interactive art

21 12 2009

With art changing so often all of the time, what is considered art and what is not has become extremely undefined. Not only is art judged by the medium it is created with, or how it looks and makes people feel, it is also judged by it’s originality and rarity. With today’s technology, computer art has made its way into this picture, and is also beginning to receive the same criticism as works in the past. If interactive pieces, both on and off of the screen, are made with a computer rather than traditional artistic tools, and leaving artistic end-products up to chance, are they still considered art?

Interactive art is not necessarily limited to art that is found on the computer. Although, in order to witness the art, some interaction is required by the viewer, this is also true with many pieces of artwork found off of the computer screen. As stated by Hume, in art “five factors must come together: ‘Strong sense, united to delicate sentiment, improved by practice, perfected by comparison, and cleared of all prejudice” (Gracyk). By this he means that anything can be considered art as long as a person clears their mind of prejudices and use their strong senses. Does the fact that a piece of artwork requires the viewers interaction to become active really change the piece from being art? Although the piece is not fully created by the artist themselves, the background work was what was done by them. As a result, the end-product actually is their own work, whether the viewer took part in it or not. Also, the fact that the pieces are interactive keeps them from being able to be duplicated or reproduced. Hasn’t it been argued that art is contingent upon the “limited edition”? By making art interactive, each viewers’ outcome ends up being a unique, one of a kind piece in itself. As Walter Benjamin said, “In permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced” (Benjamin).

Even through internet art that is not changed through interaction, the piece is still considered a work of art. If it is pleasing to the eye, or even if it is displeasing, yet emotionally evocative, then it works artistically and must be considered art. Even though the internet makes it capable for art to be reproduced infinitely and viewed all over the world, it does not make the pieces any weaker than a photograph that has been reproduced. If a true piece of art is created, then the more people that are able to appreciate it, the better.

An example of an ever-changing, interactive piece of artwork is an online visualization of teenage breakups in the United States called “The Dumpster”. “The project’s graphical tools reveal the astonishing similarities, unique differences, and underlying patterns of these failed relationships, providing both peculiarly analytic and sympathetically intimate perspectives onto the diversity of global romantic pain” (Manovich). While being a beautifully designed piece, easily evoking emotion through the readings revealed when bubbles are clicked on, it is a piece of internet art overall. Just because it is effected by the bubbles that are chosen by the viewer does not mean it is any less artistically effective. If anything, due to human interaction, the piece becomes even more beautiful the more it is used.

Another interactive piece of artwork is a flash piece designed in 2007 by the Qubo Gas collection called Watercouleur Park. This composition is made up of drawings on all different layers that come up at random and are effected by the movement of the viewers cursor. It “induces a virtual, sensorial experience of spatial immersion” (Ramade). It is true that if these pieces were to just move by themselves, and be viewed the way the artist wanted them to be, the pieces would still be beautiful; but the way that it was created makes the piece so much butter. By allowing the viewer to interact with the piece, and change it to their liking, it makes it so that the piece can be considered successful art by more people. In this way, the fact that it is interactive actually makes it a better piece of art than it would be if it were just a moving piece of imagery.

Through the use of the internet, interactive art was made possible to be viewed by people all around the world. Although the pieces are always changing, and can be seen by anyone, it is very rare that anyone is seeing the same piece of work. Overall, the coding on each piece is the same, making it actually the same piece of artwork. The only thing changing is what the viewer is changing themselves. I do not feel that this lessens the art in anyway, but that it actually strengthens it. By being able to interact with a piece, you are able to make it into something that you find beautiful, specifically. It is still the artist’s work, it just makes it more suitable to the viewer’s idea of art. As Kant states, “The feeling of pleasure is basically a signal that the sensory presentation is suitable for comprehensible by the faculty of understanding” (Gracyk). By making it easier for one to sense what they find to be the best way to view a piece, the piece becomes stronger in the minds of viewers. An interactive piece makes the artwork appear unique to each viewer, making it always rare, and always beautiful.

Works Cited

Benjamin, Walter. Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1935.

Gracyk, Theodore. “Philosophy of Art: Hume and Kant: Summary and  Comparison.” 2002. <http://www.mnstate.edu/gracyk/courses/phil%20of%20art/hume_and_kant.htm>. Dec 2009

Manovich, Lev. “Tate Intermedia Art: Social Data Browsing”. Tate. Dec 2009 <http://www.tate.org.uk/intermediaart/entry15484.shtm&gt;.

