Creating Art with Art
Gah, I think Brooke is saying something really interesting here, but I can’t be sure because the terms he uses must have been defined in more detail in an earlier chapter. I’ll come back to that one later.
The intro to The New Media Reader is delightfully twisty. Now that humans are using more complex technology — like computers and software — to create art, the author speculates on whether the makers of that technology are not also artists. Well duh, we kind of already know that engineers are artists, no? And artists have always pushed the boundaries of technology use farther and farther — even way back when using mineral pigments to draw on cave walls. But the twisty idea of using technology-that-is-art to make art is still really appealing in a Mobius strip kind of way. And new media allow us to create on a grander scale, in infinitely more complex ways.
The familiar Escher drawing below is how I visualize an artist making art with someone else’s art/technology. And the image below that might partially illustrate how New Media can advance (and complicate) that process.
Back when memes were memes, and not images with pithy quotes on Facebook, it seems that ideas flowed rather freely between artist and scientists (Manovich 15):
To prove the existence of historical parallelism, The New
Media Reader positions next to each of the key texts by
modern artists that articulate certain ideas those key texts
by modern computer [
scientistsartists] that articulate similar ideas
in relation to software and hardware design. Thus we find
next to each other a story by Jorge Luis Borges (1941)
and an article by Vannevar Bush (1945) which both
contain the idea of a massive branching structure as a better
way to organize data and to represent human experience.
It would be interesting to know exactly how those ideas flowed — direct communication (letters or actual conversations), indirect (reading of others’ works), or a more subtle flow of memes throughout the culture. For instance, I wonder if the branching structure mentioned above was a move away from straight-line representations, a move which happened in many fields around the same time?
Apropos of nothing, it seems likely that the branching structures were a precursor to the mind maps which are common now. (Mentioned in http://wp.me/p4hVCZ-34). Mind maps add circularity and reflexivity to branching representations.
The idea of using art to create art relates (in my head, anyway) to this passage from Brooke (p. 140):
This means that with the flexibility brought by digitization,
there occurs a displacement of the framing function of media
interfaces back on to the body from which they themselves originally sprung.
If I understand it correctly, this suggests that a certain reflexivity is required. Almost anything we do can benefit from some reflexivity, the examined life and all that. To fully understand what it going on with visual rhetoric in new media it looks like we have to consider at least 3 levels: 1) the actual rhetoric, the words and images, 2) the interfaces or media used to create the piece and to interact with it, and 3) the perspectives from which we come and that the interface creates for us.
I wish we had a few weeks to spend on these topics surrounding New Media, because we are just barely skimming the surface here.