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Multimedia Art

Page history last edited by ajsmith@iwc.edu 15 years, 5 months ago



New Media Art


New Media art is the accepted term used by artists creating art work using new media technologies which simultaneously engage multiple senses and includes the use of: computers, robotics, and biotechnologies.  New Media artists do not use the traditional art methods of painting, sculpture, and drawing to communicate a concept. [3]  Due to its dependance upon the Internet and other computer technologies, New Media art has been an international art movement since it bagan. [1] 


Once called Media art, Software art or Multimedia art, the term New Media Art came into acceptance by 1994 as major media companies created new corporate divisions called: "new media".  These corporate divisions focused growth energies into developing new media forms like DVD's.  Simultaneously the art world began using the term: "New Media art" to describe their works which included interactive multimedia installations as well as Web-based art which relies heavily upon using new media technologies, focusing primarily upon computer hardware and software.  It is the goal of the New Media artist to use these technologies to explore the political, cultural and various aesthetic uses for these technologies.[1]


A ground-breaking New Media work done in 1995 by two European artists, Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans combined art (influenced by Dada) and the Web to visually marry fine arts and technology.  This Web-based artwork using green text and flashing lights was called jodi.  [1]  Some critics would argue that it is not really art if a computer is doing most of the work. [2]  Since the birth of Modern art which emphasizes concepts, art has taken great strides in exploring unchartered terrain as artists continue to explore what is art.



History of New Media Art


New Media Art origins are traced back to the early 20th century as literary, visual, musical, and architectural artists moved away from manistream and traditional methods seeking instead the new technologies available since the advent of electricity.  Young artists sought to reject tradition is favor of moderism thereby creating a new kind of art without the imposed standards of existing critics, editors, and public opinion.  These artists relied on the media: newspapers and radio to create public awareness and stir wider acceptance for their efforts.  Early movements include: Italian Futurism, Russian Constructivism, German Bauhaus, and Dada. 


Later in the 1950's Pop art developed as a way for artists to connect the advertising and commercial influences upon popular culture.  Artist Roy Lichtenstein was very influencial in the development of Pop art.  He used images taken from comic books and created large scale paintings.  As this art form developed, artists typically ventured farther away from popular culture the origianl source of inspiration to reconnect with more traditional art definitions.  New Media artists likewise work with the popular forms of media and have chosen to remain using those media to develop their works.     


Happenings were audience participatory performance art was created by Allen Kaprow in 1959.  He was interested in getting audience members to particpate with actors in the event while constructing their own meaning of the events.  Kaprow held these performances in unique locations, using both planned as well as improvisational performances to network between time, space, and people.  This concept is related to New Media art in its interactive dialogue just as the Internet, new media technologies including webblogs allow people to connect without regard to time or space. [4]  Later, Andy Warhol developed this idea calling his creation: the Exploding Plastic Inevitable.  This also was a live multimedia performance art concept challenging traditional views and interpretations of art as it relates to new technology, marketing and popular culture. 


Conceptual art developed during the 1960's and focused its attention upon the content of works of art rather than on the actual form (painting or sculpture) of the art.  In this way, Conceptual art is closely linked to New Media art as both art forms concentrate significant energy into the message or idea behind the art.     


Video art was conceived in the 1960's as artists, such as Nam Jun Paik and others, began using the portable video camera, called PortaPak to 

investigate the affects technology, especially TV [1] has upon culture.  In 1973 "Global Groove" aired on TV and it further developed Marshal McLuhan's idea of the 'Global Village' in which Paik aided to by stating that TV should air weekly programs depeicting music and dance from countries across the planet.  It was his belief that this concept would be innovative for education and entertainment. [5] 


As the art world of the 1970's shifted into less defined movements of art and then in the 1980's as artists, curators and critics proclaimed the death of the relevance of painting, more artists investigated the use of video and installation works.  These types of art works were now featured in annual national and international art exhibitions.  This is the point in art history where New Media art becomes mainstream. [1]


Game Art

Pictoral History of video games: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkmrvg0ezWw&feature=related 

An early example of video games: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZZT4n1fzG8