Ramade, Bénédicte . “Tate Intermedia Art: Watercouleur Park”. Tate. Dec 2009 <http://www.tate.org.uk/intermediaart/qubo_gas.shtm&gt;.





Modern vs. Post Modern

24 11 2009

Modernism, in design, began in the 1940’s and lasted until about the mid 1980’s. It reflected the beliefs of the time, of “fundamental scientific laws of reason and rational thought,” by keeping all designs neat, controlled and orderly (Postmodernism). Artwork was structured and unified through the use of grids, and rationale was used strictly. An example of a modernist designer would be Paul Rand, a popular American graphic designer, best known for his corporate logo designs (Lewandowski). With the utilization and invention of the computer circa 1985, all of this order was thrown away and replaced with works filled with chaos, beginning the age of Post Modernism. Post Modernism was an act against the principles modernism, made possibly by the new technology given to designers. They were suddenly able to do things with type that would have been too time consuming in the past. An example of a popular postmodern designer would be David Carson, an “American graphic designer, whose unconventional style revolutionized visual communication in the 1990s” (David Carson).

Paul Rand, born in Brooklyn in 1914, was a modernist designer that was both a realist and an idealist. He was known to think “in terms of need and function,” as any modernist would (Lewandowski). He designed corporate logos that created the identities for many well known corporations such as IBM, ABC, Cummins Engine, Westinghouse, and UPS. While his designs and ideas were simple, he states that ““ideas do not need to be esoteric to be original or exciting” (Lewandowski). His magazine covers for Apparel Magazine were also simplistic and well organized, but like his logos, they made statements and got the point across.

David Carson, born in Texas in 1952, was raised in New York City and has been said by Newsweek to have “changed the public face of graphic design” (DCD). He broke free from the modernist ideas of design and designed his pieces in chaotic, broken, disorderly fashions that really pull viewers in and ask them to look and touch. But, just because his work may seem chaotic, doesn’t mean it actually is just pure chaos. “David’s work continues to be subjective and largely driven by intuition, with an emphasis on reading material before designing it” (DCD). He has successfully directed commercials, and has made print ads for well known brands such as Nike, Levi Strauss & Co, Samsung and Quicksilver. His postmodernist style of distorting type brings emotion into the text that could not have been brought out if it were put onto the page in an orderly structural manner. By designing with type the way that he does, he has helped to bring this cultural movement about in a very strong and successful manner.

Art can be distinguished in terms of high art and low art. High art is known as fine art, “having withstood the test of time and representing the epitome of artistic achievement.” It “consists of the meticulous expression in fine materials of refined or noble sentiment, depending on such things as intelligence, social standing, educated taste, and a willingness to be challenged” (Delahunt). Low art, on the other hand, is known as mass culture art. It is usually made up of inferior mass manufactured materials and appeals to the popular taste. Does this mean that low art is inferior to high art? Or is it just placed in a separate category because of its popular preference?

Paul Rand tried to incorporate the ideals of high arts into his designs. One strong example of a design that could achieve that label would be his December 1940 magazine cover for Apparel Arts. He liked to work in ways that expressed themes that were not popular for the time, but themes of higher taste. About his cover, Rand stated that is “is significant that the crucifix, aside from its religious implications, is a demonstration of pure plastic form as well . . . a perfect union of the aggressive vertical (male) and the passive horizontal (female)” (Lewandowski). By going into such deep meaning with his piece, even though it was a reproduced magazine, he gave it a theme of high art. Besides this, his logos could also be considered high art because of their mark on the corporate industry and the amount of time that they have lasted. His logo designs are known all over the world, and will remain that way for a long time to come.

While David Carson has also designed for companies, his pieces would not necessarily be considered high art as Paul Rand’s would. His pieces are popular culture pieces that pull emotion from people of todays time, but will not necessarily remain as a popular style throughout time. While his designs pull us in and interest us greatly with their wittiness and/or creativity, they are ultimately mass culture pieces.

