Part One – Exercise 1.4 Digital Art

What do you understand by the phrase ‘digital art’? List the possible meanings and indicate the one that you consider most viable.

I have some subjective feelings and thoughts about this term as I am old enough to have personal experience with a less digital and internet  extended world. In general I could understand ‘digital’ quite technically as binary code versus the analog continuous world. But, first I will look up some definitions. I was surprised that under ‘digital art’ I couldn’t find index entries either in the visual reader books nor in some other reference material.

Definitions linked to technology usage: [all accessed 09 Feb 2017]

  • Tate understands  “Digital art is a term used to describe art that is made or presented using digital technology” (Tate)
  • Britannica knows only ‘Computer Art’ as “manipulation  of computer generated images as part of a purposeful creative process” (Britannica)
  • Christiane Paul, curator of new media art at the Whitney Museum of America: “Digital art is a general term for a range of artistic works and practices that use digital technology as an essential part of the creative and/or presentation process.” (Reach, 2016)

=> From that I do understand that digital, or computer – what seems to have a similar meaning -, has to do with a creative act by using  digital technology e.g. a computer or software as the key tool for creation.

Definitions linked to medium, medium and net activities:

Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian anthrologist, characterized all media as “extensions of man” and he is well known for his expression “the medium is the message“. Whereby the message is the content of every new medium  as being ‘about’ an older medium eg. content of writing is speech,  content of the telegraph is print  (Foster, 2011, 702) .

Photography can be seen as the example par excellence to exemplify analogical (print) and digital images (screen). In the visual format of collage one can see the contrasting features of both technologies. One the one hand the analog juxtaposition of referential photographic prints with a monocular perspective. Contrasting to this the digital manipulation of images and a re-creation of new synthesized digital composites as a new original (Foster, 2011, 707).

Michael Connor in the Rhizome Magazine (  goes further. The Rhizome Magazin is defining their territory and main concerns with topics ‘around art engaged with digital culture’ or more vague ‘artistic practices that engage technology’. In the article ‘Collecting Contemporary Art Means Collecting Digital Art‘  the question is raised once more “What is ‘digital art'”?. Jean McCoy speaks about the controversy of ‘digital art’ versus the obvious contrary ‘analog art’ . McCoy wouldn’t consider ‘digital’ as a medium as no artist is considering her-/himself as an ‘analog’ artist. The same would go for ‘digital code’ as a medium, both been considered rather as ‘interpretative descriptors’.  The discourse goes along the line of digital as an artistic ‘new’ medium (see McLuhan above).  In this context the contemporary new medium would be ‘net art’. The question is raised whether ‘net art’ can be considered as an artistic medium or rather a space for art circulation (Connor, 2013).

KunstBulletin Switzerland ( who publishes monthly key  ‘digital art’ and a curator choice projects  articulates the view on digital art as the Rhizome Magazine in the context of digital and ‘net’ age: “Unsere Zeit ist geprägt von digitaler Technologie und Telekommunikation. …  Das Schlagwort der letzten Jahre ist «Post-Internet». … das Netz ist alltäglich geworden. ..Kunst, die mit dem Netz zu tun hat, nicht im Netz stattfinden muss, sondern aus dem Alltag mit dem Netz resultiert. So manifestiert sich heute «net-related art» bspw. als skulpturales Objekt.

(Translation – by me:  Our time is characterized by digital technology and telecommunications.  … The buzz word ist «Post-Internet»…. the net has become a daily routine. .. art dealing with the net does not have to occur inside the net, but results from everyday life with the net. Today «net-related art» is manifested as a sculptural object.)

=> Here the internet is being considered as a platform for artistic activity.

The browser base activities can also be extended to virtual art and the experience of virtual exhibitions (see Rijksmuseum). However, virtual doesn’t necessarily need to be associated with digital only. Also the illusionary worlds depicted by old masters’ paintings and the surrealistic landscape could be seen as a virtual world.

Examples for ‘digital art’: [all accessed 09-12 Feb 2017]

Personal conclusion:

For me the term ‘digital art’ would automatically include a ‘non-digital’ aspect i.e. ‘analog art’. Seems somehow strange, nostalgic and old-fashioned. Would this mean that all art not using digital technology is ‘analog’? The example of photography makes the disruption associated with technology quite clear. But I think this restricts art to available technologies. And technologies should be rather considered as a tool for creative artistic expression. To uses a tool, a computer, the internet as the final goal I think the artist would miss the point. I find the discourse of the Rhizome Magazine  quite insightful and open-ended.  I do not agree completely with McLuhan when he speaks about “the medium is the message” as for me, once again, the medium is the tool and perhaps the social context in which artists are making art. Especially nowadays a critical engagement with aspects of ‘new mediums’ are important.


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