The Connection Between Art and Technology  

During the late 1960's the art world began to develop a growing interest in the possible outcomes of artists working with technological engineers and experts.  It was in Los Angeles specifically that the curator of the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of art decided to develop this very project. [9]  To learn more about this groundbreaking collaboration of work go to:http://collectionsonline.lacma.org/mwebcgi/mweb.exe?request=epage;id=501865;type=803




New Media art requires the collaborative efforts of artists and technologically skilled people to complete projects.  This art form also invites and requires the active particiapation of viewers just as was the case in the Happenings events of the 1960's and 70's. [1]


These artists practice the open sharing of their works between other artists.  This became a problem for artists as new laws developed to protect intellectual property rights were enacted by demand of corporations, film makers and the recording industry sought to protect their interests and sales. [1]    



Implications for Media Ecology

"It is my belief that computer and media technology will continue to have an increasingly profound effect on everyone on the planet... and if artists don't jump in and proactively help shape these powerful new tools, it will be left by default to advertisers, the military, organized religion, and sex peddlers." 

-Michael Naimark, 1979 [6]


New Media artists have been accused of not knowing art history and do not related their work to earlier movements like Dada and Pop art.  Artists working in this genre contest that they do indeed reference earlier work, however, it is interesting to note that often they go back into the video art of the 1960's and 70's most often as their historical point of connection. [1]  This would suggest a new timeline of history being developed as Marshall McLuhan's work of the early 1960's suggesting that the world of print and literacy was in decline with the birth of the electronic revolution.    


In 1983, Media artist, Bill Viola developed work to explore spaces which held cultural history; comparing temples in ancient Greece to modern storage spaces or 'dataspaces' on computers believing that computers are the "next evolutionary step" in this memory saving process.  He builds on this idea to suggest that data exists beyond the traditionaly ideas of time and space and will therefore be available to use and reuse in multiple ways for various purposes. [7]  Time and space manipulation is at the heart of media technology advancements and of great importance for humans to understand our roles, abilities and the meaning of being human.  Time and space theory was developed to a great extend by media theorist Harld Innis during the 1950's. 


New Media artists comment on issues ranging from the corporate rhetoric and practices by making parody logos and ad campaigns often criticizing marketing tactics and artists have even solicited the aid of the very companies they wish to point their criticism towards. [1] 


These artists are interested in reaching the public with political commentary like New Media artists, Sosolimited, who created a live remix version of the 2008 Presidential debates called: “ReConstitution 2008” (depicted below).  They have developed software that displays the number of times a candidate says a word, for example.  The images and words float across the screen and then form intricate shapes likened to molecular models. [8]  The implications for media ecology are seen wherein people are asked to investigate, interrpret, and analyse the effects of media, yet with a focus on the content to some extend which is of lesser importance to theorists like McLuhan and Neil Postman, who maintained that the form of the media is more important then the content.  This concept is at odds with art contemporary art, however, which empahsizes content or message above the form of the work.  There is also concern regarding the impact of altered appearances of the candiates on screen as media ecologists have already developed the idea that TV (McLuhan's idea: TV is a 'cool' media) is a media filled with potential to either negatively or postiviely impact public opinion not necessarily based on actual words but appearances. 



“ReConstitution 2008” 

To see more about Sosolimited's work go to: http://www.vimeo.com/926778?pg=embed&sec=926778 



[1] https://wiki.brown.edu/confluence/display/MarkTribe/New+Media+Art+-+Introduction 

[2] http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2008/10/14/software-helps-artists-but-are-they-cheating/  

[3] saffronart.com/sitepages/glossary.aspx

[4] http://www.artmuseum.net/w2vr/timeline/Kaprow.html

[5] Nam June Paik / Global Groove (excerpt)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekHEQcYvgMI

[6] http://www.artmuseum.net/w2vr/timeline/Naimark.html

[7] http://www.artmuseum.net/w2vr/timeline/Viola.html

[8] http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/07/arts/design/07deba.html

[9] http://collectionsonline.lacma.org/mwebcgi/mweb.exe?request=epage;id=501865;type=803



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