By Enakshi Sharma
The current art scene has been greatly aided by the new media that has emerged. Not only has it provided new ways of creating art through computers and software but has also provided a new way to reach out to millions of people instantly and break the shackles of physical limitation that restricted the art forms of the yore. At the start, digital medium was not considered in a very favourably by artists or for that matter any other conservative intellectuals or thinkers. But, as it democratized the field, more and more people could share their works of “art” through blogs, social media and internet forums.
Digital Art: A New Dawn?
Photography was considered inferior to painting when it was first devised. Similarly, it took a few decades for us to realize that cinema can be an art form. Similarly, digital art as well as digital consumption mediums are still in their first and second decade of development. But considering the rapid strides they have made, we can say that they will change the definition of art in the coming decades. It is simply changing the landscape by exposing more and more people to art, who would have remained ignorant otherwise. Just think about it. When you stumble on a mind bending E M Escher graphic shared by someone on Facebook. It gets you intrigued, you dig more into the artist, which opens your mind and probably awakens the inner artist in you too. Such happenings were less frequent and less likely with traditional media as they were simply not as ubiquitous as the internet.
While everybody became a photographer with social networks and mobile phones, aspiring painters and writers also got a way to publish themselves without spending anything or depending on anyone. It has to be agreed that this has changed the way people will consume art forever. Of course in such a mass deluge of creativity, not everything can be expected to be a masterpiece. But, that does not mean that the whole medium should be derided. If anything, it has just helped create a new breed of artists who are completely in control of not only their craft but of their reach and publicity too.
The challenge for artists here is due to the fact that the society is seeing a change in the way art is accessed. Corporate players in the field of technology are also stepping in to disrupt the field. For instance, The Google Art Project aims to provide virtual tours of various museums and art galleries, thus eliminating the need to actually visit them. Similarly individual museums are coming up with smartphone apps that will offer people a glimpse of the artworks and details at any time and from any place in the world.
But such developments also bring in other challenges. For instance, the galleries generally do not hold the copyrights of their exhibits including paintings. This is exactly why they do not allow photography inside museums and galleries. So, making them available virtually also opens up possibilities of unauthorized usage and resultant legal conflicts involving the gallery, the artist and the user. Contemporary artists must educate themselves regarding such possibilities as well as legal remedies in order to safeguard their interests.
The Road Ahead:
It can only be hoped that in the near future art will further democratize itself with the help of new media. It will reach out to even larger numbers and explore every facet of human life. The traditional art, although highly valued and rated, has always been a sanctuary of the discerning audience, the ones belonging to financially and socially influential strata. But it is all changing now. The next masterpieces may or may not be created electronically, but they surely will reach out to the audience through such mediums.
A great of example of modern possibilities is the digital collage “The Fast Supper” by Kenneth Hung. It uses the iconic Da Vinci painting as a backdrop and replaces the medieval food with the morbid yet popular fast food brands of today that Jesus consumes till he inflates and explodes. The message is obvious yet highly provocative considering the religious imagery involved. Also, the artist has just uploaded it as a YouTube video, thus showing how new artists will not remain confined to museums and art galleries and reach out to mass audience, thus having a stronger social impact.
Another example of new technology inspiring art may be the Cardinal Sin by Bansky. Conceived in 2011, it contains a bust of a priest but with the face covered by pixels. Pixels are what the modern news media uses to flimsily cover the faces of victims of various crimes, especially those of sexual nature. This came just after the child abuse scandal by certain members of the Catholic Church. It is simple to understand but scathing and spares no one.
With the widely changing society, newer issues will develop and will attract attention. For example, poverty or hunger may cease to be an issue in the future but technology addiction and urban desolation will be far more severe in the coming decades. Contemporary artists are already touching these topics and in the future they will explore such themes in further detail but they will also have to be prepared for technological and legal challenges that the new media may pose.