Digital Arts in 2014
Provisional version, subject to revision.
Using the whole of diccan's contents, we present here an attempt to summarize the state of digital arts at the beginning of 2014.
1.OUR DATABASE AND STATISTICS
We have made a list, as exhaustive as we can, of all the artists known as digital. We have found at present more than 1800, a figure we reckon must be nearly the two thirds of the total number of “digital artists”.
Our figures contrast with the global ICC (Cultural and Cration Industries) report done recently by Enrst & Young for the French Governement. We list some some 500 digital artists in France, where E&Y figures reach 1,2 million people for an economic value of 75 billion euros: Music 8.6, Video Games 5, Cinema 4.4, TV 14.9, Graphic and Plastic arts 19;8, Living spectacle 8.4, Press 10.7, Books 5;6, totalling 78.9, but there are some common budgets.
How to explain the difference between 500 and 1.2 million? We count only artists and not all the people working for art, we let aside the entertainment arts (with their large teams), and we count as digital only those who go beyond a simple capture of text, images or video with a computer.
The role of digital techniques is rather different between "fine arts" and "entertainment art".
1.1. The regional distribution
Our base is certainly biased, since we establish (and constantly update) it from a definite point on the surface of Earth: Paris. And even general sources of information as Google tend to customize their answers, so that an New-Yorker of a Californian would give quite different answers to the same requests.
How important is the bias? We cannot know. But, even if we halve the figures, it tends to prove the cultural dynamism of France, and to show the effectiveness of our “cultural exception”.
Europe (outside of France) makes par with the North America (USA + Canada)
New ideas are coming from China an Korea, as for instance Be-ing in space, by Unzi Kim
Asia is emerging. Japan, China, Korea (with original artists like the Korean Unzi Kim or the Chinese Du Zhenjun). This region is certainly underrepresented due to their use of ideographic languages which are difficult to get at on Internet. Japan exports mainly entertainment art (animes and mangas) not included in our database.
In spite of this bias, all countries show similar repartitions among forms of art, historical trend and even gender proportion.
1.2 “Entertainment” and “fine” arts
In entertainment, technologies are massively used, notably in illustration, page setting, cinema and games. But:
- they generally remain hidden to the spectator, but at times to promote a novelty (Techno music, 3D cinema),
- they are not used at a high level of the design, which remains the work of identified authors, and conform to traditional models (happy end, political correctness).
In fine arts, technology is either clearly apparent or frankly rejected. In both cases, that goes with a will to surprise, sensitize, alert the public about sensitive issues (ecology)... including the technology itself: surveillance or, as show Magali a work of Magali Desbazeilles, cultural homogenization.
1.3. Forms of art and convergence
Multimedia is the main form of art, but is a domain without clear boundaries, and many artists we count here are also musicians or graphists.
Still images (painting and photography) dominate. Partly because here we have the most of artists, the ability to work with comparatively modest means (budgets, teams). And because the "artists" we list conform more or less the the traditional world of art. Our figures do not include (or marginally only) illustration, "matte painting" and more generally entertainment art.
- Moving images (cinema, video) come just after. Here also, we do not include (how could we do, anyway?) the thousands of anonymous workers in cinema and games industry.
- Then comes music.
- Live performance is more and more entering the digital field.
The rise of transmedia will probably blur the traditional art boundaries, and perhaps let emerge new art categories.
1.4. The market is opening
Digital art takes its part in the good (and even "mad" according to some commentators) trend on the contemporary world of art.
Public and collectors respond positively. Several artists we know say that they are more striving to deliver than lacking customers. All the shows were successful and sometimes crowded. And still better for the artists, galleries and show organizers say that they sell. That is enough to give work to the galleries and afford some digital artists to live of their art.
Prices remain generally well below those of more traditional forms of art. But we seem to grow out of the small circle of fans where digital arts remained confined up to recent months.
Literature, as properly a digital art, is a small world. Globally, indeed, books, press and radio amount to some 12 billion euros in the French economy, and nearly 200 000 jobs.
Digital tools are of course widely used all along of the publication chain. But they are not explicitly as a source of artistic creation. Literature remains created by authors with their minds and hands (on a keyboard, of course).
Digital literature is more commonly called electronic, as proven by the name of the main ad hoc association Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) . This activity is perhaps more easy in the American-English world, where universities host "digital humanities"  departments, more oriented toward creativity that the French "Lettres" .
Communities are active also in several countries, and particularly in France, where Philip Bootz organized in last September a full week of events, and has put online a vast review  of the domain. Our base lists a a good hundreds of writers which can be considered digital. But you won't find their works at booksellers, even at shops specialized in poetry, and forget the possibility of a Goncourt prize or a celebrated bestseller. Digital art is here, even more than in plastic arts or cinema, a practice of scholars and fans. Then, what do they do?
2.1. Combinatorial vs. automatic
The basic form of properly
digital literature is generative. Philip Bootz makes the distinction between to
- "combinatorial": pre-built text fragments are assembled according to algorithms, most of the time simple pseudo-random,
- "automatic", building texts from a dictionary, syntax rules and stylistic habits of an author (or the preferences and taste of a creator).
On the "combinatorial" side, Stephanie Strickland is today one of the stars. She works by combination, using mainly a deep and long familiarity with the grand authors. For instance, Sea and Spar, which she created with Nick Montfort, is a "poetry generator which defines a space of language populated by a number of stanzas comparable to the number of fish in the sea, around 225 trillion. Each stanza is indicated by two coordinates, as with latitude and longitude. They range from 0 : 0 to 14992383 : 14992383.". Click on  and you can navigate in these space by longitudes and latitudes.
