Tuesday 19 March 2013

Loosely connected thoughts

If I was going to run my dream conference next week - with no boring reality-based questions like 'where?' and 'how to get everyone there?' and 'how to make it free?' - my topic might be: art made by technology.

I haven't gotten very far on planning this, but thinking about it has been sparked by Dan Catt's latest post, on simulated landscape paintings made from simulated landscapes.

Catt has used a Photoshop filter by Alien Skin designed to make digital images look like they were handpainted (inside my head, I feel an all-technology link to Dafen, the painting village in China) creating, as the makers say, "a finished piece worthy of printing on canvas and hanging in a gallery".

He's used this filter to process screengrabs he's made from the here.com website. The above image, of Toronto, shows all the glitches in the map-rendering website that Catt has made us of to create a purposefully fake painting by a fake artist of a fake location. Lo-res images are placeholders for their hi-res versions, resulting in skyscrapers that look briefly like stalagmites, some tiles load more slowly than others, leaving blurry swathes of cityscape. He's also kept in all the here.com elements; navigation devices, feedback button, copyright notice.

Catt's piece took me back to Piotr Adamcyzk's presentation at NDF2013 (the video is online, and at just 25 minutes, I thoroughly recommend you give it a watch). Piotr works on Google Art Project, and in the second half of his talk he goes into some of the weird, serendipitous, almost sublime imagery that the technology throws up, making images that don't - can't - otherwise exist.

Take for example this grab of Sanja Ivekovic's atrium installation, Rosa of Luxembourg, at MOMA. As the works aren't copyright-cleared for use in Google Art Project, they are rendered as blocky blurs (very New Aesthetic). In his talk, Piotr went into these felicitous accidents, and proposed that a new form of art could grow from them.

This is already happening. João Enxuto and Erica Love's Anonymous Paintings, for example, take these blurred paintings and turn them into inkjet prints on canvas, wrapped around stretchers and hung as paintings. There's a Robin-Sloan flip-flop going on here that I find kind of irresistible  and I immediately jump to the recursive loop: imagine these paintings in an exhibition in a museum that's part of Google Art Project, captured and rendered but being obscured again in turn ....

Another aspect of Google Art Project, increasingly available on museum websites, is the extreme close-up permitted by mega-pixel images.

This, for example, is an extremely zoomed tiny part of Chris Ofili's No woman, no cry from the Tate's collection. The artist never saw the work like this - we viewers (except those equipped with extraordinarily powerful magnifying glasses) never have either. If technology is not exactly making new artworks, it's still doing something interesting, weird, experimental, playful and thought provoking. It is, as James Bridle suggests, the emergence in the real world of a digital way of making and seeing objects. And it's got my head spinning.

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