Wednesday Bits: On Art and Technology

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Images from John Rafman’s show at Zabludowicz Collection in London

I’m going to give it up for Lee Rosenbaum who had the balls to finally point out that museums, eager to find ways to use and to appreciate the latest technology, have offered a lot of fluff and not enough substance. Art which uses technology or which is comprised of digital experiments often rests on novelty, or, worse, a Disneyesque entertainment aesthetic.

However, this is not to say that technology has no important role to play in the art world. From geo-fencing and beacon signals used to guide guests at fairs and museums, to DNA signature patches developed to prevent the spread of forgeries, technology is providing genuinely useful tools that are quite specific to cultural needs.

Take 3D technology for instance, sure it brought us some god-awful stuff like Rob Pruitt’s hideous Andy, but advanced 3D printing can reproduce paintings with brushstroke accuracy that can be felt by the blind and 3D scanning can be used to improve accuracy in the restoration of damaged treasures.

Adam H. Weinert
Adam H. Weinert

As for original artwork that uses technology as a medium, most of us would be hard put to discuss a piece that isn’t just toying with novelty.

There have, however, been exceptions. For the very finest example of artwork enhanced by the use of technology, I’d point to performance artist, Adam H. Weinert’s 2014 postmodern masterpiece, “THE REACCESSION OF TED SHAWN” in which the artist reacts to a hole in the MoMAs archive where Ted Shawn should have been.

The story is best told as a series of events

  • Weinert is invited to recreate some of choreographer, Ted Shawn’s early work at the Museum of Modern Art as part of their “20 Dancers of the XXth Century” show.
  • While researching the dances, Weinert learns that Shawn had gifted footage of his work to the MoMA in the 1940’s, but the museum gave them away.
  • Weinert felt that the MoMA had broken with their policy not to sell or give away works by living artists and suspected that the museum had not, at the time, considered dance to be an important part of their program.
  • Weinert decides to re-accession the choreography of Ted Shawn to the MoMA by using Augmented Reality and a mobile app.
  • The app allowed viewers to find triggers that Weinert placed in the same locations where Shawn originally performed them.

It’s going to take some time to see truly post-net, post digital, use of technology by artists but Weinert’s piece was a good start. It may be telling to note that he used the simplest bar-code, Q-Code, image responsive technology to create an interactive installation that resonated and was meaningful. Low on technological WOW factor, the work was high on concept.

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