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The roles of computer in doing and studying the art

Bernardo Nicoletti, redan bekant till våra läsare med artikeln A Hidden Part of the Culture: the Business Culture, tar en utgångspunkt från boken Futures past, för att visa de möjliga relationerna som finns mellan konst, teknologi och data.

J. Faure Walker For the Bees Night 2004The increasing use of computers at the beginning of the twenty-first century will continue to provide more and more opportunities. Computers will become more and more pervasive in our society. This is certainly true also in the field of artistic creativity and the study of art. This is the main message of the book “Futures Past”. The book contains most of the papers presented at the twentieth annual convention of Chart's (Computers and the History of Art), held at the University Birkbeck College in London, UK, on 11 and 12 November 2004. The title of the conference and the book give the project a sense of retrospective, but the essays presented are aimed at both the futures and the past. They analyze critically the role of the computer in making art and in its study. They offer also fixed points that link these practices into the futures. The book was published in 2008, and now we are in 2013. Five years is more of a "generation" in communication technology and information. Nevertheless, the papers in this small book are very interesting and they push towards innovative thinking.

The art has often been connected with technology. The latter has allowed some incredible jumps. For example, during the Renaissance in Florence, Italy, the artists invented new technologies for painting. This allowed artists such as Giotto, Raphael, Michelangelo, and others producing new wonderful masterpieces. Another example is the introduction of cinematography that allowed the creation of new types of artistic masterpieces. No wonder that one can expect that the computer and the network are able to produce innovative forms of art. Some artists have already faced the new possibilities made available by the computers and new network capabilities. It is therefore interesting to examine what actually happened in the past (“Past” in the title of the book) and where it is going in the futures (Futures since there will be many futures and not just one).

The book examines various ways in which the relationship between the arts and computer are developing. The book is divided into four sections, each reflecting a different perspective on the impact of computers:

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- The first section is entitled "Experimental Interaction." It analyzes the role of the computer in artistic creations;

- The second section has the title "Educating with the Computer" and explores the role of the computer in artistic training;

- The third section is titled "Projects and Archives: History and Resurrection." It presents a vision of the computer from the artistic point of view of the archivists;

- The final section has the title: "Information online: looking back and to the future". It explores the creation of an online presence for a collection and the need to develop a logical interface to to replace the formal and spatial organization of a collection in an archive or a museum.

Some examples of the topics covered are given by:

- Hershberger examines the connection between the photographic medium and the computer. He illustrates how new technologies can impact on artistic methodologies.

- Many other papers analyze "digital painting" and its history since 1960. "There is some debate as the new methods could be used more effectively even by critics to focus on the artistic quality of the works on how they were produced.

- Pierre Auboiron analyzes the relationships between computing and architecture. Proper use of digital technologies can help improve both the environment and urban social spaces, contradicting misconceptions, but widespread, which associate the computer with a cold and sterile worldview.

J. Faure Walker F-G Restless Inventor of Cinema 2000

- Jutta Vinzent analyzes the use of computers as a training tool: in this area the possibilities are almost inexhaustible. New technologies can be used not just to help students to learn, but to introduce new ways of learning more learner-centered. Moreover, thanks to the computer, you can imagine how more autonomous learning.

An interesting aspect of the computing related to art is the ability to enhance research in archives also very large (people speaks now of the Big Data). The computer can help to improve the search also in the domain of the art but also in the field of the literature on the topics of the culture. A more interesting aspect is constituted by semantic networks, as discussed by Luciana Bordoni. We need progress in the development of search algorithms that allow users to search for meaning of the words, rather than look for documents with a precise correspondence with the words used for the search. Even more interesting would be the search for similar features (figures, symbols, details, etc.) in different pieces of art (in painting, in the sculpture, the architecture, or in other forms of the arts).

There are many challenges in using these new information and communication technologies in the arts.

Some works in the book highlight the importance of accepted standards to ensure continuous access to shared resources.

Another important aspect is the need to develop conservation strategies, migration of the objects created or connected to the computer and how they are distributed (and indeed sold without danger not to be unique). The standards are changing over time. On the other hand an object of art is created with a specific technology.

Perhaps the most exciting aspects of this work is suggested by the following two:

And 'interesting to explore the ways in which communities with common interests can share resources and cultivate a richer use of a common vocabulary to convey an abundance of knowledge and experience. The book examines this aspect in a very limited manner. In the future, it will be interesting to analyze the possibility of cooperation (and therefore also on the interaction with other people who admire the same piece of art) allowed by the Web 2.0 (and in the future of Web 3.0, in terms of video or other forms of interaction).

The more intriguing issue addressed, in the book is connected to the question: can the data function as a medium for art? This subject was addressed in the past by another scholar, Lev Manovich in his essay: "The Database as Symbolic Form". Even without explicit references, some essays in this volume take up the theme such as placing the question: to what extent the reorganization digital art collections become, in themselves, an artifact expressive of our time? In other words, the conceptual structure in which index the data, can be understood as a work of art? The sequence in which the works are presented you can configure itself as a "narrative" users "read" when "surfing" in the collection. In short, this practice is itself art, or at least quasi-art.

Moving on from the positive aspects to close any gaps in this volume, it seems that the editors of the book have forgotten that the Arts are seven, like the Muses who accompanied Apollo. The book messes references to important aspects of the relationship between the arts and the computer, such as can be found in music or dance. The latter forms of art are influenced and modified by the computer.

All this said, it is a small book, but not to miss.


Bernardo Nicoletti




Anna Bentkowska-Kafel, Trish Cashen, Hazel Gardiner
Futures Past: thirty years of arts computing
Chicago University press

Läs också: Bernardo Nicolettis tidigare artikel i Tidningen Kulturen


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