In past blog posts, we've covered some ancient artmaking techniques, including ink wash painting. However, for our latest blog, we wanted to set our sights on the role of digital technology in art by focusing on a current exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Titled "Test Pattern," it seeks to look at "increasingly seamless exchanges of visual information in the digital age." The result is a series of prints and related media that actually use technology to slow down how we process visual art in a time where access to these images has never been easier.
Co-opting Older Technologies for Newer Uses
The title of the exhibit refers to the test cards that were previously used to calibrate color film for projectors. This concept of being using old objects extends to the way in which artists, including Lucy Raven's PR1 featured to the left, take some of these older methods and apply them to more contemporary prints. By using a screen printing process, Raven is able to capture the physical appearance of these cards against light while allowing the image itself to take on a different context in the present day.
Rather than having a functional purpose in an actual projector, these test cards are now objects hung on a wall. As a relic, rather than a functional object, the viewer is invited to reflect on how media has changed, and how other objects individuals might use have similarly changed. At the same time, a view can develop a greater appreciation of just how, despite changing purposes, now defunct art practices can maintain their relevance.
Reflecting on the Role of Physical Printmaking
In the digital age, it's difficult for artists to have a similar immediate physical contact with their work, given how artists have moved from dark rooms to their computer screens. As processing (and even printing) many images happens through digital computer software or mechanical devices, disengagement from art production is a concern for these artists. The exhibit takes steps to reverse that disengagement.
In the example to the right, Mathew Cerletty in "Quilty" takes a classic quilted textile pattern but uses software to wash out and flatten the image. The play with the physicality of the quilt's texture shows how nostalgia for these older forms of media persists. However, once again, the distance between older physical forms of artmaking and new processes are not lost. Both can exist together, in a way that presents artistic disengagement.
With more new printing technology than ever before, including a recent 3D printed sculpture in California, these questions of how old art techniques intersect with new strategies for image production will only intensify. Rather than older techniques disappearing entirely, it seems likely that more exhibits similar to "Test Pattern" will crop up to find a fusion between old and new. Feel free to share your thoughts on how you think new technology might impact the future of the art world.