Postmodernism was a way to break free and rebel against the structured ideas of modernism, but was it really an improvement? While most modernist pieces would be considered high art because of their structure and simplicity, does it actually make them better than the postmodern chaotic pieces? Personally, I prefer the disorderliness of the postmodern designs. This could possibly be because of the fact that they are mass culture pieces. Being mass culture designs makes them low art designs, but I don’t think that has any bad reference to it at all. While Paul Rand’s work has made a permanent, classical, modernist impact, Carson’s work can be enjoyed by the mass pop culture groups today.

Paul Rand

David Carson

“David Carson.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 23 Nov. 2009 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/97120/David-Carson>.

“DCD”. DCD. 20 Nov 2009 <http://www.davidcarsondesign.com/&gt;.

Delahunt, Michael. “ArtLex Art Dictionary”. ArtLex. 20 Nov 2009 <http://www.artlex.com/&gt;.

Lewandowski, Daniel. “Paul-Rand.com”. Paul-Rand.com. 20 Nov 2009 <http://www.paul-rand.com/&gt;.

“Postmodernism”. Encyclopedia of Irish and World Art. 20 Nov 2009 <http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/postmodernism.htm&gt;.





The Value of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

4 11 2009

Throughout the world today, artworks are readily available to the masses in ways simpler and more convenient than ever before. Printmaking, lithography, photography and film make it possible for a work of art to be mechanically reproduced and available to anyone who wants to get their hands on it. The original piece no longer matters, because all of the replicas are exactly the same whether they were the first made or the thousandth. Is this availability taking away the value of artworks produced today? Is the idea of a piece no longer having rarity, but being produced an excessive amount of times, making art less impressive? By being limited, is a piece really better? Or is it its rare state that makes people adore it, rather than its actual beauty? Why must value be contingent upon the “limited edition”?  I believe that the value of a piece of artwork is relevant. Just because a piece is easily replicated does not mean that when the first piece was made it did not have originality and a huge impact. The fact that people can view a piece of artwork without looking at it one at a time does not make the piece any less valuable, it just makes it possible for the piece to be enjoyed by a larger number of people.

The way art is valued has changed over time, through the production of new technologies and ideas. In the past, the rarity of an object was what constituted its value. When works of art were made for ritual purposes, and were made only once, in one location, for one particular reason, they were considered to be very valuable. Pieces such as statues of greek gods, or even the Sistine Chapel were produced in one location where they were meant to stay. The fact that, in order to see these pieces, one must leave their home and go to the locations in which they exist, it makes the pieces worth much more both in value and emotionally. Famous, valuable pieces were made once, there may have been fakes and replicas, but the only piece with value was the original; the piece that was in the location that it was meant to be in, and was made first, with a purpose. “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be” (Benjamin). If the piece is not an original, it is not emotionally valuable, therefore it is not worth nearly as much as the first genuine piece.

Nowadays, in printmaking, film, lithography, photography and other medias, exact replicas are able to be produced a countless number of times. “The work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility. From a photographic negative, for example, one can make any number of prints; to ask for the ‘authentic’ print makes no sense” (Benjamin). The quality of the work is what makes the print valuable, not the authenticity. Photographers today purposely print their pieces for a large audience, not just to be hung once. They want their work to be spread, and viewed by as many eyes as possible. An artist creates a piece of art to be viewed by people, and through mechanical reproduction, many more people are able to see each piece. No one is looking for the first original photograph, because all of the pieces are exactly the same, and made from the same negative.

Not only does the easy accommodation of a piece of art make it valued by more people, but it also makes the pieces more valuable by allowing viewers to view the pieces in their own element and enjoy them in their own way. While it is wonderful to go to the museum and see the Mona Lisa, there is also an element of excitement in being able to view a work of art in your own home. The fact that you can do this at ease does not make the piece you are viewing any less valuable. While the piece has the same quality as the original, it is even more valuable in the way that it can be viewed from wherever you’d like to see it, in whatever surroundings suit you. “By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced.”

The way that things are able to be reproduced so easily today through photography, film, and other medias, value can no longer be put on original pieces the way that they were in the past. The quality of the work is what really determines its value, no matter how many copies of it there are. If a piece of art has a big impact on viewers, even if there are reproductions of the piece all over the globe, it will still have the same impact. If anything, the impact will be bigger because it will reach so many more people than it would if there was only one original piece and no reproductions.

