What is the difference between using digital technologies as a tool versus as a medium?
I take photographs every week; in the summer, I have a camera with me everyday. While I started with my older brother’s Brownie Hawkeye camera, now I use a digital camera to capture an image on a CCD that is, then, saved on an SD (Secure Digital) memory card. The downloaded images are sized; adjusted for contrast, brightness, and color; then saved with Photoshop software. The albums of saved images are archived on a backup drive before the SD memory card is emptied for the next shooting opportunity. When I enter my matted and framed photos into art shows, they are placed in the photography category and are judged by that category’s criteria. Digital technologies are used as tools for my photography; the finished artwork is still a photograph and I consider myself to be a photographer. Digital Art lists the categories of artwork that use digital technologies as a tool:
- Digital imaging: photography and print
I believe that painting from a digital model is another category that is also discussed in our text.
Digital technologies aren’t only tools for artists (painters, sculptors, printers, etc.) who create with other media; sometimes, the digital technology is the artist’s medium. While working on a research paper about Jenny Holzer, I recently learned that she began her art career as a painter but found her voice in her art installations of typographical projections—in her truisms. The moving digital projections fill the sky and cover building faces; they transform famous outdoor structures into nighttime sculptures. A 2005 restoration of the Guggenheim’s Frank Lloyd Wright building culminated in 2008, with the unveiling of the newly restored façade and a site-specific light projection by Jenny Holzer entitled For the Guggenheim. The artist’s own political messages and translated poetry of Nobel prize-winning Polish poet, Wislawa Szymborska, comprised the text that was exhibited each Friday at sunset. The large-scale projected texts suffused the exterior with a play of light and changing language, transforming it into an environment for observation, gathering, and discussion. The computer interface, timed lighting changes, and projected truisms are among the digital media that Jenny Holzer used in her Guggenheim creative expression. The exhibit closed at the end of 2008.
Digital technologies are used as the media for several categories of art. Christiane Paul lists those categories:
- Film, video, and animation
- Internet art and nomadic networks
- Software art
- Virtual reality and augmented reality
- Sound and music
Artworks that use digital technologies as their medium are as varied as artists’ conceptions and the availability of current technology. Combinations of technologies may be used in the same artwork, as when animation and Internet are combined in the same digital installation. And sometimes, the boundaries between technologies, such as virtual and augmented realities, are blurred.
Whether I use Photoshop to manipulate camera images or the internet to create a montage of pixels, digital technologies are used for both. In the case of photographic manipulation, digital technology is a tool; in the case of an Internet montage, digital technology is the medium for artistic expression. Below is an example of my using the digital technologies of camera and software to create a 2007 self-portrait—after a fall outside the Denver Art Museum.