Technology as the Art

“Molotov Alva and His Search for the Creator,” by Douglas Gayeton, a film made using machinima. Technology and the's what we focus on in this blog, on this website, and in our offices. defines technology first as "the branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means and their interrelation with life, society, and the environment, drawing upon such subjects as industrial arts, engineering, applied science, and pure science."

Today, however, I would like to liberate “technology” from its seemingly ubiquitous linkage with other, more concrete and easily definable terms, and examine technology as art.   Technology is about creation, it is creative in its very definition, though it is too often regarded by artist-types as out of our realm of right-brained comprehension. This may be the reason that we consider art and technology, as if those two elements naturally remain separate.  When the first maths-based technology was utilized to create visual imagery, the products were considered not art because they were so often created by scientists.  (That relationship is explored in this piece by Lewis Dartnell.)  In this day and age, however, it is evident that technology can, in fact, be the medium in which the art is created. It can be the palette, the orchestra, the voice, the film.

It is a difficult distinction to make: at what point do we consider technology as an artistic medium?  Eight-track is a technology.  As is infrared film.   For our purposes I will be considering technology as digital, computerized.   I am interested to hear thoughts, because it can be a very difficult determination to make--at what point does technology actually comprise the art rather than merely facilitate it?  Is this a distinction that needs to be made? Is technology ever truly a medium, and if so, does the technology we discuss here necessarily happen with computers? And if so, does the art need to happen on a coding level to be considered created in the medium of technology? If the art can be created without a computer (for example, audio reel-to-reel), can we classify it as relying on (our definition of) technology?

So, without further ado, a few examples of what I would consider technology as the medium in which the below art is produced. (Additionally, the piece at the top of this post.)

There’s digital rotoscoping, mainstreamed in the 2006 feature film ”A Scanner Darkly," which combines digital filmmaking with a computerized version of traditional rotoscoping.

The Rhizome "Tiny Sketch" competition set a 200-character limit for coding to design tiny sketches. This is not unusual, and there are countless areas where code is used to create visual art. It is more clearly obvious in many cases, but is also easily taken for granted with continued computer usage, as it is code that gives us the graphics that we see as computer users.

Toplap, a musical group that performs live by writing code in real-time to produce music. (Video courtesy of the BBC on YouTube.)

Virtual composer Emily Howell, an independently-creating creation of David Cope's.

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