This combinatorial aspect can be graphically expressed, for instance Textrain by Camille Utterbach. It's an interactive installation. An image of the spectator, projected on a wall, intercepts a rain of characters. Proper gestures let letters combine into words and phrases.
On the "automatic" side, Jean-Pierre Balpe has reached, we find, the limits of the genre. For instance in imitating the style of Flaubert. He attained sufficient quality to deceive experts or this author: about one of these automated productions, he answered: "It's certainly Flaubert's, but I don't see from which work". But this way seems rather forlorn for the time being.
At a higher level of structures, automation of storytelling inspires a lot of research, See for instance Interactive Storytelling  and Virtual Storytelling .
Alas, none of these stories have until now reached sufficient levels of quality and innovation to call for attention beyond the scholarly circles. Noah Wardrip-Fruin  explores these limitations, in his documented study of Eliza (the dialog machine created by Joseph Weizenbaum in the mid 1960's), the Tale-Spin metanovel of James Meehan and the SimCity game. Literature, as well as graphics (see below) has met the limits of artificial Intelligence a well as collective thinking. But, in less literary writing, automated generation of text is used for "robot journalism", to believe The Guardian . It's not art, but why could it not become really aesthetic in the future?
2.3. Text with sound, image, transmedia
Digital techniques add new ways to the combination of text with sound, image, now the web, and the performance presentations of texts.
On the sound side, speech recognitition as well as oral text reading have been available at low cost for decades. But it never reached a quality of recognition and expression sufficient to use them as a proper form of art. It may just be a complement in ordinary life devices (telephone services, train stations announcements). In fact, our ears and more generally hearing system is very sensitive to weaknesses in speech, and rapidly teased if not exasperated by repeated faults and repetition itself.
Then, even digitally generated, text used in live performance must be read by human voices. Such presentations were a major part in the Cherchez le Texte week in Paris. Thas goes along with cooperative works, as for instance Poème percutant, played by Philippe Bootz, Nicolas Bauffe, Claude Moreau and Jean-Pierre Moreau.
Hypertext affords non linear structures. Some comments, both critical and poetical, are given in Mark Amerika's Metadata. .
Transmedia, in the most general sense of the term, brings here another ways of reading. Katherine Hayles comments it in depth with his book How we think , which would perhaps better be titled "How we read". She comments notably on the difference between "close reading" (stay long and concentrated on one and only text) "hyper reading" (read by surring around), stressing the values and the necessity of both practices and "machine reading" (using software to study the texts).
3. MUSIC, IN LOVE WITH “TECHNO”
"Calculation has been part of Western composition tradition for at least 1 000 years... Algorithmic composition systems cover all aesthetics and styles, with some open-ended variants offering an alternative to the fixed, never changing compositions that for most of us define the limits of music" writes Michael Edwards in the Communications of the ACM (a 10 pages synthesis).
3.1. In music, technology is welcome
What strikes, when looking at digital in music, is the serene use of technology by all.. A street singer can sell you his own CD-Roms from a dirty cardboard box on the sidewalk, and in grand music meetings; highly talented and trained singers will raise the crowd emotion through megawatt systems driven from Nasa-like control rooms.
If there is a divide between savant and popular music, it crosses the digital/analog (let's say digital/acoustic) divide. You can fill the four quadrants:
- Savant and acoustic. Mainly on new "classic" compositon, with of course more and more digital tools for the control room, the recording and broadcasting.
Björk cooperates with digital composers like Olivier Alary. Here, in Desired Constellation.
- Savant and digital. Browse for instance the Brahms database  by Ircam. But, a little less "popular" perhaps, singers like Bjork, cooperate with digital composers like Olivier Alary, use advanced instruments like the Reactable (a reactive table)... nevertheless working on her voice and pushing the expressive vocals nearly up to the orgasmic.
- Popular and acoustic. The basic Rock or Jazz group. Here also with digital tools.
- Popular and digital... and proud to be so, with generic names like Techno or Electro, and robotic attires like Daft Punk. Read Le Chant de la Machine .
A reason of this peaceful symbiosis may lie in the mere nature of music, fundamentally numeric (consciously since Pythagoras) and digital in the most physical form (since at least the first water organs, on the first century of the present era).
The number or musicians accountable as digital remains comparatively low, 155 in diccan. But many artists we list in other categories (performance, multimedia, web and even video) consider music as an important facet of their creativity and sometimes talent.
The range is wide also:
- From the educated music lover addict to high level concerts down to the common daliy commuter listening their MP3 receiver standing up in the bus. Globally, his market amounts in France to 8,6 billions of Euros and 240 874 jobs.
- From the most immediate, inarticulate and analog as possible form of expression to algorithmic construction.
- From mouth to ear, from the faint moan and the soft whisper to the shout and song forte, with or without insruments, ,music goes along with complex poetry, and it is deeply digital by nature, with natural scales and tones, well before the advent of harmony, counterpoint and the hyper-complex theories of research institutes like Ircam in France.
- From performance to recording and vice-versa, with infinite series or interpretations for a same score, with remixes, DJing, combination with image recording on DVD's, and finally to an important part in the global transmedia cloud.
