Written by: Shvets Anna
A brief time trip throughout art history from stone, wood, bronze and natural pigments through the 15th century with oil on canvas invention to the 20th’s century acrylic paints, sprays, and markers.
A new revolution, now related to digital technologies, brought the widest range of instruments to contemporary creators. A new nature of art — computer born, hybridity, immersiveness, interactivity. The pandemic has accelerated the development of this phenomena, already actively developing over the past 70 years of modern art history.
So, what is it?
Being new and extremely diverse, it has a number of names: digital art/ media art / computer art / net art / New Media Art — just a few of them. Let’s see how it all began…
Nam June Paik, «documenta-performance». Source: Media Art Net
If you think that Digital Art started in the 21th century, but not… in 1914, one of the founders of this trend was born. Meet Ben Laposky, mathematician, and draftsman, used an oscilloscope to manipulate electronic waves that appeared on the small fluorescent screen.
01. Icon: Ben F. Laposky. Source
By 50ths many artists were experimenting with mechanical devices and analogue computers in a way that can be seen as a precursor to the work of the early digital pioneers who followed.
Herbert W. Franke, born in 1927, an Austrian physicist, scientist and “the most prominent German writing Science Fiction author” was one of them.
Herbert W. Franke. LIGHT SHAPES, 1953, Source: Artsy, photo edition Berlin[4–6]
In the early 1960s computers are still very basic and rare, and access to them was very very limited. Computing technology is extremely expensive. Only research laboratories, universities and large corporations could afford such equipment. So, the digital art pioneers were computer scientists, engineers and mathematicians. Let us present you several of them:
Georg Nees (1926–2016) studied mathematics, physics and philosophy. He was the first person to publicly show art that was generated by a computer — computer art, which is today generally called digital art, generative art and in his specific case we would refer to it as algorithmic art.
1–Schotter (Gravel), Georg Nees, 1968; 2 — Kugel in der Kugel, Georg Nees, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Visually probably you and, for sure your parents, acquainted with this images:
Source: 1 — Artsy; 2 — Computer Nude (Studies in Perception I) | Albright-Knox; 3 — Studies in Perception III — Gargoyle | Database of Digital Art
In 1966 Ken Knowlton (mosaicist, portraitist and a computer graphics pioneer) and Leon Harmon (researcher in mental processing) became internationally famous for their “computer-processed creatures” scanning photographs into a computer, recreating it with a different range of grey generated by mathematical and electronic symbols.
Manfred Mohr initially an action painter and a jazz saxophonist. He transposed the rhythm, energy and sense of improvisation gained from making music to creating algorithmic art.
— MANFRED MOHR, P-055. RANDOM CIRCUIT, 1970, COMPUTER-GENERATED DRAWING, SOURCE: ZKM | CENTER FOR ART AND MEDIA © MANFRED MOHR; PHOTO © ZKM | CENTER FOR ART AND MEDIA, PHOTO: FRANZ J. WAMHOF; 2 — Cubic Limit, Manfred Mohr, 1973–1974, Artsy
“Unpacking” digital art as a topic you have to know about E.A.T.
Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) was a collective founded by engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer, and artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitma in 1967 in New York to enhance collaborations between artists and engineers.
Other bright names of this epoque to be mentioned — Desmond Paul Henry and Ken Knowlton inventors of computer graphics, Robert W. Mallary creator of digital sculptures, Frieder Nake algorithmic art forms researcher and Lillian Schwartz — a 2D/3D animation and special effects queen.
Computer art confidently enters the history of art and main venues.
- One of the first DigitalArt exhibition — Cibernetic Serendipity 1968, Institute of Contemporary Art, London and then toured across the United States.
- Software Technology Its New Meaning for Art exhibition in the Jewish Museum, NY 1970.
Source: SOFTWARE-Information technology: its new meaning for art，16 th , September -8th, November 1970, New York: Jewish Museum. Image
3. Documenta VI 1977 — artists working with new technologies Douglas Davis, Nam June Paik, Charlotte Moorman are among invited participants. So this significant art event featured the first live international satellite telecast by them transmitted to over 25 countries.
