Digital art: premises, acknowledgement and consecration
Artists have always seized the tools that surrounded them to question their relationship to the world. Always a step ahead, they appropriate the media at their disposal to share with us their critical reflection on their time. In this sense, Art has the vocation to explore new possibilities. It reflects the questions of an era and sends the spectator back to his own questions in a changing world.
The transition from the industrial to the digital age thus naturally represented a radical paradigm shift in artistic production. Artists explore the links between art and technology, giving rise to what we call digital art, cybernetic art or computer art.
In the early 1950s, Ben Laposky, an American Artist and engineer, began to photograph the sine waves produced by an oscilloscope combined with various electrical circuits. He spoke about “electric compositions” to describe this abstract art. Laposky was interested in showing patterns generated from physical forces or mathematical principles and compared the resulting shapes to visual music.
“Abstractions, as we have shown, are created by electric waves, just as music is made up of sound waves. The motifs are abstract and mathematical, just as music is, to a very large extent, abstract and mathematical.”
Ben F. Laposky, Electronic Abstracts. Art for the Space Age, in Proceeding of the Iowa Academy of Science.
From 1963, the American Magazine Computers and Automation began to organize digital art competitions. They are particularly interested in creating works using mathematical programs and formulas and executed on computers.
But it was only in 1968, after many years of exploration, that the first exhibition dedicated to digital art was held in London: Cybernetic Serendipity. This exhibition, organized by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, has given rise to pioneering artists as Gordon Pask, Bruce Lacey and Peter Zinovieff. This event attracted 40,000 visitors and gave birth to the British group Computer Art Society, which continues to explore the interactions between art and technology. Cybernetic Serendipity marks the consecration of digital art, both with the general public and Institutions.
In the catalogue’s introduction, Jasia Reichardt, the Curator of the exhibition, wrote: “Cybernetic Serendipity is an international exhibition exploring and demonstrating some of the relationships between technology and creativity. The aim of this exhibition is to present a field of activity that demonstrates the involvement of Artists in science and scientists in Art”.
In 1979 the first edition of the Ars Electronica Festival took place, an Austrian festival dedicated to the promotion of digital creation. This festival has been held every year since 1986 and is now considered as the most important digital art festival.
“From the outset, it was not about naive future euphoria or enthusiasm for technology, but rather about critical access, looking only at the social effects of technology.” explained Andreas J. Hirsch on the occasion of the release of the book Creating the Future, published for the 40th anniversary of the exhibition in 2019.
Since then, festivals have been the ideal venues for digital art. They have long been interested in emerging artistic practices and they generally attract an audience that is more receptive to artistic creations emerging from digital culture. In addition to acting as a broadcasting space, festivals can act as a structure for the production of digital works and make them accessible to the Public. The Digital Festivals Guide written by Anne-Cécile Worms and published by Musiques et Cultures Digitales lists no less than 437 festivals in 2012 in its international panorama. To mention just three of them, we can name the Elektra Festival in Montreal, which has been organized every year since 1999; the Japan Media Arts Festival in Tokyo, created in 1997; or les Bains Numériques, organized every other year at Enghien-les-Bains. A more complete overview will follow in a future article!
Year after year, these events bring more and more people together, which shows a real public interest in digital art. This is one of the reasons why we decided to create ART POINT: the first gallery of digital artworks for places frequented by the public. We want to multiply the opportunities for digital art to meet its audience. Join the movement!