3.2. Instruments: convergence into the home studio... and robots
Let's begin with an observation about instruments, which we could better call "interfaces" since they are all entry point in digital systems for amplification, recording and broadcasting. They are hyper-stable. A lot of innovations have been proposed since the first synthesizers of Theremin and Martenot in the 1930's. But, finally, the traditional instruments keep their place. Some of them dominate the stage: guitar, trumpet, sometimes drums if the group can pay for it, and of course the most digital of all, the keyboard. Traditional “acoustic” instruments keep their original form, sometimes completed by a sensor. The guitar is higly stuffed with electronics. And the keyboard has transposed on a portable set the former impressive organ console, nevertheless reaching largely higher levels of complexity.
Other instruments, like the Yamaha EWI (electronic trumpet and sax) and many others, never gained success nor managed to create really new music, in spite of efforts by famed trumpeter like Mike Davis. Only one really new interface has found its place and keeps progressing: the control surface, modern form of the double turntables.
Successful also are some automated instruments able to replace human players. The beat-box, or rhythm generators, now integrated in synthesizers, were the first to gain success, since a drummer with all its hardware adds a bulky asset in a small music orchestra. More and more "accompanists" are regularly announced, presented on stage as a sort of fun, or discretely integrated in the composer studio, which more and more is fully contained in a laptop (well sized), with possibly some peripherals (for instance high quality microphones.
On stage, keyboards, control
surfaces and mixing consoles have a serious drawback: hands on the keys and
buttons, the players offer little visual interest. At the limit, the stage is
empty, the performers invisible. That may push to make an overuse of the light
show, not always in deep coherence with the sound.
On this line, the Capture "rock group" reached limit: pop music generatively composed in real time. It's a collective work by Olivier Alary, Jacopo Baboni Schillingi, Jean-Pierre Balpe, Crystelle Bédard, Grérogy Chatonsky and Dominique Sirois. According to the different presentations, the stage and/or the floor may be occupied by some kind of sculptures, combining kinetic with laser lights. Similarly, Jean-Jacques Birgé wrote his Nabaz'mob, opera for 100 communicating rabbits, with the cooperation of Antoine Schmitt for the robots programming.
3.2. Live coding as the ultimate performance
No less extreme, the practice of live coding drives us deeper into abstraction. The music (possibly completed with images), is programmed "live", with programming languages such as Pure Data. Composition and performance progress on the same pace. As far as we have experienced, the process is quite long and the results far from pop music. But surprising enough to keep attentive formal music fans. The team, as we have seen in Nantes, for instance, may include the generation of images, more or less connece to the tunes. An extreme abstaction of DJing/VJing. Actually, in the present state, these presentations demand a solid dose of patience from the audience.
4. STILL IMAGES: THE DIVIDE
Graphic and plastic arts (including sculpture, of which we deal later) : 19,8 billion euros. 307 716 jobs, in France. It's an important part in our base , with some 300 "painters" and 60 photographers. But we could say that the digital world has united two forms of art up to now considered as strongly different (and sometimes adversary), painting and photography. There is now a general process of picture generating, combining all along different forms of artistic practice, each of one more or less digital. And artits stress one or another form of expression.
4.1. Well in entertainment, emerging in “Art”
Here, the domain is strongly divided between entertainment and art properly speaking. Perhaps due to the individualistic tradition of painting, but also with the laws of the “art market” based on originality and rarity and not on pleasure, not to say beauty.
Entertainment uses image mainly as illustration, marketed through more or less industrial production by large series and low final unit prices The world art plays on elite collectors and scarcity of art works, a scarcity artificially organized if necessary, along with the high prices that are necessary to stir the competitors.
Entertainment and illustration make a wide use of basic digital techniques (photography, compositing, matte painting). In the art market, the digital has just begun to emerge, with a notable surge in 2013 in some important art shows. We shall concentrate on this "savant" form of digital art, a vocation some nearly 400 hundred of artists... and a bread job for some stars, the majority, as in Literature for instance, living on Education or professional computer development.
The creation process begins with three kinds of image acquisition or creation: camera, hand (drawing and painting) and coding. If the images come from a camera (or from a digital images library or the web), the process goes on through two phases: compositing and rendering. In the other modes, these phases are less clearly distinct: manual operations as well as algorithms can run along the process, with possible back loops.
4.2. Painting and coding generation
The first and most ancient (Oh,
Lascaux...) is the hand gesture, controlled by eye and brain, of drawing and
painting, which a brush or a pencil on paper or canvas. The gesture can now be
done on a PC with basic software, and more recently on tablets and smartphones.
This speciality is explored,for instance, by David Hockney. Cute more deeply emotional, but at least proving the concept. Some 3D tools, for instance the free (under constraints) 3D modeler Sketchup. Some painters, like James Faure-Walker, wih a traditional painting education, combine hand painting and ulterior digital processing,
Pure coding generation is now quite outmoded, or sold as vintage (for example, Manfred Mohr works shown at Art Basel). It is still practiced by artists like Vincent Rioux. More diversified generative software are Roxame (Pierre Berger), the Painting Fool (Simon Colton) and, perhaps the most impressive of all, Aikon, by Patrick Tresset and Frederic Fol Leymarie. The latter always draws attention in a show when it robotically portraits a visitor. Some video or interaction artists propose high-resolution screen captures of their main work. It's the case for Anne-Sarah Le Meur
Aikon, The portrait painter robot of Patrick Tresset. Capture by camera, procedural stylization and robotic drawing.
.Meaningful images can also come from a synthesis of multiple images browsed from the web. Data visualization, made for practical uses, may result in artistic effects. Some artist follow that track, for instance the maps of Christophe Bruno, and of course The mechanics of emotion, by Moben.
