Da Young Ju

Art and Technology


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Should the contemporary artists use digital technology?

– About the latest interactive artwork “SeeSaw”



Many contemporary artist’s use of digital instead of a paint brush and canvas. In actuality, the ratio of technologically mature artists is very low against traditional artists and artists who are simple software users. That is because the latest digital technology is very difficult. Nevertheless, artists continue to show involvement in using rigorous digital technology. What put temptation in the artist’s way? In this essay, I outline why contemporary artists cannot turn away from digital technology. Moreover I present the latest digital technology is essential technique for contemporary artists with examples of previous successful digital artworks and the proposed artwork “SeeSaw”.

Keywords: digital arts, digital technology, computer, programming, Google

1. Introduction

Digital technologies are evolving, and generating art work by using programming and graphic software. Whether these technologies have creativity or not, still generates a lot of hot debate, because artists cannot entirely control the result (artwork) with technology.

In actuality, the ratio of technologically mature artists is very low against traditional artists and artists who are simple software users. Nevertheless, why do artists show involvement in using rigorous digital technology? What put temptation in the artist’s way? This is indeed a big question for contemporary art and artists now. In this research, I present why contemporary artists cannot turn away from digital technology, and what is the right way of future art and technology.

2. Previous art work

2.1. Siggraph 2000 Art Gallery, ‘Text Rain’ by Camille Utterback and Romy Archituv

Text Rain is a playful interactive installation that blurs the boundary between the familiar and the magical. Participants in the Text Rain installation use the familiar instrument of their bodies, to do what seems magical. In the Text Rain installation participants stand or move in front of a large projection screen. On the screen they see a mirrored video projection of themselves in black and white, combined with a color animation of falling text. The text responds to the participants’ motions and can be caught, lifted, and then let fall again. (Utterback, 2000) <http://www.camilleutterback.com/textrain.html>


Figure 1. Text rain installation

SIGGRAPH is an annual event of Computer Graphics Society ACM which introduces an academic research contributions and technological trade exhibitions, emerging technology, animations, and art gallery. Text Rain was the most popular art work in Art gallery, Siggraph 2000, because many spectators enjoyed, understood the work and participated in the art work. The spectator’s participation and sensitive presentation were the strongest point of Text Rain at the same time.

2.2. Ars Elctronica 2007, Golden Nica Award, ‘Park View Hotel’ by Ashok Sukumaran

On the other hand, Park View Hotel is excessively the latest digital art work using highly difficult digital technology.

This is an art project in a public space extending from Cesar Chavez Plaza, a park in downtown San jose, California, to the adjacent Fairmont Hotel. Through the use of specially developed pointing devices and networking system, installation visitors in the park can “intrude” into the hotel’s interiors and cause characteristics of a particular room (the color, for instance) to spread out across the building’s façade and into the park. The project was the result of a residency at Sun Microsystems Labs, where I was working with SunSPOTs, small “programmable object technologies” which are simple-to-use prototyping platforms for embedded technologies, or the so-called “Internet of Things”.(Sukumaran, 2007) <http://0ut.in/parkviewhotel>


Figure 2. Park View Hotel, Installation, gunONE, spot

The art work Park View Hotel shows the one direction for future of digital art. Recently, some artists should use the technology such as scientists or engineers, should stand to last their aesthetic idea.

3. Proposed Artwork “SeeSaw”

This project is a participative and interactive video installation artwork, whose conceptualization is achieved by the spectator’s own engagement, and is catalyzed by reciprocal visual and sound extensions to express how communication works or perhaps more importantly, how it doesn’t work and to investigate a noble computer interaction scheme.


Figure3. Emotions: I am going mad; feeling blue

3.1. A Computer with Personality

Computer devices were propagated all over the world. This project puts the computers into perspective in the future. The SeeSaw is software as personality for a computer. In other words, computer can be sad. This artwork can easily work on a computer, so users can communicate with their computer by using of this artwork.

3.2. Typical user interaction

When visitors confront the monitor at eye level, this is the starting point of communication that is even further condensed and intensified by sound effects like talking, laughing, and shouting. A computer monitor interacts, communicates and changes its images. While changing the images in the monitor, the computer speaks, laughs and shouts through the speaker. The images on the monitor and the sounds on the speaker represent the rhythm that accompanies all the movements and expressions of the monitor. The sounds are recorded in advance by the artist, but the sounds are regenerated simultaneously.

3.3. Computer Interaction Methods

The artwork “SeeSaw” uses a specially designed human recognition system. Once a human spectator is recognized through a camera and a microphone, the system analyses the captured image and voice and then sends an order to an estimation part. The analyzing part uses face recognition and motion recognition methods of computer vision technology.

Estimation system is a part for choosing appropriate responses. There is an enormous volume of estimated response for interaction (conversation) with spectators. Even in reality, the communication (conversation or dialog) is comprised with appropriate responses, unexpected responses and misunderstandings. In this part, the system analyses the most suitable response.

The SeeSaw is being with its personality. This is because the responses of the artwork can be distinguishable. The response scheme was designed to generate according to the spectator’s play (their motion or voice). So the responses are not static. The SeeSaw answers by her/his own feelings and thoughts about the spectator’s play.

4. Is Programming Creative?

In this artwork, programming is an essential method to implement the artwork. The programming is originally a language to communicate with a machine like a computer. However, an algorithm which is implemented using the programming language is definitely creative. The SeeSaw conclusively proves how digital technologies are evolving. Moreover, the artwork shows the artist can create a warm technology like the computer with personality using the latest digital technology through the artist’s idea.

5. Why is digital technology used by artist?

What is a goal of the digital art? I think that the goal of digital art isn’t very different from goal of previous art trends as well. This is because a goal of artist has been introduction and representation of something new and direction for human, society and the era. In each generation, artists want the latest methods and techniques so that they can be raised above the other artist and represent the generation. Sometimes, artists make a new technology and method as art work itself. The latest digital technology is not only a unique and noble technique to artists, but also the best medium which can be fluently used in the present society.

6. Conclusion

Contemporary artists got into trouble in this time. Development speed of digital technology is too fast, most of the technology is definitely difficult. Moreover, many common people who do not have occupation as artist create digital art work using digital technology like graphic software and internet technology.

The most salient point of this SeeSaw is the fact that a personality has been given to the machine like as computer using the latest digital technology. This project suggests a noble computer interaction scheme as “personality” and “emotion-based generative responses” which is different from previous interactive art work. As a future work, the artist is meditating “gender recognition system” and “language recognition system”. These technologies are for more specific, sensitive, and minute interaction. This project aims to use the latest technology, which communicates with humans. This suggests direction of coexistence between computer technology and humans as well. This is a reason that contemporary artists should use a digital technology. Now the biggest issue is aesthetical creative technology, not just technology.


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Written by dayoung Ju

March 17, 2008 at 3:27 pm

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