ARTdart: Art and Technology: Here Today and Who Knows What Tomorrow by Pamela Beck

When I speak to artists who incorporate technology into their work, I hear them trying to make sense of their art in this context. While they’re stimulated by the variety of new possibilities to explore artistically, many are concerned that their work will be outdated in a relatively short period of time.

ARTdart: There are as many ways to think about art as there are to create it. Join Pamela Beck in her new column, ARTdart, as she explores and considers the different perspectives that define the art world.


by Pamela Beck

After my last article, “Painting Unplugged” I received a lot of feedback from artists about the challenges, positive and negative, of working with new technologies. The responses included: the desire to experiment with 21st century media specific to our time in history; interest in the blend of technology and traditional methods to create new work spanning generations, and finally, outright rejection of new technologies. However what many shared in common was how difficult it can be to keep up with the constant changes technology offers. (Maybe not for those under twenty years old, but their day will come.) Technology gets updated, upgraded, and upended so quickly that its’ appearance and demise often passes while we’re still struggling to learn how to use it in the first place.

When I speak to artists who incorporate technology into their work, I hear them trying to make sense of their art in this context. While they’re stimulated by the variety of new possibilities to explore artistically, many are concerned that their work will be outdated in a relatively short period of time. They also wonder how the art made with today’s technologies will be shown in the future when these technologies might not be around anymore.

This brings to mind other questions on this subject:
-Does it affect the integrity of the work if the technology used to show it in the future is different than the original?
-Is it considered the same work of art if different technologies in the future are used?
-Should the art be designed today with improvisation ideas in place for tomorrow?
-What constitutes the intended art experience once it has been forced to “upgrade” repeatedly? Or is this, at the end, the art experience?
-How might the expectations of future viewers be different than today’s?
-How important is the idea of permanence to the artist or a particular work of art, if at all?

I read a New York Times article by Allan Kozinn, “Electronic Woes: The Short Lives of Instruments,” addressing these issues in music. Kozinn could have been describing the art world as well. He is concerned with “technological change that renders an electronic composers’ tools archaic with alarming frequency.” Furthermore, Kozinn recommends the purchase of current and past items used for recordings, from metronomes to hardware schematics and software code, so the music can be replayed in its original form in the future. Finally, he wonders just how far back these purchases would need to go.

I thought this summed up the uncertainty and concern some artists feel about the work they are currently producing with new technologies. How these technologies will be replaced in the future is unknown. What’s available and used in the present will be impossible to access again as it gets buried under the mountain of bigger, better and best technologies.

Out of respect and for purposes of consideration and comparison, saving things for the future, if possible, is valuable. However, there’s already a lot of art being made that is unconcerned with preservation; in fact, impermanence is an integral part of its’ statement. And with technology choices changing at warp speed, the whole concept of what preservation means has to be reconsidered.

No answers here; just questions about what will come in the future and what we don’t quite understand yet about today. As the science fiction author Bruce Sterling says:

I used to think that cyberspace was fifty years away. What I thought was fifty years away was only ten years away. And what I thought was ten years away…it was already here. I just wasn’t aware of it yet.


For more information on Pamela, visit http://srxq.blogspot.com

4 thoughts on “ARTdart: Art and Technology: Here Today and Who Knows What Tomorrow by Pamela Beck”

  1. Re Pamela Beck’s pov:

    I’m not schooled in art, therefore I’m at the mercy of those who are–to illuminate why I like certain work, or to model discussing art for pleasure.

    Ms. Beck has a clarity and thoroughness in her observations; reading her thoughts is time well spent.
    It also helps that the writing is deft and a wee bit droll, and not burdened by too much insider chat.
    Enjoyable.

  2. This piece is spot on and so current. The idea of impermanence in artistic creations is more mainstream now. It used to be that conceptual, happenings, installations and performance art had the hold on that slippery concept. Of course, it is also ZEN as it forces the viewer or participant to pay close attention and be present in the moment in order to fully experience and/or actualize the work.

  3. In the vedanta philosophy, it is seen that everything in the physical realm is impermanant so there is an appreciation for art in in the now no matter what the medium is. However in terms of future generations enjoying and getting a glimpse of the art of today, using technology means that some sort of mechanism is required to view the art. Without that there is nothing unless that mechanism also survives. So one has to consider if perputuity is important when the art is created.

  4. I’ve seen technology used in many ways that allow the viewer to interact with the art in new and exciting ways. Light emitting diodes which are light and sound sensitive shift across the surface as viewers walk by the pieces. Time sequenced video clips portray different scenes to music and sound. Like ancient Tibetan sand mandalas that are washed away with the wind, these art forms are contemporary to the time or moment they are created. Enjoy them while you can!

Comments are closed.