4.3. Images from camera
Billions of pictures are shot everyday, some of which will enter the realm of Art. Note that sophisticated digital devices take their part in this acquisition. Rare are now the photographers who switch off the automatisms of focus, diaphragm and exposure time. You must be very good to to better than them, or operate in very special conditions (for example, sculptures with changing LEDs exposed in a dark area).
Some artists do not go much farther in the transformation. At the limits of the digital, several photographers show pictures interesting by their subject, although with minimal or simple touch-up. We could speak of documentary art. Wagon & Degoutin shots are daring mainly by the locations and characters they present (for instance, dancing poses of soldiers and passers-by in Irak). Norbert Hillaire records casual sights, which he calls Photomobiles.
Special sensors can replace the standard camera. Katherine Melançon creates with scanners. Nobody has yet made an artistic use of the new phenoptics cameras, which capture more of light than the traditional ones.
4.3. Compositing and remix
Assets (to use a term now common in the film indusry) are there to be combined (we could also say "remixed", in a open property context...). Compositing may be very simple, and the sky is the limit on the complexity skyline).
Julien Levesque one of the most basic. He superposes several stripes of images (possibly coming in real time from Internet), with the expected effects or similarity and contrast. Du Zhenjun combines manually a lot of similar images, for example of large towns, evoking for instance the Babel tower seen by Brueghel. Alexandre Maubert inlays seismic records of Fukushima into cloudy backgrounds. Pascal Dombis applies algorithmic iterations nearly down to white noise.
Renaud Duval and François Ronsiaux use special effects to call attention of the effects of Earth waters rising.
4.3. Filtering and rendering
Digital software offers a wide variety of filters and effects, which can be used just for get a good balance of colors and contrasts, but also to transfom the images ind depth.
Rauh, for instance, uses moderately some local effects to stress important aspects of his pictures, adding flat hues here and there. Thibault Brunet touches more in deep, with blurred landscapes.
From a graphic standpoint, the drawing robot of Patrick Tresset can be considered a form of rendering, applied by a robot arm upon a camera image and rendering with lines. But it's mainly impressive when shown as a performance.
Deeper processing can leading to
completely abstract images. On this axis:
- Sylvain Couzinet-Jacques blurs and process portraits down to cloudy shapes (which would be compared to the abstract forms of Le meur.
- Moben transforms images as a "collective retinal memory",
- Lynn Hershmandraws a target sign on the blurred image of persons,
- Christophe Luxereau gets a model of cranium then gives it specificity by meaningful hues (red for Ferrari...).
4.4. Final presentation and distribution
Once finished, most generally as an image file, the work can distributed as such. Including its making of as a performance. So does Michel Batlle showing himself painting, accompanied by a musician. Websites and social networks are the easiest and cheapest, but not apt to make a living for artists. The tradition art market and distribution (galleries, museums, auctions, books, TV) is more and more open to digital pictures, thanks mainly to devoted and active actors (art centers, galleries, curators, journalists).
5. CINEMA AND GAMES
Image creation is central for entertainment arts: cinema (“mainstream”) and video games. (Cinema in France : 4,4 billion euros. 105 890 jobs. Video games Video Games 5 billion euros. TV, games). Here also the divide is quite strong with the world of art, where new video forms are heroically digital. We shall not comment on games, which, from an art standpoint, can be considered a particular kind of interactive video.
Two preliminary remarks:
- A film even short, demands an investment considerably superior to the creation of just an image. You yave to produce at least 24 frames per second, which makes some 3 000 images for a 2 minutes work. In practice, it takes several months to a small team, when just a good image can be done in two or three hours (even if Leonardo spent several years on Mona Lisa).
- Cinema cannot exist without large sets of machines, from the production studio to the projection hall. And digitization is the only way to connect these machines efficiently, drive the flows without loss, store conveniently the assets, and finally distribute the result through the different medias.
5.1. Entertainment: the mainstream
It has reached a sort of perfection, in color and resolution,during the 1990's. Since then, it seems unable to go much forward. High definition (or even Ultra-HD) and relief (3D stereo) bring only a marginal edge to get new publics.
The most important trend presently is automation in production, with a progressive replacement of large "artists" battalions by elaborate software. That seems to be proven by the waning attendance of the grand annual meeting of computer graphics professionals, the Siggraph. It reached a summit of nearly 50 000 attendants in 1997, then shows a regular diminution, to some 20 000 on 2013, in spite of a continuous and important growth of the film market.
Versailles, by Supinfocom, won the “Best of Show” award at the 2013 Siggraph. A student project at the perfection.
2013 has perphaps been a turning point: from a massive labour industry to highly technical operations, with important investment in research and operations led mainly by engineers.
Industrialization goes along with "dematerialization" of the assets, automated workflow and standardization. As said Erik Noreke (Kronos Group), from the generation of "human readable images" we aim now to create "computer readable images". This says much in few words, for arts as well for other activities involved in graphic, ad specially surveillance.
As for still images, we have three main sources of images: cameras, hand drawing and computer code.
Cameras range today from the nearly free one in your smartphone to the high level stereo rigs. Coding and graphic gesture are jointly used in powerful software to produce animation and special effects for traditional films. For character animation, mocap (motion capture) becomes each year more easy and efficient. Even living actors can be "sampled" once and for all, and they wo'nt have to play themselves in the future.
