‘Life imitates art’ proclaimed Oscar Wilde in his essay ‘The Decay of Lying’ from 1889. In our digital age, for many of us, technology has become a form of life; we wake up to our ‘Sleep Cycle’ alarm, scroll through “Instagram” and “WhatsApp” before we finally get up and get ready for a new day. As we swipe our iPhone’s ‘Wallet’ to get a coffee on the go, we keep scrolling through our emails and notifications. Perhaps it’s Friday, and you consider whether to treat yourself to a massage through ‘Urban Massage’, or decide to wind down with yoga, booked through ‘ClassPass’. And the list goes on. The digitalisation of our era has left no one unaffected. When words such as ‘crypto currency” ‘Blockchain’ and ‘influencer’ are thrown around, some people get scared and long back to the time before the internet. Meanwhile, others embrace technological advances such as artificial intelligence, data collection and the digitalisations of our cultures.
Take the art scene as an example, where tech is shaping the way we experience art – both its history and future. Some of today’s grand museums have realized that in order to attract a younger audience, they need to adapt to the modern times and offer new ways of viewing old masters. But technology has also opened doors for new players to enter, in the shape of thought-provoking exhibitions and creative artists who shape our ideals.
It seems only natural that Paris, the city of art, would pioneer fine art light installations of well-known painters. Last year, L’Atelier des Lumieres, the capital’s first digital art museum exhibited the works of Vincent van Gogh through lasers. Projected onto 10-metre high walls on a 3,3000 square metre surface, van Gogh’s Sunflowers resulted in an immersive colour explosion in 3D.
“Why just look at a van Gogh painting, when you can actually step into it?”
To satisfy several senses, 50 speakers were set up to play the likes of Wagner and Mozart using a ‘motion design’ sound system. “Why just look at a van Gogh painting, when you can actually step into it?” was the thinking, and 1.2 million visitors where intrigued enough to walk around among van Gogh’s iconic landscapes while looking up at his inimitable starry night. An example how technology feeds established art to (literally) grow and become more interactive, exciting and multi-sensory. What would van Gogh have said about his life work being transformed into a light show?
“Some of today’s grand museums have realised that in order to attract a younger audience, they need to adapt to the modern times”
But, you don’t have to be a post impressionism enthusiast to experience ‘tech-art”. New York’s MoMa currently displays the exhibition ‘New Order: Art & Technology in the Twenty-First Century’. One of the main attractions by visual artist Cheng, features an animated digital movie with no beginning or end, which changes plot in a never-ending combination of scenarios. In an attempt to show you how tech affects motion picture art, the viewer will never watch the same movie twice, in order to constantly keep him or her interested. Capturing this generation’s short attention span is the creative world’s greatest challenge.
In another part of the exhibition, face recognition is explored by Trevor Paglen. Most people have used Facebook’s face recognition feature to quickly tag friends in a picture. This method was originally developed by the US Department of Defense in the 1990s. Uploading portraits, the system would compare physical face features. The more images which were uploaded, the ‘smarter’ the system became as an algorithm could be taught how to ‘identify’ faces. According to MoMa “today, the massive quantities of information being uploaded, aggregated and exchanged [online] are crucial to contemporary technologies such as face recognition”.The more images you upload onto social media channels, the better face recognition will become. This example showcases the opposite to the van Gogh example; reversely, photography, or ‘art’ is also feeding technology to ‘grow’ stronger and smarter.
Even if technology is becoming smarter, it can still reflect a fake sense of reality.
One can ask; will future art be as honest as a renaissance painting of a woman – art imitating life – with generous curves, fair skin and longing gaze? Or will it represent a distorted reality? Consider your instagram feed of models, yoga bunnies and influencers – a good example of how technology is shaping our current body and beauty ideals. If it’s honest or not, is still being debated.
Chad Knight is a digital artist currently making waves with his statuesque and dehumanised ‘robot’ women, set in beautiful deserts and forests. The imagery looks like realistic photography, and one is almost tricked by the natural landscape and perfect dimensions. Perhaps the future of art and our body ideals will resemble Knight’s creative testaments – beautiful but deceptive.
One thing is for sure; art will be more interactive. Rather than observing a single picture or painting, audiences will be invited to involve several of their senses. Because just like art, so is technology – all absorbing – a way of life.