Works Cited

Benjamin, Walter. Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1935.





internet vs. printing press

21 10 2009

Throughout history, inventions have constantly been changing the world and how the people within it operate, some having larger impacts than others. Two extremely important inventions of their times have been that of the printing press, and of the internet. These two inventions, although brought about in completely different time periods, have had huge impacts on the world in the areas of education, history, communication and many others. While the printing press began the revolution of the written word, the internet came about and transformed the means of communication entirely. With both of these inventions being world changing and evolutionary, which would really be considered to have had a larger impact on the world?

Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1450 was, without a doubt, a world changing discovery. It changed the lives of people in all nations through an ease in the spread of knowledge. Prior to the printing press, all books were handwritten, taking extreme amounts of time and effort, causing them to be highly expensive and unaffordable to most people. Because of this, education was scarce. Where people were educated, the books they were presented with were few, and were written only in Latin, not in national languages. “Gutenberg’s press could produce books quickly and with relatively little effort, bookmaking became much less expensive, allowing more people to buy reading material” (Renaissance – Printing and Thinking). As a result of this, common people had access to information. Not only were books more readily available, but they were also cheaper, and in the language of the nation, rather than in Latin, making them readable by anyone literate.

“Although most of the earliest books dealt with religious subjects, students, businessmen, and upper and middle class people bought books on all subjects. Printers responded with moralizing, medical, practical and travel manuals. Printing provided a superior basis for scholarship and prevented the further corruption of texts through hand copying. By giving all scholars the same text to work from, it made progress in critical scholarship and science faster and more reliable” (Kreis). Not only was a huge variety information now more readily available for all people , but it was also more dependable. Handwritten texts were scarce, making it easy for writers to use false information without the threat of being double checked. With the invention of the printing press, written works in all subjects were available everywhere, so if false information was given, it was easily found.

While all of these impacts were revolutionary and completely changed the way the world generates and spreads information, it does not necessarily mean the printing press had the largest impact of all in its field. Although it was the first invention to spread information in a quicker and easier way, the internet can do exactly that, but better. It has had the same effects of the printing press, yet stronger, better and more efficiently.

SImilar to the intentions of the printing press, the internet was initially invented as a means of faster communication. While the printing press had a larger impact for its time in the spread of information, the internet blew it away in the new speed that information could be spread. While the printing press allowed for more people to read books and gain information, it could not send the book to all of the people in the world in seconds. The internet makes these kinds of things possible. Not only has it had a greater impact through its speed, but also through the possibility of sharing information with many people, at the same time, all throughout the world, within seconds.

While the internet has had a huge impact on the spread of knowledge and information, it has not stopped there, as the printing press has. The printing press had it’s limits, allowing education, information and communication to circulate the world in an easier way, but the internet has done that, as well as so much more.

Along with making information more more easily available to all people, it has also made it available without even leaving the home. Information can be found instantly and easily without even moving from your seat. Instead of writing a letter and waiting days for a response, e-mail has made it possible to receive letters in minutes. Even better than that, video chat makes it possible to speak to and see people on the other side of the world as instantly as if they were sitting in the room with you.

The internet has also had benefits in saving time as well as money. Online shopping makes shopping much less time consuming. Not only can you make a purchase without leaving your home, but you can find which brand or website has the best product for the best price quickly and easily. Online banking saves time enormously and also reduces the stress of having to make it to the bank in time. It has even made it possible for people to work from home, eliminating traveling time and commuter costs, and increasing flexibility. Also, “office running costs and overheads (rates, electricity, heating etc.) can be reduced, which in turn may reduce the need for office space” (The Impact of the Internet).

In terms of a greater impact, for its time, the printing press had a huge effect on the spread of information and technology, but the internet blew it away with its high-speed, efficient spread of information. The internet had a much greater impact, not only for its quicker and easier spread of information, but because of all of the other aspect of life that it has impacted as well. While the printing press had a limiting effect on the world of information, the effect of the internet is infinite and not stopping anytime soon.

Works Cited

Kreis, Steven. “The Printing Press”. The History Guide: Lectures on Modern European Intellectual History. 21 October 2009 <http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/press.html&gt;.

“Renaissance – Printing and Thinking”. Annenberg Media. 21 October 2009 <http://www.learner.org/interactives/renaissance/printing.html&gt;.

“The Impact of the Internet”. ThinkQuest: Library. 21 October 2009 <http://library.thinkquest.org/C0124364/impact_of_the_internet.htm&gt;.





The Book of Kells: Art or Design?

