Q: What are the major themes in digital art and why?
According to our text Digital Art the major themes in digital art include: “artificial life and intelligence, telepresence and telerobotics, database aesthetics, mapping and data visualization, net activism and tactical media, gaming and narrative hypermedia environments, mobile and locative media, social networks, and virtual worlds”. Obviously the themes included in the previous list are not only related to but based largely on the digital medium in which the artist is working. For instance, the theme of virtual worlds wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have the technological ability to create virtual worlds. This is important to note because from what we’ve studied it seems that digital art often critiques, comments, or at least explores the digital medium(s) that it uses. So, while digital artists might use a specific technology to convey a message they might also be commenting on the technology itself simultaneously.
Some of the other themes like artificial life and intelligence are obvious in that as we progressively become a more mechanical society and we rely more and more on machines, people are curious about what this means for our future. So it only makes sense that artists would be interested in this technology and exploring what possibility it holds or how it’s already affecting our world and our communications. This is a theme that digital art did not create – science fiction writers have been exploring themes of A.I. for decades.
Additionally, our book goes on to explain that other themes, which we see in more traditional forms of art, are also interwoven into digital art alongside the more “medium-specific” themes. I personally think that artificial life and intelligence fall into this category, but the book also points out issues of body and identity as themes that often make their way into more traditional mediums, as well as digital are mediums.
In a sense, digital art presents a unique quandary that reminds of the saying “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” You can look at digital art as just more mediums that artists can use to express themselves and express their opinions, views, ideas, etc. about existing issues and topics in our society. However, on the other hand, you can look at digital art at as something that has created a whole new set of topics for discussion/exploration. It seems too that the digital artists we’ve studied use both approaches. Some seem to use the digital mediums to express their views, beliefs, etc. about existing issues, whereas others actually use the digital medium to explore new topics, like that of gaming or virtual worlds.
Whatever the artist’s approach, digital art certainly is a unique beast. It’s much more multi-faceted than other more traditional mediums like painting. Painting is amazing in its own right but the medium itself only lends so much to an individual piece. But certain digital technologies can actually make or break a piece. This is the case with the artist, Teri Rueb, who I studied for our research project. She uses GPS technology and without that technology her sound installations would be lifeless and would lose much of their complexity.