Outside of the mainstream, experimental and "artistic" cinema or video keep going, in a wide range of realizations from the realistic/documentary to the purely abstract.
5.2. From strict realism to sensual poetry
As in photography, some artists propose mainly documents. Digital tooks are only the way to get original images. For example, Magali Daniaux uses of a webcam to give images of a remote place (Antarctic) where you cannot actually live.
But the processing can go deeper. Marie Sester shoots industrial objects through X-ray videos then works digitally on the shots. Edouard Sufrin films the night down to nearly black images. The Trafik group does the same, in a more abstract, stylized form.
On first sight, the Perconte's videos will let you think that something bugs in the projector or film reader. But he is an expert at turning glitch into artistic effects. He pushes the compression/decompression algorithms to their limits and uses the defects to generate indefinitely new images, even when he starts from a long camera shot on sea waves. He is also able to control the effects in real time, offering then a constantly renewed experience, and possibly cooperating in the show with the composer or his music. The abstract plays of Jef Guess on pixels, are comparable to Perconte's glitch, with different means,
Human body and faces are meaningful topics for many artists. Petra Cortright films herself. Catherine Ikam shows interactive portraits. Anaisia Franco blends video with the images of the spectator.
Presentations of the human body can extend to large immersive spaces, like the slow evolution of dancers by Ulf Langheinrich.’s Movement. Symmetrically, the body may be seen as inside a shower cabin, with Be-ing in space by Unzi Kim. All these works (but Cortwright who is rather funny) speak with a sort of gravity, if not sadness. Kim makes an exception, with the erotic load of his cabin, around which spectators are like voyeurs. But, as far as we could see or find in images, it remains quite soft. Human body demands respect. To enter in the visions of Kim or Langheinrich, you must take your time.
5.3. A favorite domain for abstract graphics
If abstract digital painting is now an exception in still images, it is a field of choice for many artists, generally with programming education, or cooperating with computer professionals.
The purest of all is Antoine Schmitt and his "pixels" generative works, actually small white squares. Their moves oppose freedom (by random) to constraints (algebraic or geometric rules). Easier to appreciate and generously colored (sometimes with some interaction), we find the recent works of Yaacov Agam, (a veteran still creative), Carlos Cruz-Diez or Santiago Torres, among many young talents.
Some artists take digital technologies as their subject. Provocative in it's minimalism, but you can take it as conceptual art, Matthew Biederman shows the three values or the RGB color code over a backgound of the corresponding tone. Samuel Bianchini presents a bugging program writing about himself. Something like the good old paradoxes of Cretan. Constant Dullaart takes an evil pleasure in mocking his spectators (including his dissuasive ever changing website). .
Others reach abstraction through intensive processing of images: Grégory Chatonsky (he works in many other domains) with enlarge fingerprints, Jan-Roberg Leegte lends a "natural" texture to a monochrome (blue) picture, à la Yves Klein.
Generative processing applied to video has been for long a specialty of Miguel Chevalier, mainly with vegetal growth models (using generative grammars), but with a large diversity of algorithms.
Pia Myrvold multiplies her images through a bush of screens, with the wires evoking roots and stalks, The Spamm group tends to integrate documents into video , but only as secondary, let's say decorative motifs in complex real-time video performance Abstract, tending for document integration.
Video can be interactive. But, outside the world of games, interactive by nature, image artists are not really motivated, and generally claim (or think in silence) that they have to remain the authors of their work, and then not to let the public take it as a game. . It may lead to interaction, as does Ikam. But interaction is more frequent and natural with objects. Moreover, interactive works are particularly prone to obsolescence. Hundreds of artistic interactive CD-Roms have been produced in the 1980's (see Murray) very few of them run on a a today's computer.
As part of transmedia, video is
central, cooperating both ways with other forms of art:
- it is a way of recording performances, or to present in a show forms of art too heavy of difficult to present, like bio-art;
- screens may be integrated in objects and sculptures or projected on anything from plates to large buildings (see below).
Let's conclude with the technical skills of two specialists of video mapping (or projection mapping), Electronic_Shadow who combine it with kinetic sculpture and Joane Lemercier, with his abstract and geometrically precise, but full of life. They and shows that the generative video has still a wide field to explore.
6. SCULPTURE AND ARCHITECTURE
The industrial facet of art objects is design. Furniture, couture and construction make a considerable use of digital techniques. Design and architecture have in common their functional facet: a chair, a nigts dress or a convention hall must fit with their destination. It would be very interesting to know how far computer is used build these functional aspects, to translate the specifications into shapes. But we did not find literature.
Then we will limit ourselves to the plastic arts, would it be only because we lack of data about the importance (human resource, budgets) of artistic creation in the objects we use everyday.
6.1. The come-back of vintage kinetics and lights
In 2013, the most striking fact is the come back of vintage plastic techniques: kinetic and lights It may be surprising that motors and lights keep such a place in the realm of digital art, much more "modern" and possibly complex.
Vintage works of Jean Tinguely (more kinetic) and François Morellet (more known for his neon tubes) are well present in art shows. A veteran but little known kinetic artist like Peter Keen is exposed again.
Even more surprising, younger
artists carry on this form of art: the opening/closing books of Robin Moody, or
the bizarre garden machine of Jonathan Villeneuve, the circulating tapes of Eid
Wada and the vinyl sphere of Yuri Suzuki. Deserving a special mention, the
drawing machines of Tim Lewis are purposely crude in their material, their
design and the repetitive kind of work they do. Crude but not so easy: each one
draws, repetitively of course, a not so bad drawing: a love heart or a rabbit's
Small motors, controlled (more or less) by computers, give new air to kinetic art, with the funny grids of vibrating rings by Pe Lang and, topping the category, Elias Crespin and his smoothly moving systems of wire rectangles suspended to a battery of motors computing sinusoidal forms.
