In the mid-1830s, French artist Louis Daguerre captured images on iodine-sensitized silver-plated copper sheets, producing history’s first photographs and forever altering the course of art. As the next several decades passed, artists used similar processes to capture portraits of world leaders, space, and historical events. The end of the nineteenth century brought the first consumer camera—and today, thousands of people Instagram high-resolution images of their brunch. What a time to be alive.
The importance of tech in art is nothing new. From something as significant as photography to something as simple as portable paints, emerging technology has long been the art world’s greatest enabler. While more classical and traditional styles of art-making are still alive and going strong, many of today’s artists are testing the limits of today’s most innovative mediums.
Lasers, light snakes, and robots—oh my!
Love the idea of adopting a pet, but feel less than psyched about the responsibility of caring for a living, breathing animal? Petting Zoo, a project by experimental design firm Minimaforms, might give you hope. This art installation—made up of several snakelike tubes that bend and change colour depending on your sounds, movements, and touch—provides attendees a peek into a future, when artificial pets will learn and adapt to human moods.
If you just want to check out a good ol’ painting, you might prefer Rising Colorspace, an abstract work of brightly coloured lines covering the wall of a gallery in Berlin. While you might expect that the work was painted by a Jackson Pollock-inspired, neon-obsessed art student, the creator actually resembles a paint-pen-toting Roomba. The small robot, called a Vertwalker, was designed by two inventive German artists to constantly overwrite its work. So long as there’s someone around to change the batteries, the machine could theoretically paint forever.
But art doesn’t need to be tangible to appreciate it, as evidenced by Assemblance, an exhibit created by London art collective Umbrellium. Here, visitors move through lasers and smoke to create temporary, interactive light structures across the floor. While the artists created the concept, everyone participates in the act of creation.
Is everyone an artist?
Of all the technology innovations in the digital age benefiting artists, few offer as much opportunity as 3D printing. Today, you can quite literally print anything your mind dreams up—assuming you can make the blueprint. Artists have used 3D printing to create everything from jewelry and comic book figurines to life-size car sculptures, household products, and a replica of King Tut’s tomb.
Don’t have access to 3D printer? No problem. Even public libraries in bigger Canadian cities have access.
The possibilities for 3D printing are already endless. This technology is poised to continue its rapid evolution well into the next decade—and will likely become less expensive. But the answer to the question of whether tech in art makes us all artists depends on what you consider art. While recent tech advancements have unlocked more media than ever, not everyone possesses the aptitude, skill, creative energy, or desire to make art. It’s highly doubtful the ability to build light structures through laser beams or access to a 3D printer will make everyone a Da Vinci, anymore than a smartphone and a YouTube account makes someone the next Spielberg. Or does it?