1 10 2009

Categorizing works as either art or designs is not always a simple task; as most art is not created just for emotional reasons, but in order to serve a purpose, making them, by definition, design. A design is a piece of work that serves a purpose, while art is known to be a piece that evokes an emotional response. If art’s purpose is to evoke a response, then technically art must be some type of subset of design. Art is a design with expressive and artistic purposes. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscrpit filled with beautiful intricate designs that would attract any reader to observe deeply into. The bright colors and interlocking shapes pulled people in through art, and kept them observing as the art slowly transformed into the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the pages turned. While these pages were filled with art, and the purpose was for an emotional response, they also had other purposes. By evoking emotion through the pages in the beginning of the book, it brought people to read through more of the pages, bringing them to stories that they may not have had the ambition to look through otherwise. With this purpose, the Book of Kells can easily be viewed as a design rather than just a piece of artwork.

Made by Celtic monks around the eighth century, the Book of Kells was originally designed to promote Christianity. The main audience in which the Celtics wanted to promote their religion to was the Pagans. By using artistic Pagan symbols, the monks were able to bring the Pagans to read the manuscript because of its beauty and what looked like its relevance to their culture. The monks used art in the form of design in order to eventually begin morphing these symbols and changing them into the writers of the gospels. This not only made the Christian gospels seem beautiful, but also linked them to the Pagans. With an objective to take a Pagan world and turn it into a world of their kind of civility, the Christians used a form of trickery through their artwork to convince the Pagan tribes that Christianity was the true religion to live by. Its importance was made obvious by the tremendous amount of effort that was put into it.

During the times in which the Book of Kells was created, religion was an extremely popular factor in society. Due to the fact that religion and education were tied closely together during those times, the people who were able to read were able to be enlightened about the idea of Christianity. With the vast majority of the society being illiterate, the Christians found a way in which they could spread their religion without writing words. Although the pages of the Book of Kells may have looked as if they were just made to be art, “the illustration and ornamentation were not mere decoration. The monastic readers were mindful of the educational value of pictures and the ability of ornament to create mystical and spiritual overtones” (Meggs, 39). By doing this they were able to communicate to everyone, rather than just the educated and the literate.

The way that the Book of Kells was able to travel to so many places and affect so many people religiously proved how strong its design was. According to Hume, “some works attain critical approval across the barriers of culture and time, as when ancient authors such as Homer and Cicero delight modern readers. He suggests that such a convergence of taste identifies a work of real genius” (Gracyk).  By having such a huge impact on religious beliefs of Pagans, and lasting to awe people up until this day, passing the obstacles of time and culture, the Book of Kells was truly more than just a piece of art. The impact it had and the meaning within it was based on a sense of strong design that would help it to effect people throughout time.

The fact that the Book of Kells was able to have an effect so large that it could change the religious beliefs of so many people means that it must have been designed in a strong way, rather than just to evoke responses due to its beauty. “Art is, historically, uniquely useless. As Andy Warhol put it, “If it doesn’t make sense, it’s art.”” (Cummings). A piece of art is not necessarily meant to be understood. Artists often like when onlookers can give their own meaning to a piece of their art rather than try to find the meaning that was originally given to it. When speaking of judgment given to art, Kant states that “The feeling of pleasure is basically a signal that the sensory presentation is suitable for comprehensible by the faculty of understanding” (Gracyk). If a piece of artwork can be understood, then it is not just art. It has been designed to give off a message.

While the Book of Kells is definitely an intricate piece of artwork, it was not made only to be art, but rather to serve the purpose of promoting a religion. Designer Michael Cummings states that the difference between art and design is “purpose and use, therefore function. Where form follows from its function, primarily, we are speaking of design” (Cummings). Being created originally as a way to convert people to Christianity, the function of the famous book was derived first, long before the finished artistic product. People were lured into reading the book because of its artistic beauty, but this art was actually only a product of the books design.

Works Cited

Cummings, Michael. “Good Design”. UX Design. Sep 2009 <http://uxdesign.com/design/article/good-design/54&gt;.

Gracyk, Theodore. “Philosophy of Art: Hume and Kant: Summary and  Comparison.” 2002. <http://www.mnstate.edu/gracyk/courses/phil%20of%20art/hume_and_kant.htm>. Sept 2009.

Meggs, Philip. A History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York. 1998.





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11 09 2009

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