The Artling’s Kim Tay asks: When machines create art,are we missing out?
Crystal Universe by teamLab
“Ever since the Industrial Revolution, humans have worried about being replaced by machines. The fear is so real that they even have a name for it—technophobia. Machines were created to do the tasks that we couldn’t, or didn’t, want to do, and they have become integral to our daily lives. In fact, they have become so integral that they are now part of every occupation, including the medium of art.
The first time that art met machine in an artistic context was photography. But rather than being embraced, it was initially dismissed as a purely mechanical form of documentation. When the 1960s Minimalist artists (including Donald Judd, Richard Serra and Dan Flavin) started to play with industrial materials and processes in the United States, they too had their skeptics.
But while Luddites questioned the presence of machines in the art world, the ground-breaking artists chose to ignore their critics as they knew that the use of machines did not detract from the artists’ intentions; if anything, the machines only helped them execute their ideas. Nothing captures the zeitgeist more than the use of technology, and nothing can date faster than a piece of technology, too. This has given artists a whole new subject matter to play with as well. One artist who has enjoyed exploring this subject matter is American artist Cory Arcangel, who has joined the movement that focuses on Post- Internet Art. His series of works, called Super Mario Clouds involves him “hacking” old Nintendo game cartridges to isolate the scrolling clouds within the game.
Untitled Stack by Donald Judd at MoMA
It was not the original function of the machine to “create” these scrolling clouds; by repurposing the machine, Arcangel challenges the machine’s obsolescence, and the machine serves as an instrument to portray the artist’s concept. But the world’s voracious appetite for technology means that it constantly advances. On the small scale, it means that you get a new emoji to send to your friends; on the larger scale, it means that you get to see the launch of creative giants such as the Japanese collective, teamLab.
Thanks to leaps forward in technology, this innovative group is executing multi-sensory interactive artworks on a scale that was not imaginable just a few years ago. They call themselves “ultra-technologists,” and when you look at one of their works, who would argue against that?
Art is, of course, subjective, and the impact of machines and their utilisation to create art can challenge our traditional impression of what art is. You don’t have to like it, but even the most hardened traditionalist has to admire it. I believe that digital art and traditional art aren’t that different— when we view a painting or sculpture, we project our own preconceptions onto it; and that is exactly what we are doing when we view a digital artwork. It challenges our conception of the self, and this is how we can separate ourselves from the machines that surround us.
Art is about challenging the status quo and digital art gives artists a way to do this. Machines are just tools and creativity is a distinct aspect of humanity. Despite the technical nature of digital art, machines are not, and cannot be, the creators of art.” The Artling has worked with Art Stage Singapore to launch the Collectors’ Stage from 12 to 15 January, 2017. Visit http://www.artstage.com