Archive for April, 2019


Art Book: Animal Rites – front cover


Michael Matthews: Animal Rites – front cover, collage and acrylic on paper (A4).


Photograph – Washington

USA Tour - Washington (8)


Digital Art and dumb things: The new f/norm of artistic expression.

Digital art comes in many different forms – from video, the most ‘accessible’ recent-tradition, to the inaccessible interactive (CD-ROM) and post-reactive works (virus and artificial intelligence works). The tradition-video digital art form has opened unexplored paths of expression that were not available to pre-twentieth and mid-twentieth century artists.

For the last seven centuries artists were limited to the invention of a form of expression that had been invented by the [pre-Nazi’s(?)] and beyond. These forms of expression were tied to oil painting, sculpture and printmaking and the genres they created for future generations. These manifestations of idea were seen as the most durable form of expression and the high end of art as John Berger in his mono Marxist book and television series “The Ways of Seeing” clearly celebrated.

Digital art is a “new/old” media. Digital art is a post mid-twentieth century media that has lead to a revolution in the visual arts. Not only has it freed the artist from the constraints of historical predetermined forms of expression and the constrictions of art history, but also, it is a contemporary way of viewing a transitory world. Digital art is an art form that is questioning the dubious historic artistic approaches of contemporary thought by questioning the path it has/is following – a form of expression that is mass orientated and that relies more on technology than ever before.

High tech works of the eightieth and ninetieth century relied on the craftsmanship and skills of a plethy of craftsman and years of training. The digital artworks of the present have reintroduced the artist to the direct creation of the artwork from the prior source to the regurgitated idea. The artist is now in charge of the processes that the ‘technician’ had occupied for so long. And yet, the digital artwork in its final form is more costly and maintenance reliable than the traditional art forms. The traditional art forms of expression and their maintenance have been catered for; we know how to and are now prepared to maintain them. The new media works are in a realm of ‘no-where land’. This doesn’t mean that all digital artworks are or are not maintenance burdens, but rather that because these art forms are more open to the masses a new euphorically attitude is given them. A frightening thought if you hold on to tradition.

What this means is that although the new media art works are difficult to maintain for the artist the creation of the digital artwork is not so costly – the cost is shifted to the viewer. Like music (pop specifically) and its production for the mass culture the cost of the auditory/viewing apparatus is high, the artwork is the assimilation of the concept and the cost of the expression. In new

media works this cost, of the hardware for the artwork, can be astronomical; and at the same time the artwork is always contained in the form of the means of its expression. Unlike music the new media artists usually demand their own viewing apparatus, each designed specifically for each work. This may be a rollOver mindset but the effect is that the cost is elevated and the expectation on the collector unrealistic.

In the past artworks were sold according to square meterage (foot) in the future artworks may be sold in conceptual values (pixels) over a set durational period.

Virtual Art as a Way Backward (Part 2)
Many digital theorists believe the painted image and its days of solitary rule in the realm of isolated images are numbered. Digital Art promises to offer a way of exploding the meaning of the image in a new way. This is the result of the possibilities that digital art offers in it establishment of a fairly new way of viewing images through a ‘hyper-image’ process.

The term ‘hyper-image’ is a term that I have derived from the word ‘hypertext’. Theodor H. Nelson coined the word ‘hypertext’ in 1965 as a word that is a conjunction of ‘text’ and the Old Greek ‘uper’ (hyper) meaning ‘over, above, beyond, besides’. By ‘hypertext,’” Nelson means a “non-sequential writing…text that branches and allows choices to the reader, best read at an interactive screen.”. Nelson was also the generator of another term which fits into the idea of “hyper-imaging”, that of ‘hyper-media’, a term “which implies linking and navigation through material stored in many media: text, graphics, sound, music, video, etc”. – a system of conceptualising that contains both symbolic and iconic signs and also streaming media.

The hyper-image is often the digital artists central device, similar to those utilised by installation and performance art that allows the artist to involve the viewer in the creative act. Hyper-imaging is a non-sequential visual conceptualising with free user movement along links – the electronification of visual connections.   It offers the artist opportunity to transcend the restrictions of the traditional visual forms. A hyper-image, like a collage, is the result of images cut-out of contexts and reconstructed into convenient sizes and juxtaposed to generate layered meanings. The difference to conventional collages is that hyper-imaging does not simply dissolve into a disordered bundle of images; the author defines its structure by establishing electronic connections among the images. Hyper-imaging is a convergence of contemporary critical theory and technology.

Many computer artists, however, approach hyper-imaging as an information-delivering medium, placing the emphasis on its capacity to store and retrieve large amounts of information.  They have tended to see hyper-imaging like a database type device, rather than a matrix. Fortunately, the emphasis by these artists is not so much on the storage capacities itself, but on the associative linking between the different units of information.

Virtual thinking solutions, and its translation into visual art, should be the desire by the artist for the natural sign to gain extended meanings. Hyper-image thinking is often the desire to complicate the relationship between signs and what they stand for.  It makes demands on the viewer, but not so much on the artist. Those artists who use hyper-imaging as a purposeful tool assume that it is a new communication model that permits the artist to transmit larger amounts of knowledge with less effort. Unfortunately, at times the co-operation between the artist and the viewer may not always be that of two collaborating artists, but more of that between a game designer and a player.

Viewers are able to fabricate their own structures, sequences, and meanings. It can be seen as a non-linear structure as it is a non-sequential palimpsest approach to visual information. At its worst hyper-imaging is a fragmented structure of which the different blocks are linked by connections that merely carry the viewer from one node to another. Non-linear structures should be structured on a different level, by more complicated devices, like variables and procedures, which allow the parts of the narrative to exchange knowledge and information.

A multimedia artwork (e.g. CD-ROM) can also be seen as incorporating Moulthrop’s idea of a Multiple User Dimension (MUD). Moulthrop describes a MUD as a “creation (that) grow(s) out of the old Adventure game: they are virtual spaces constructed within computer memory, having the same metaphoric spatiality as hyper-images. MUD users move through the space by issuing commands. They may also manipulate objects and (most importantly) conduct transactions with other users”.

This introduces a certain amount of randomness to the art experience. Phelps describes the use of random elements in digital media as “frequently used to introduce a range of secondary characters or challenges within particular sections … Which of these characters or challenges, as well as when and where they will be introduced, is left to the computer to randomly select”. He goes on to define two types of randomness: cascading and shuffle. The tree like branching approach verses the multi-linear approach.

Either way, the viewer is the controller and operator of the content. This makes the viewer a quasi artist and at the same time allows for the content to be altered as the viewers experience develops and as extraneous knowledge is gathered. The artwork is under continuous structures of change. The artworks meaning is relational to the viewers understanding of current symbols and signs that are manipulated in content of an ever changing present. It’s a way backwards to viewing perceptual input in a world of visual overload; where a two-dimensional understanding of content and context is force outwards.