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Technological Interaction with Art

To define the concept of art has always been a rather complicated issue because all people have their subjective sense of beauty and understanding of an aesthetic value. An artwork may be viewed as any piece of art created by a talented person that reflects his/her unique world outlook and is aimed at delivering a specific message to the general public. Traditionally, the artwork may be regarded as if it has some aesthetic value and is deemed as original, creative, and meaningful even if the latter may be defined only in some bizarre form as it often happens with post-modern art. Nowadays, the arts are undergoing a revolution in terms of artists’ attempts to meet new society needs, to adapt to constant rapid progress and effects of globalization in all domains of human life, and to create something new and original in the times when it sometimes seems that nothing can any longer surprise and astonish the public that can enjoy the artworks amassed throughout the centuries. Nonetheless, the art is a constantly evolving and innovating phenomenon that manages to make up new directions and new often interdisciplinary approaches. For instance, the 21st century art is remarkable through addressing many issues “inspiring new thinking and scholarly debate” like the bio art, relational aesthetic, allusions to feminism, use of semiotics, and interaction with technology. This paper is going to address the topical issue of the technological interaction with art that has become especially popular and much discussed in the contemporary digital society.

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Art has always been tightly interconnected with technology, though, for a long time, this connection could hardly be called direct. Technology concerned the production of paints, new substances and materials used in creating artworks, new methods of carving out and manipulating plastic masterpieces, etc. Thus, it may be said that technology has always been an integral part of a creative process. However, technological interaction with art started only in the middle of the 20th century when advanced software and hardware allowed to intermingle these two spheres in order to broaden the artist’s capabilities of implementing the fruit of his/her imagination in life. At the time when this interaction began and was actively researched, there appeared an idea that “It is misleading to divide human actions into ‘art’, ‘science’, or ‘technology’, for the artist has something of the scientist in him, and the engineer of both, and the very meaning of these terms varies with time”. Computer graphics may be regarded as the first real interaction of technology and art. It was presented to the general public as art in 1965 by Georg Nees, which comprised artworks produced by computer software developed by the artist himself. This event marked the beginning of the era of intensive technological interaction with art, which was subsequently prominent at “the 1968 Cybernetic Serendipity event and Reichardt’s 1971 book” that “all demonstrated the coming together of technologists and artists in collaborations of one form or another”. Taking into account a relative novelty of the technological progress that makes technological-artistic cooperation really interactive, this form of art may be called relatively young and just developing. The timeframe of the 1960s is often defined as marked by the most robust interaction between technology and art as both sides had just revealed the possibility of uniting their efforts in the creative process and were actively experimenting with their discovery. Initially, the public was astonished and “sometimes puzzled” as the technological interaction with art, and innovative results of this cooperation deviated from the classical perception of an artwork and ruined their stereotypes. At all times, innovations in the domain of art have been quite skeptically accepted right after their emergence. For example, many post-modernist and avant-garde artworks have been questioned by critics and ordinary people in terms of their aesthetic value and conveyed a message as they seem bizarre and incomprehensible, yet in a while they may have been recognized as true masterpieces with a deep underlying meaning.

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An increase in the technological interaction with art has started since the 1980s and continues up to the present. Besides from the appearance of new art forms, there is also a wide-spread idea that social media are influential in terms of shaping the cooperation of these two spheres. Hence, social media technologies affect the arts through performing the following functions: “matching artwork to the public”, “creation in communities of interest”, and “listening to the public and building arts awareness”. Technological interaction with art is analyzed from the perspective of the relations between the artist, artwork, viewer, and environment. In this respect, there are distinguished several main interactive technological-artistic forms that include static, dynamic-passive, dynamic-interactive, and dynamic-interactive (varying).

