Acceptance of Digital Art
Several months ago, I joined a local art organization. They are a municipal non-profit organization that has a gallery space where the artwork of member and guest artists can be displayed. They have a rules, policies, and guidelines as to what type of work can be displayed for shows as well as competitions. This applies to format & presentation as well as content/subject.
While the organization is open-minded in terms of content/subject (as long as it’s not blatantly offensive), their regulations regarding format were in need of updating (in my opinion). Specifically the acceptance of digitally created (or partially digitally created) art. In short, they didn’t accept digitally created art submissions for shows or competitions, across the board.
I’m not here to slam them in any way. Up until I came along, it seemed that the only art that came through the organization had been “traditional” media. You know, oil, acrylic, etc. In addition, many of the members are shall we say, more on the “senior” side of the age fence So, I think it was really about not knowing any better and just not “getting” this relatively new medium. I found that many of them had very stereotyped, pre-concieved notions as to what digital art is. The biggest problem seemed to be understanding the medium. I figured if I could try to show them what digital art was they would have no choice but to accept it as art… with the same merit as any other medium. After all, digital is just another tool. Right? Well I think so anyway.
The preconceived notions that many seem to have (not just the members of this group), is that digitally created art isn’t “real art,” because “the computer created end result.” They think:
- the computer disconnects the artist from the final result
- the computer is doing the work of the artist.
- because it isn’t created on a traditional physical surface like canvas or paper, it isn’t art.
Well, I can’t disagree more. I was able to set up an opportunity to make a case for the acceptance of digital at one of our meetings. I prepared my case, and nervously presented it to the members. Here’s a condensed overview of some of the points I made. I am sharing this in the hopes that it may help others like me, if they find themselves in a similar situation.
- Art is not medium dependent. We have been making art since tens of thousands of years ago on cave walls, and we’re making art today with anything and everything possible, including digitally created and/or altered art. I have seen artists create using their own blood (and other bodily fluids), coffee, Rubik’s Cubes, found objects in nature such as pine needles & twigs, animal carcasses… the list goes on.
- To me, the question should not be about format whatsoever. It should be “what is art?” Well, that’s a tough one to answer with absolute certainty. But I don’t think that something that has been created by an artist should be excluded from being art based solely on the tool is was created with, or medium it was rendered in. That starts to sound a lot like the Nazi policies towards “accepted art.”
- Perhaps one of the best examples I can think of, where the artist challenged the viewers ideas of what art is, could, and should be, is Fountain by Marcel Duchamp. “It is one of the pieces which he called readymades (also known as found art), because he made use of an already existing object—in this case a urinal.” -wikipedia To me, he really made the philisophical case that art is about intent. In other words, if I as an artist create something with the intent of it being viewed as art, then it deserves to be considered as such. That doesn’t mean you have to like it. If a urinal is placed on a pedestal in an art gallery, we are being forced to look at it differently… and that was one of the biggest conceptual art statements I can think of.
- The truth is, that artists have been challenging the boundaries of what art is for a long time. That’s one of the reasons why the art world doesn’t stay the same forever… it is always changing and evolving. Thank goodness for that. From Duchamp, to Pablo Picasso, to Jackson Pollock — all of these artists (and many more) have challenged the audiences of their time. All of them, have been hated to some degree at some point in their careers, and been called fakes, and had their art labeled as “not real art.”
- Take as another example, the concept of Photography as art. In the early days of Photography, the idea that Photography could be art was not accepted by the masses, or major galleries. It took the efforts of many leading Photographers to convince the establishment that Photography could be raised to the level of true art. Today, I don’t think you would find a lot of resistance to this idea, but that’s the whole point. When something is new, it is often not accepted for whatever reason. It could be due to not fully understanding the new thing, or being threatened by it, or just plain old stubborn thinking and fear of anything different. But as time goes on, people eventually start to see thngs for what they are.
- Another example that perhaps resonates especially strong in terms of digitally created art, is from the world of music. I’m talking about music that is partially, or fully created digitally. This can range from synth-based instruments (keyboards, electronic drums, etc.), all the way to fully digitally created music (sequencers, drum machines, software programs). For example, think of the early days of electronic music (like Tangerine Dream), and a lot of the music from the 80′s. Then look at electronic music today (trance, house, industrial, etc.). I remember many people saying/thinking that music created electronically was not “real music” when compared to what was then conventionally created music, using analog instruments and recording methods. Today, while you still might find some people arguing this case, I think you will find that most people have come around to accepting that electronic music can be just as creative and artistic as non-electronic music. If Mozart was alive today, he would very likely be using modern digital instruments and equipment.
The concept seemed so simple and basic to me. I was amazed that I even had to make a case. But such is the world of organizational politics
What do you think? Is digitally created/modified art, still art? Does a high quality print of a digital painting deserve to be hanging on the same walls that the works of the “masters” hang on? I don’t see any reason why not. To say they don’t, is an insult to all the artists before us who paved the way for change, and pushed the boundaries of what “art” is, and the acceptance of that in the eyes of the public. That’s my opinion anyhow.
PS: I was successful in convincing the organization to accept digital art
- Doug Seidl
Here’s a couple of items to showcase some digital art possibilities today: