Thursday, February 14, 2008

Art and the CAVE

Often I find in this class that the digital media we are exploring grinds against most of everything I have previously thought of as art, though in subtle ways. Another blog post commented on the nature of randomness in the creation of poetry in digital media; I don’t think this is nearly as counter-intuitive to poetry and art as one can think. After all, some of Jackson Pollack’s best drip works are random. Other artists have experimented with randomness by throwing darts at balloons filled with paint, spinning a canvas around and spitting paint on it, covering the body with paint and throwing it at the canvas, or many other ways. So I don’t think it’s the randomness in digital media that makes it counter to my concept of art.
My definition of art is simple: a finite piece that inspires the spectator to view the world differently. Fellow freshmen will remember reading de Botton’s book on Proust and hearing about Chardin, the painter who painted peaches rather than palaces, but whose peaches were far more beautiful than any palace. The great works of the Renaissance inspire the spectator to think about perspective, to wonder about their meaning. Avant-garde, abstract pieces similarly invite the spectator to wonder why this is so important, and perhaps reevaluate their perspectives on the world. Film, photography, and music invite us to open our eyes and ears and change. Minimalist art especially comes to mind; an artist I’ve had the pleasure of meeting once put a painted orange 2 by 4 on a stop sign in New York and traffic accidents decreased drastically. People literally looked at the world differently by paying attention to this sign that was out of the ordinary. The bright orange gates through Central Park, New York: joggers would comment that, even though they had ran through this part of the park every day for the past few years, they had never noticed that fountain behind the gate, or that separate trail. Art changes the way we view the world.
My experience with the CAVE, however, got me thinking. I don’t think it applies directly to my definition of art. When the demonstrator showed us the prototype of the six-sided CAVE, a full cube, it made me think that digital media’s goal is to create another world, instead of comment on this one. Cyberspace. Granted, film and written works create other worlds, diegeses, that are not our own, but through their examples we learn and apply to our own. I think, if CAVE and digital media continues on its trend toward creating a fully functional and complete cyberspace, it will spawn a second world completely to its own. It will become entirely reflexive. A virtual reality based on its own set of rules and independent of the one we currently inhabit. And then I think it will cease to be art, and lose its value.
Or maybe I’m just a Luddite.

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