The expression ‘new media art’ is more prevalent than ever in our everyday language. It pervades festivals, galleries, art centres, the press, the media, and, as a consequence, everyone’s minds. Something’s at work in the combination of art and digital technologies that can’t be found anywhere else. We are currently attending the birth of an artform. Just like the cinema a century ago, a new medium, a new means of artistic expression, is being born.
The uniqueness of new media art
How does a piece of new media art differ from a traditional piece of art? Where’s the source of the vitality of this artistic field? What lies at its heart?
Nothing more nor less than an invisible reality: software.
A piece of new media art is driven by something invisible, and yet perfectly real: a computer program. Thanks to this program, the piece takes on a life of its own; its behaviour surprises us, since it remains in large part unpredictable. When the behavioural variations of the piece are internal, the piece is deemed ‘generative’. When its behaviour varies according to changes in its immediate environment, the piece is deemed ‘interactive’. In both cases, the piece comprises an alterity, an autonomous reality, sensitive and active. How else should it be described, if not as a ‘Being’ or as an ‘Entity’?
The living piece of art, and the demiurgic artist
So: in the digital age, artists are creating pieces which have all the characteristics of a living thing. These artworks aren’t just set in motion, like the frames of early films; they also possess an internally-driven movement and life.
The new media artist and the demiurge wield the same kind of creativity. The artist creates a world that he only fully discovers once its finished. This isn’t just a harmless metaphor. The artwork often evades the artist; either during its creation, or as a result of its distribution. Images emerge, unknown landscapes manifest themselves, and the artwork and its audience interact.
The newfound presence of the program in the artwork has considerable consequences for the processes preceding its creation.
One of these consequences affects production. Forced by necessity, the precursors of digital art - I’m thinking about Nicolas Schöffer, whose 100th birthday was celebrated recently - took it upon themselves to master the basics of programming. Following the appearance of the technology allowing the emergence of this art, a new correspondence came into existence: that between artists and developers. Today, both the formation of and experimentation with new media artworks are facilitated by a tight partnership with developers; the master artisans of these technologies.
Another consequence affects distribution. New media artworks are living and naturally investigate their environment. The installation of the art in the public space manifests itself in a unique way: artists identify spaces precisely for the relation that they believe will hold between them and the new media artwork. This artistic freedom is attributable to the adaptability and plasticity of digital pieces of art. Everything is imaginable, from a screen the size of a mobile phone, to one the size of a whole building. Aesthetic concerns thus directly confront those of urbanism and society: “this piece of art, yes, but in which space?” the artist wonders. Whereas the politician or the urbanite might say: “this space, yes, but for which piece of art?”.
An agency for an artform in its infancy
We’re creating the agency Le Pixel Blanc today in order to be fully involved in this adventure. Seeking to provide a space of coproduction for new creations, an inter-space for artists and members of the public, the agency’s vocation is the promotion of new media art; so that the living pieces of art comprising it find their place in the social space; be it public, or private.
The heart of digital art lies in the invisible. The heart of the public experience of it lies in the public’s relation to what’s invisible. The aesthetic adventure has only just begun, but, already, artists, producers, and promoters are getting together to celebrate the birth of a new kind of work. We live in a revolutionary age, an age of great enthusiasm; the dawn of a golden era for artistic invention.
The Pixel Blanc team is proud and delighted to play an active role in this adventure!
Co-founder and Artistic Director, Le Pixel Blanc