The above mentioned art forms differ in terms of viewer’s involvement and their dependence on the environment and artist’s wish to modify them. Static art resembles traditional creative piece as its target audience are human beings and it does not change under any circumstances. Dynamic-passive art object may change in accordance to its internally programmed response to environmental alterations like temperature rises or lightning modifications. However, these changes are always predictable and have been envisioned by the artist. This art is called partially passive because the viewer does not participate in the interaction remaining an outside observer. Dynamic-interactive art differs from the previous form as it makes viewers active participants of the interaction due to their capacity to affect changes happening in the art object. This way, “the work ‘performs’ differently according to what the person does or says”. The most interactive technological-artistic form is the dynamic-interactive (varying) one as, in addition to all the above mentioned characteristics of other art forms, this one is unpredictable even for the artist. The main challenge of creating this art form is to design and implement the software that will allow this unpredictability of the performance while conveying the initial artist’s creative idea. An outstanding example of the dynamic-interactive art form is the Digital Garden by Esther Rolinson, which is based on the idea of manipulating lighting in response to the changes in the environment and viewers’ behavior. Despite the artist’s dependence on the software programmer’s assistance, she does not want to call him her co-author as she worries about the amount of control she possesses over her masterpiece if she is not the original creator of the entire piece. These concerns are common among artists who decide to collaborate with technologists because of their lack of necessary technological skills and knowledge. An opposite of this approach is Jack Ox who “has moved from the formula of having a technological assistant to one of having a technological equal partner and co-author of her art”. In some artists’ opinion, such collaboration is beneficial both to technologists who are encouraged to be innovative and constantly developing new software and hardware and to artists who receive inspiration and required creative stimuli. The most interactive art form is present in all the works by Ernest Edmonds who is not only a practicing artist, but also a theorist researching this issue from various perspectives.

Like any significant art innovation, technological interaction is bound to cause changes within the involved spheres and in the society at large. Technological interactive techniques change not only the process of creating and exhibiting a piece of art, but affect the underlying artistic ideology and philosophy, as well. In order to be able to embrace the progress and to exploit the interaction to the maximum, artists have to reconsider their perception of art and beauty and to be ready to get rid of their stereotypes and limitations to their imagination. The artists’ thinking is influenced as well as this interaction leaves no place for boundaries and doubt. Besides, control and authorship issues arise as well because technological interaction with art calls for collaboration between artists and technological experts who have to find mutual understanding and reach harmony and synchrony in order to achieve the desired result. Furthermore, this interaction affects the general public as they have to learn to understand and appreciate new art forms that drastically differ from what they have perceived earlier and may be grounded on synaesthesia. Apart from that, technological interaction with art influences the process of shaping human values, as well as the latter, are essential in the emergence of the arts. The interaction has become possible due the human curiosity and an urgent strive to find out new sources of aesthetic pleasure. People learn from new arts that cooperation of seemingly incompatible professions may be extremely beneficial if these people manage to develop mutual respect and understanding. Thus, the necessity to appreciate each other’s differences and tolerance to other people’s opinions are among the values advocated by the technological interaction with art. It also teaches people to think in a creative and progressive way leaving the shackles of stereotyping and conventionality behind. Openness to the new and exciting is valued and encouraged by this art form.

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Arts have always been an integral instrument in shaping human values and causing changes in the society. It is representative of the processes that the humanity on the whole and each separate nation are undergoing at the time of emergence of a new art form. Nowadays, the popularity of an idea about technological-artistic interaction is a clear indicator that the society has become a digital one and has started to integrate technology into all aspects of life. The art is sensitive to the societal changes and serves as a signal of the ongoing revolution of the human perception of the outer reality and inner individuality. Originality and creativity have always been valued, but now they should occur in domains that are related to the technological progress if an artist wants to appeal to everyone. Technological interactive art is the future of the arts, which may become exceptionally beneficial for both spheres. It seems to promote advances in the realm of technologies as well as to encourage and develop creativity and originality. This interaction calls for extensive technological and human resources as well as requires time and patience, yet its results are astonishing in terms of their aesthetic value, their capacity to reflect societal changes, and their potential to introduce these changes in the modern digital world.

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