Jun 29th 2003 9:05 p.m.
    Christopher Fahey wrote:

    >I do like the fact that the Amoda page [
    >http://www.amoda.org/about/digitalart.php ]
    >specifically includes a breakdown of how there *can* be several ways of
    >talking about and/or making "digital art".

    I agree that their multiple analysis approach is novel, but such
    inclusiveness may cause more problems than it solves. When a
    definition encourages a piece of music to be considered digital art
    when it's stored on a CD, but not considered digital art when it's
    stored on a cassette, then that definition is focusing on
    distinctions that are not useful at best, and diverting at worst.

    They're coming at it from a "digital culture" angle. I get more out
    of folks coming at it from a media analysis angle. The latter
    approach (although more exclusive) seems more likely to lead to the
    production of thoughtful, media-aware art. The former approach
    (although more inclusive) seems more likely to lead to George Lucas
    winning the Golden Nica for digital excellence.

    My problem is more with the term "digital art" in the first place.
    It seems too broad and hodge-podge to be of much critical use. As
    such, amoda's broad definition probably suits the term perfectly.

    Personally, thinking of myself as a "digital artist" doesn't really
    inform my artistic approach or practice in any interesting ways.
    Whereas thinking of myself as an internet artist or a new media
    artist or a computer-based artist or a multimedia artist or a
    non-linear author or an abstract graphic designer or a creator of
    unfinished multi-user compositions or a meme propagation technician
    or a d.i.y. curator -- these paradigms are much more fruitful for me
    to consider.

    peace,
    curt

    _
    _
  • Christopher Fahey | Sun Jun 29th 2003 10:33 p.m.
    curt wrote:
    > When a
    > definition encourages a piece of music to be considered digital art
    > when it's stored on a CD, but not considered digital art when it's
    > stored on a cassette, then that definition is focusing on
    > distinctions that are not useful at best, and diverting at worst.

    !?! ... Do you really think that the Amoda definition encourages us to
    reach such a rigorously retarded conclusion? Or are you an artificial
    intelligence? Did you read the whole page?

    > They're coming at it from a "digital culture" angle.

    I agree. It is "digital art" if it speaks to or about "digital culture".
    Now, how do we define "digital culture"? Well, I think I kinda know what
    that is. It has something to do with an interest in (or even an embrace
    of) a digital future, an understanding that digital technology is
    changing mainstream culture. A digital artwork is one that is created by
    and/or for people who think a lot about how digital technology affects
    the mechanics of culture. Amoda's definition allows them to take a
    curatorial approach that speaks to this "digital culture" without having
    to make ludicrously specific rules about the format or content of the
    artwork.

    > I get more out
    > of folks coming at it from a media analysis angle. The latter
    > approach (although more exclusive) seems more likely to lead to the
    > production of thoughtful, media-aware art. The former approach
    > (although more inclusive) seems more likely to lead to George Lucas
    > winning the Golden Nica for digital excellence.

    Again, do you really think George Lucas has any knowledge whatsoever
    about "digital culture". Do you think that any "digital culture" gives a
    flying duck about George Lucas? (actually, don't answer that second one
    :( ...)

    Do you think that defining a digital art culture so as to allow people
    who paint about computer programs or use computer programs to make
    paintings is really a slippery slope towards making Steven Spielberg the
    new curator of the Digital Arts department of the Walker Art Center? I
    don't.

    -Cf

    [christopher eli fahey]
    art: http://www.graphpaper.com
    sci: http://www.askrom.com
    biz: http://www.behaviordesign.com
  • curt cloninger | Mon Jun 30th 2003 3:07 p.m.
    curt:
    > > When a
    > > definition encourages a piece of music to be considered digital art
    > > when it's stored on a CD, but not considered digital art when it's
    > > stored on a cassette, then that definition is focusing on
    > > distinctions that are not useful at best, and diverting at worst.

    chris:
    > Do you really think that the Amoda definition encourages us to
    > reach such a rigorously retarded conclusion?

    curt:
    "Art whose final form is digital in nature is digital art." It's
    their very first argument. Bethoven's 5th is art. Bethoven'ts 5th
    on a CD is "art whose final form is digital in nature." But
    understanding Bethoven's 5th on a CD as "digital art" doesn't get me
    anywhere. Amoda might argue, "you know that's not what we meant."
    But if you're going to bite off the slippery job of defining an art
    genre, you've got to come up with something better than, "you know
    that's not what we meant."

    curt:
    > > They're coming at it from a "digital culture" angle.

    chris:
    > I agree. It is "digital art" if it speaks to or about "digital
    > culture".
    > Now, how do we define "digital culture"? Well, I think I kinda know
    > what
    > that is. It has something to do with an interest in (or even an
    > embrace
    > of) a digital future, an understanding that digital technology is
    > changing mainstream culture. A digital artwork is one that is created
    > by
    > and/or for people who think a lot about how digital technology affects
    > the mechanics of culture.

    curt:
    "digital" simply describes something that's been broken down into
    discrete chunks. It's not really intrinsically related to robots, or
    the future, or networks, or identity, or modernity, or even
    computers. There are analog computers and analog networks.
    "Digital" seems an unfortunate term to saddle with all those heady
    connotations, particularly since "digital" already literally means
    something very specific. Digitalization is definitely an aspect of
    several different forms of media, but it hardly seems the defining
    aspect of any.

    _
    _
  • Christopher Fahey | Mon Jul 7th 2003 12:07 a.m.
    > curt:
    > > > When a definition encourages a piece of music to be considered
    > > > digital art when it's stored on a CD, but not considered digital
    > > > art when it's stored on a cassette, then that definition is
    > > > focusing on distinctions that are not useful at best, and
    > > > diverting at worst.
    >
    > chris:
    > > Do you really think that the Amoda definition encourages us to
    > > reach such a rigorously retarded conclusion?
    >
    > curt:
    > "Art whose final form is digital in nature is digital art." It's
    > their very first argument.

    In addition to partially quoting the Amoda page to prove something that
    doesn't exist (that Amoda would consider any ol' music CD "digital
    art"), you have also conveniently cut off my second sentence (which was
    "Did you read the whole page?"). This is terribly ironic insofar as your
    deletion is symptomatic of exactly what I'm talking about:
    Short-and-sweet art definitions suck... and
    definitions-deliberately-abridged-to-make-it-seem-like-they-say-somethin
    g-different-than-what-they-really-say suck even more.

    > Amoda might argue, "you know that's not what we meant."
    > But if you're going to bite off the slippery job of defining an art
    > genre, you've got to come up with something better than, "you
    > know that's not what we meant."

    Since when did art definitions become so strict? Can you name any art
    genre definition that is sufficiently precise?

    -Cf

    [christopher eli fahey]
    art: http://www.graphpaper.com
    sci: http://www.askrom.com
    biz: http://www.behaviordesign.com
Your Reply