Nam June Paik, «documenta-performance». Source: Media Art Net
From the 1980s digital technologies became part of everyday life. Computers now became employed both for business and personal use.
SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques) is an annual conference on computer graphics (CG) organized by the ACM SIGGRAPH, starting in 1974.
Don’t think that AI started entering the art world just recently. In 1973 an artist and researcher Harold Cohen created AARON, a complex computer software program to generate art autonomously. His works were shown even at the Tate Gallery in London.
1 — Harold Cohen, «Aaron», Source: Media Art Net; 2 — Harold Cohen’s Assisted Artistry. Source: The New York Times
Ta-dam! Pop art superstar Andy Warhol (1928–1987) created a series of digital artworks on a personal computer, the Amiga 1000 model, in the middle of the 80s. It was a collaborative project with Commodore Amiga and had been left on Amiga floppy disks for nearly 20 years before they got found and recovered by the Andy Warhol Museum. The digital images included doodles and revisitations of Warhol’s existing artworks, such as the acclaimed Campbell’s soup can, and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.
If I had a good computer I could catch up with my thoughts over the weekend if I ever got behind myself. A computer would be a very qualified boss.
— Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, 1975
1 — A self-portrait made will flood fills. Source: Wired; 2 — Venus, 1985 by Andy Warhol. Source: Time. Courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum
3D computer animation programs are entering the repertoire of sculptors and photographers. Look at this artwork by Kenneth Snelson“Forest Devils’ MoonNight” very representative of this epoque.
Forest Devils’ Moon Night | Snelson, Kenneth. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Mixes of digital and analogue were also in trend. For example James Faure Walker encompasses oil painting, watercolour and digital art. He has been integrating computer generated images into his paintings, it’s quite hard to discern which one is which.
James Faure Walker, ‘Proposition IV, Monopoly’ (1991), composite inkjet print, 76 x 102cm
The gaining momentum digital tsunami could not fail to find a return in the literature — add to your ‘To read’ list — William Gibson, Neuromancer, 1984 and Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, 1984
Digital art in the 1990’s is now officially a part of the art world. Museums of contemporary art open media art departments and research centers. Digital art Prizes and festivals are starting:
- NTT’s Intercommunication Center (ICC), Tokio
- Center for Culture and Media (ZKM), Germany
- Ars Electronica Prize, Linz, Austria
- ISEA (Inter-Society for Electronic Arts), Canada
- Festival Transmediale, Berlin
First online data-bases and archives are launched:
Center for Culture and Media (ZKM), Germany
The main techniques in digital art nowadays are:
- Virtual/augmented/mixed reality (VR, AR, XR, MR)
- Projection and mapping
- Interactive digital installations and 3d sculpture
- Computer graphics and digital painting
- AI generated art
Source: Artrendex Inc. / The Atlantic
- Code-based art or computational media
- Masks for social networks
- Glitch art
- Data visualization
- Multimedia performance
- Robotics art
- 3D animation
- Pixel Art
- Web art or net art
- Kinekt projections
- Multitouch art
We entered 21st century in a state of digital boom. Almost each of us have an arsenal starting from a smartphone ending with VR set. Bold experiments, virtual shows, Digital Art is started to be taught in Art schools, and a new generation of art collectors are interested in Digital Art as an asset.
In 2017 CryptoKitties came to the world — a blockchain game on Ethereum developed by Canadian studio Dapper Labs that allows players to purchase, collect, breed and sell virtual cats.
The same year in June CryptoPunks was released as one of the first non-fungible token on the Ethereum blockchain. The crypto art blockchain project was an inspiration for the ERC-721 standard for NFTs and the modern crypto art movement.
In March 2021 crypto-art-community grows 5 times in a month and the first NFT sold by Christie’s was just bought for $69.3M.
But experts are assuring — this hype will recede because of authenticity problems in NFT sales.
NFT winter is coming? Let’s see…
10 names, which could represent digital art nowadays.
As you see Digital art is blooming, who are the big names from all over the world to follow today to be inspired?
All information and images are provided for educational purposes only.