LEDs give inspiration to many artists. Le Boucher is important on the field due to his purist approach of "no secret" in sculpture integrating LED's. Alexandre Castonguay makes an elegant and funny use of LED on bicycle wheels. Using the retina remanence, a proper control of the LED's let generate any form. He has chosen texts.
Robotics proper is quite absent, if not with the elaborate works of Louis-Phille Demers. or the dogs of France Cadet.
6.2. Integration of video into sculpture
Artistic video tends to incorporate itself into sculptures, either with small screens (Thomas Israël, Marion Lachainse, Fred Penelle, Anaisa Franco…) or by projection and video mapping (Antoine Schmitt, Hugo Verlinde, François Zajega, Joanie Lemercier…).
Anaisa Franco: the morphing magic mirror in a traveller’s case.
The effects can be spectacular, like the big tree roots by Misha Margolis, bearing small screens you look at through polarizing sheets. A summit of complexity in space and time is reached with Indelible by Eric Vernhes with both a projection and an animation on a screen, parted by wooden slats. Another top, on a larger scale, nearly immersive, is proposed by Lizzie Fitch, setting a large sofa facing a screen, with several projectors and enhanced interaction.
Lab[AU] studio goes also very far in ostensible technicalities, be it by complex motorized matrices, or the encasing of several active motherboards in a large plexiglass case, with the graphical result of the computing displayed by the side on several screens.
There is at least one good reason to this integration: once embedded into a physical object, video enters the traditional frame of a "work of art", with it limited number of copies, its material form of property and, last not but not the least, legal and fiscal status.
Fabrics use digital technologies
- design tools, for intstance the designer Sy Omou,
- manufacturing tools proper (it will be art if you are an artist; it's too expensive just for entertainment),
- art embedded in the fabric, notably sensors and lights (we would say "wearable digital art"), for instance Joanna Berzowskka (lights), Anna Dumitriu (integrated bio art) or Barbara Layne (weaving with integrated messages).
6.4. 3D printing: a fad or a deep trend ?
3D printing is nothing new. It's ancestor, rapid prototyping, appeared in the late 1980's. It was used for art before 2005 by Christian Lavigne, for instance, and; at Siggraph 2006, we could see a sophisticated work, the Hilbert Cube by Carlos Sequin. But cheap models of printers are now available, and artists like Cécile Babiole and Michel Chevalier dont's miss this oportunity to diversify their oeuvre.
Particularly impressive are the baskets of Amit Zoran, who applies high level algorithms to traditional crafts. Software is also used to aid the design, for instance by foretelling if the model will be able to stand up correctly.
6.5. Architecture and urban planning
In the book Interactive architecture, by Michael Fox and Miles Kemp,  “interactive architecture is positioned as a transitional phenomenon with respect to a movement from a mechanical paradigm to a biological paradigm".
The most visible effect of digital technologies on architecture (and urban planning) is often a "skin" build around classical concrete structures (and sometimes even around ancient builidings, as in Paris the Ministry of Culture rue Saint-Honoré or the Publicis drugstore on Champs-Elysées). This skin is made of lighter materials (metal lace, glasses). It may also be "virtual" and temporary, with night projections on the sites (possibly also by day with sufficiently powerful LED grids).
Among the big names can be listed: Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman, Chuck Hoberman and Yo-Shoey Yoh. Our base counts 70 architects engaged in digital art.
Press, websites and book give generally purely aesthetic information, dealing with architecture like some big sculptures. That cannot give a proper idea of the digital part in the conception, which in architecture, as in design, starts from functional requirements.
6.6. Interaction and social engagement
Simple interactions with pleasant digital objects are offered by the matrix of fans by Djeff , the mirrors of Daniel Rozin (a long searcher on this topic) or the complex operations of De notre nature, by Eric Vernhes. The interaction is more engaging with the woman in the mirror by Jean Dubois. . We are called to a more meditative, with moves, sounds and lights in the nearly mystic, oriental mood, of Naziha Mestaoui's Corps en résonance: a line of Tibetan bowls, half filled and moved by sensors, generate interactivel image and chant. But interaction remains limited: general mistrust from the authors, and technical obsolescence difficult to counter.
Beyond interaction proper, real objects can give materiality to vast socio-politico-artistic enterprises like Ouest-Lumière, by Yann Toma. Starting from the archives of an former Electricity Provider, he has built a sort of corporation and concretizes that actively with a bike where you can pedal to produce a new form of virtual energy.
7. LIVE PERFORMANCE
Live performance make 8,4 billion euros in France, and offers 267 713 jobs. Our base lists a good hundreds of artists who consider performance as central to their art, of which 39 for dance and 10 for theater.
Performance arts differ from the plastic and writing arts by their radical insertion in time: you will never assist to a grand concert that happend yesterday, or to the trans-generational presentation of Hugo Verlinde projecting his generative videos on Nicolas Schoeffer mobile sculpture, and alternating short texts with Mrs Schoeffer. That could at least have an interesting development: it creates the kink of rarity that makes value, when digital images and sound are so easily reproducible and difficult to protect as intellectual property.
