Rejecting “Digital Art”

2 11 2009

As a digital artist, did I get you attention in saying I was rejecting my chosen media?  Not really, it’s more that I am questioning and perhaps rejecting the label “Digital Art”.   The reason for this is that it is not very descriptive and also not very communicative.

Think about this for a second, with today’s technology, almost all music is ‘digital’.   It’s recorded digitally, it’s mixed digitally, it’s modified digitally, and it’s stored digitally in my MP3 player.   So why do we not call music ‘digital art’?

Because with music, what is important is the musical artist and the artist creations, the digital aspects are just tools for managing that music.  Also, since almost all music involves digital tools (including live music), calling it digital would not tell us much.

Is this different than visual art?   Maybe.   Unlike music, there is multiple genre’s of visual art that use minimal to no digital technology.   So the label ‘digital’ does describe some subset of all visual art.

As I discussed in my last post, in the early days ‘digital art’ described only a very small percentage of all art, but times are changing.   Digital art is encompassing more and more of all visual art.   For example, a very large percentage of photography is now digital.

And what we call digital art is dividing itself into a multiple of artistic forms.  Consider this list from itechsquad…

* Artistic computer game modification

* Ascii Art

* Bio Art

* Computer art

* Digital poetry

* Tradigital art

* Electronic art

* Evolutionary art

* Generative art

* Hacktivism

* Information art

* Interactive art

* Internet art

* Net art

* Performance art

* Radio art

* Robotic art

* Software art

* Sound art

* Systems art

* Video art

* Virtual art

So, is it time we dumped the label ‘Digital Art’?





10 responses

16 05 2010

You bring up an interesting point. In my opinion, art is art (regardless of what media is used). I see the word “digital” in “digital art” as more of a way of describing what kind of art. When I hear people use the term “digital art,” I just assume they’re just being specific.
Also, some artist use digital technology to enhance their artwork. For example, many photographers use Photoshop to enhance their work. Sketch artists may use another program to color and shade their sketchbook drawings. Does this fall under what is called “digital art” or is it more of a “half-breed” art?
Either way, digital art has multiple meanings. I can’t say that it’s replacing visual art because I think people should appreciate visual art more now that digital art is taking over. But, like I said, art is art to me.

16 05 2010
Marla Louise

I think my point here is does ‘digital’ really tell us much in the modern age? Almost all art is digital more or less, especially in fields like music, film, and games, but as you point out even visual arts makes large use of the digital.

So is the adjective ‘digital’ becoming almost a null word?


16 05 2010

I don’t think it’s become a null word just yet. Just because there are still so many people who favor visual over digital and I think it’ll stay that way for a while. I also think it’s important to distinguish digital from visual. You’re right though, a lot of things are digital now, as we are in a digital age. I think we’re working towards the point of digital art just become art, but I don’t think that time will come anytime soon.

3 07 2010
troy eittreim

The word “digital” is a catch-all for most folks who don’t even have the vocabulary to lable “classic” genra, much less new media. As an artist, I know, I too contribute to the general confusion of this term. It takes a lot of energy to explain to a lay person, what one is doing and how it relates to centuries of artworld ideas. Then, on top of that explain working methods and tools with which the average person has little to no experience. I am guilty, it is far easier to say “digital”.

3 07 2010
Marla Louise

Actually, I have more trouble explaining my work to ‘traditional artist’ than explaining it to lay persons 🙂


18 01 2011

I hate the term “digital”, however seem at a loss to know what to replace it with. Regardless, the biggest thing stopping any digital painting etc getting the credibility it deserves is the “traditional” artist who devalues the digital painting saying “anyone can do that” or “it lacks the feeling that the viewer gets from touching real paper etc”.

18 02 2011

Thanks for this blog Marla. Gave me a real buzz to find it here. Yep, I use the term ‘digital’ for my art simply because it’s difficult to find an alternative. But I agree – art is art. However try telling that to ‘trad’ artists who seem to think the creating digital art from scratch, or even by layering textures over photos, is somehow a snack to do! (I see you’ve tried lol-isn’t that fun? Like erm… a kick-in-the-head fun!)

The one great plus of working digitally, is not having to throw away botched up beautiful papers or canvases in some cases.

Cost doesn’t come into overall, as maintaining a computer, and having the right art software is, if anything, even more expensive than buying and replenishing oils and mediums. I miss the delicious scent of some of my favoured oils, and the immediacy of pastels, but I no longer have the space needed to be free to spread myself out, or drop pastel dust everywhere. Being able to transfer my ideas into another art form that gives me so much freedom is a blessing.

19 02 2011
Marla Louise

I received an application for an art show the other day, and it it they specifically excluded ‘digital art’ while not excluding any other art form. But they specifically included photography.

I wrote them asking them to please delineate the difference between photography and digital art so I could decide if my work would be accepted. They couldn’t and then backpedaled saying they didn’t mean it (possible since I’ve seen wording like that before, and one group copies another groups forms).

2 05 2011
victoria squire art and design

Very interesting topic to me. I’m an artist who works “traditionally” and “digitally.” In 2011, many years after painting with a computer was first done; artists and viewers of digital art are still very much skeptical and uneducated about digital art. With electronic music, it is known presumed that a great deal of skill is required. Whereas with digital visual art is considered cheating or unpure. It’s a shame that digital is still not widely accepted. Defending it is tiresome.
I’ve written about digital art and will be doing some more writing in the future. Feel free to check it out.

6 10 2011
Dave Simkus

I believe it should just be called art. Although, digital art just sounds cool. It sounds modern.

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