When Art and Technology Collide
BY: OLIVIA MORREALE
Robotics and technology have transformed our daily life and now they’re transforming our museums and the art itself. Organizations such as the Knight Foundation have been some of the first to recognize tech’s ever-rising significance, providing grants to help audiences understand art and artist’s use of applied sciences. Artists are starting to get excited about this transformative period too; as professor and artist Eric Standley of Virginia Tech explains: “Every efficiency that I gain through technology, the void is immediately filled with the question, ‘Can I make it more complex?’” In other words, robots and artists have joined together to take over the world—and we’re intrigued.
1. The art is more interactive than ever thanks to virtual reality.
Ever wonder what the colors on the murals of ancient temples used to look like? At the Detroit Institute of the Arts, a mobile program called Lumin uses augmented virtual reality to give you an idea. When pointed at a piece in the collection, a mobile device equipped with Lumin will show much more than meets the eye, including colors, figures, and restored ruins. The app will even show you an X-ray view of the skeleton inside a mummy. Eerie, but cool nonetheless.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, another program called Blippar uses augmented reality to animate paintings such as Van Gogh’s “First Steps”—although it’s questionable as to whether this is an acceptable liberty to take. What if Van Gogh wanted his oil paintings to stay oil paintings?
2. Tour guides are now digital.
It’s Google Maps , but the art museum remix. Museums like the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago are creating digital scavenger hunts to engage art audiences and to point them towards masterpieces that they otherwise may have missed completely. In Pennsylvania, the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh used their grant from the Knight Foundation to fund an SMS chat box, which also chats directly with visitors in place of a museum docent—convenient and it comes with an “off” button.
3. 3D printing is restoring the classics.
At the De Young Museum in San Francisco, they’ve been using 3D printing for behind-the-scenes maintenance with the creation of a cradle for an 18th-Century clock in their collection. Museums are also exposing visitors to art with 3D-printed pieces like the reprinted elements of submerged mythical sculptures and undersea scenes at the Vizcaya Museums and Gardens in Miami (another Knight Foundation grant recipient).
Artists have also begun to incorporate 3D printing into their creation process, like Eyal Gever’s “Laugh Star” which is a printed sculpture which portrays the waves created by the sound of human laughter, was commissioned and then launched into space by NASA as the first sculpture in zero gravity.
4. Robots have feelings, too.
With the rise of technology, artists are making new friends—literally. In London’s Barbican Centre, a design group called Miniaforms has developed an exhibit called “Petting Zoo.” Snakelike robot tubes hang from the ceiling and react to human movement, speech, and laughter by bending and changing color; the tubes bend and twist next to large groups and loud noises, and relax when visitors walk calmly through.
Artist Sougwen Chung, a resident at the New Museum’s NEW INC in New York, combines technology and art through collaboration with a robotic arm with a project called “Drawing Operations;” as Chung draws on the page, the arm responds with its own drawing, creating an artistic performance along with the piece itself.
In Russia, artist Dmitri Morozov created a device, complete with plastic nose, that utilizes sensors to measure pollution in the air. The device then transforms the data into shapes and colors and creates a moving picture that represents pollution visually— and gives a whole new meaning to “environmental awareness.”
5. Conceptual filmmaking is more present than ever.
We’re not talking about your typical visit to the planetarium. For instance, Macon, Georgia, the FullDome Festival is providing a platform for creators of multi-dimensional short films to exhibit their work through the use of the latest immersive media technologies currently available. Though in the past Fulldome productions have typically been catered to science exhibits, the Macon FullDome Festival and other exhibits like it are presenting an entirely new space and an entirely new medium for artists to create. The future is bright—better put on those 3D glasses.