Another specific point of performance arts, practiced at high level, is their demand on physical gift completed by an education and training that must begin early. At least for dance and music.
Digital techniques can be used on
many and not exclusive ways:
- design and conception,
- image projection and sound effects on stage,
- interaction due to sensors capturing parameters on the peformers or on the audience,
- use on stage of digital devices of all sorts, including robots.
The shows can be comparatively simple, but also lead to extreme complexity with multiple interactions in "hybrid" dance or theater. For dance, some recent examples:
Hakanai, a dancing performance by Adrien M. and Claire B. Let its authors describe it : a solo choreaographic performance that unfolds through a series of images in motion. In Japanese Hakanaï denotes that which is temporary and fragile, evanescent and transient, and in this case something set between dreams and reality... a dancer gives life to a space somewhere between the borders of imagination and reality, through her interactions with the images she encounters. The images are on-stage animations that move in physical patterns according to the rhythm of the live sounds..."
Dragon and Peony by Taichi Saotome. He "battles against his own shadowgraph with making full use of projection effects. The stage with transforming and lashing out shadow consists of precise video production and the artist's talent".
On theater, Shiro Takatni's Chroma gives the dimension of this kind of works: " Chroma is an investigation into the nature of color, tone and light, a non-story of how we learn to see and create the world we see.
For Circus, the Cirque du Soleil is famed for its use of technology, actually mainly projections. In VJing, Mark Amerika has been a leader and thinker for years.
Some twenty are listed in our base under this title. Digital bio-art can be practiced at different experimental depths: representations, virtual realization, actual experience with living material.
Representations can be any form of art, images, videos, possibly some interaction. The works of Catherine Nyeki are a typical example, with music, humor... and an "antialgorithmic approcach" in spite of her computer education.
Modeling life can be sophisticated and humorous at the same time, as with this Lifewriter, by Sommerer and Mignonneau.
Modeling uses "artificial life" algorithms, like the interactive videos of François Zageja, the genetic algorithms of Alain Lioret, the typewriter used with fun by Sommerer & Mignonneau, or even the viral effects of Nechvatal (now vintage, but sometimes presented).
For geeks, or amateurs of advanced technologies like artificial Intelligence or artificial Life, the time is rather disappointing. Neither generative techniques nor interactive behaviors seem to progress sensibly. We are more in a maturing phase around traditional schemes.
Actual experience. Honf shows reactions in a series of bottels. Edueardo Kac makes a lot of experiences, for instance his luminescent rabbits. Koen Vanmechelen works with chickens, Howard Boland and Laura Cinti show Nanomagnetic plants, Oron Cattes and Iona Zurr (whithin the frame of a lrge project) show patterns on epigenetic tissues.
Some artists experiment with their own body. Stelarc has led the way since the 1980's. Orlan bears a lot of implants. She has recently went back to representation with a complete modeling of her body, presented as a cutaway moving video with non-photo-realistic rendering to send her feminist message.
At an intermediary level between actual life and software, computer viruses, properly speaking, could be considered a form of art, and are certainly practiced as such by some fans. But, for understandable reasons, they have not found their place in the world of art.
9. WEB, TRANSMEDIA AND CLOUD
Our base lists 196 "multimedia" artists and 177 "web" artists. Several of them have been quoted in the precedent parts.
9.1. Web art
Ten years ago, a synthesis has been published by Greene . What do we see today? There are several forms of "web art".
1. Use it as a communication channel. Nearly all digital artists have their own website and, more recently, social network pages. Many of them care for a a sophisticated home page and general organization, then creating a sort of art in harmony with their style and topics. See for instance the page of Stephanie Strickland. But too much art may may take to nearly unlegible sites, like the home page of Constant Dullaart.
2. Use it as distribution channel for any kind of digital work, but most of the time videos, games (downloaded or interactive). It was boosted recently by the Apple strategy of applications. It's not properly web art. A recent and really artistic example: Leonardo da Vinci's dream machine, by Nicolas Clauss and Jean-Jacques Birgé. It's an important channel to show, at least in part, videos of performances, films and of course music. With the know issues of intellectual property protection.
3. Explore it for its technical
sophistication, as a specific medium. Some examples:
- Fred Forest was a forerunner, with some 40 years of "communication art" and media combination if not subversion. He is still very active.
- Jim Andrews defines himself as a "writer/poet, programmer, visual/audio artist, and essayist on art, technology, and media".
4. Get global information and use data visualization techniques plus any plastic media to show them.
The most famed is Mark Hansen, working with Ben Rubin. In 2002, they produced Listening post a synthesis of textual web requests on a large wall of small screens. In 2010, they made something more complex with Moveable-type.
It's also a topic for Moben (Maurice Benayoun). His Mechanics of emotions starts by a cartographic presentation of emotional words used in the Google at a given time. Then these images are transformed in various forms of objects, including sculptures.
5. Show its limits and dangers, or serve militant goals
Many artists tend to make people sensitive to surveillance. Worlwide uniformization is shown by Magali Desbazeille, working in this case more as a sociologist than an artist, makes visible the fact that SMS constrains users all over the world, including countries with ideographic writing, to use the Western alphabets to transcribe their phonetics.
The most aggressive artists practice "tactical media" by using (or diverting) any media, but specially the web, to serve militant goals (See Raley ). The Critical Art Ensemble is the most famous group. But, due their voluntary stealth, many more artists practice this form of art without looking for an audience... we are on the limits of art and activism.
That takes us to the most global form of art, transmedia. In spite of its universal connotaion, the term is used mainly about television and its spreading through "the second screen" and the social media, with a lot or copy, remix and sharing,
But transmedia is an art in itself for authors like Bernardo’s Sofia. He comments in his Producers guide . Even if it is not easy for professional artists to accept it, and even more to take it into account in their creative live, amateurs are getting a new place into the realm of arts. That is stressed by a recent French Government report, L’amateur. .
9.3 Will everything merge in the "Cloud"
The term "cloud" is mainly used for computing transferred to powerful farms of servers, all more or less (but more than less) connected through Internet and high bandpass links. But this globalization applies not only to computing/processing but to memory and communication. This new space raises at least to questions to the artists: will there remain a place for professional artists, and which specific forms of art will take the place of the traditional ones.
As for the professionals, the
bad news are:
- the low price and ease of use of high quality tools (cameras, recorders, home studios, graphic software) up to now reserved to professional use, widens the offer on a limited market,
- the difficult protection of intellectual property,
- the growing concurrence by "robots", be they included in standard products (automatisms in a camera) or autonomous partners (music accompanists) or even explicitly humanoids.
The good news are:
- the enormous (unlimited ?) expansion of demand. Never in history did music or quality pictures reached so many millions and billions or spectators,
- easier distribution of art products through the web,
- for some specialties, in particular performance, the early and permanent education and training (music, theater, or even sport seen aa a form of art).
As for the forms of art, the traditional classifications, still in use today, are rapidly melting in “transdisciplinary” creation  and an “aesthesia of networks” . The new classifications, without sharp borders anyway, could form itself around psychological but also material and bodily features and social structures.
Internet links: you will find all of them, regularly updated, on our website.
Adams, R. , Gibson S. and
Muller A. 2008. Transdisciplinary digital art. Sound, vision and the new
screen. Conference, Zurich and Victoria (Canada) 2006-2007. Springer 2008
Amerika M. 2007. Meta/data, a digital Poetics. MIT Press,
Bernardo N. 2011. The Producer's Guide to Transmedia. Beactive books. Lisboa. Portugal.
Blot, D. and Cousin, M. 2011. Le chant de la machine. Manolo Sanctis 2000, 2011.
Bootz P. La literature numérique. http://www.olats.org/livresetudes/
Brahms. Database by Ircam. http://brahms.ircam.fr/
Borsuk, A. and Bouse, 2012. Between Page and Screen. Siglio Press.
Cavazza, M. and Donikian, S. (eds). 2007. Virtual storytelling. 4th ICVS, Saint-Malo. France.
Chevrefils-Desbiolles, A. 2012. L’amateur dans le domaine des arts plastiques. Nouvelles pratiques à l’heure du web 2.0. Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication. Paris. France.
Dermineur, K. 2013. L’Afrique digitale. MCD, June.July.August 2013. Paris France.
Digital Humanities. http://www.digital-humanities.com/.
Edwards 2011. Algorithmic composition : computational thinking in music.Communications of the ACM, July 2011.
ELO, Electronic Literature Organisation  http://eliterature.org/
Ernst & Young. 2013. 1er panorama des industries culturelles et creative. Au Coeur du rayonnement et de la compétitivité de la France. Présidence de la République Française, Paris, France.
Esclapez, C. 2012. Ontologies de la création en musique. Des actes en musique. L'Harmattan. Paris. Frfance
Fox, M. 2009. Interactive architecture, Princeton Architectural Press. Princeton, NJ. .
Garbagnati, L. and Morelli, P. 2006. Thé@tre et nouvelles technologies. Editions universitaires de Dijon. France.
Greene, R. 2004. Internet Art. Thomson & Houston. London. UK
Hayles, N. K. 2012. How we think. Digital media and Contemporary Technogenesis. University of Chicago Press. Chicago.
Hirsch, T. 2013. ACM Siggraph special issue of Leonardo/ISAST, MIT Press Journals, Mass.
Jenkins, H Convergence Culture. Where old and new media collide. 2006. New York University Press. New York. NY.
Jenkins, H., Ford S. and Green J. 2013. Spreadable media. Creating value and meaning in a networked culture. New York University Press. New York. NY. .
Lavrador, J. 2011. Beaux-Arts magazine, February. Paris, France.
Leech, G.N. 1969. A linguistic guide to English poetry. Longman.
Leloup, J.-Y. 2006. Digital magma. De l'utopie des rave parties à la génération MP3. Editions Scali, Paris, France.
Munster, A. 2013. An Aesthesia of Networks. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
Murray, T. 2008. Digital Baroque. New media art and cinematic folds. University of Minnesota Press. .
Paul, C. 2008. Digital Art. Revised. Thames & Hudon, 2008
Picon, A. 2010. Culture numérique et architecture. Une introduction. Birkhauser. Basel.Switzerland.
Picon-Vallin B. 1998. Les écrans sur la scène. L’âge d’homme,. Lausanne; Switzerland.
Raley, R. 2009. Tactical Media. University of Minnesota Press.
Stevance, S. (ed). 2010. Composer au XXIe siècle. Pratiques, philosophies, langages et analyses. Vrin. Paris, France.
Strickland, S.Sea and Spar. http://nickm.com/montfort_strickland/sea_and_spar_between/
Subsol G. (ed.). 2005. : Virtual storytelling. Third ICVS, 2005. Springer. .
Wardrip-Fruin N. 2009. Expressive processing. Digital fictions, computer games and software studies. MIT Presss. Cambridge, Mass.