Tag Archives: digital art

Art in the age of digital reproduction

Most of the art I consumes, music, movies, text, and images, comes in a digital format. A virtually unlimited digital feast for the mind and senses. And with this, the aura of exclusive access to the original that once gave cultic status to art has disappeared.

Recently I’ve been re-reading Walter Benjamin The Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. This short book by an eclectic Berlin philosopher written in 1935 continues to resonate. Benjamin examines how the aura of originality is devalued with photographic reproduction. Some his arguments still work even as we debate his conclusions.

At the start of Section V, Benjamin distinguishes between polarities of the “cultic”, the unseen value of an image and its “display”, value to the perceiver. Having a precious item in a vault is cultic value, part of a cult of exchange value. This is very different from “display value”, which is simply what you most enjoy looking at? These are a different set of values to what art costs to buy or to make: “display value” is the aesthetic separated from the economic.

Benjamin didn’t live long enough to witness the results of digital reproduction on the arts. Where the repetition becomes meaningless and, even torturous, producing overdose reactions (for example, a Barry Manilow song on repeat).

With repeat viewing, everyone can become an expert and a critic.

When there is no original, as the digital is the original, there can only be variations: the director’s cut, the extended version, the remix, the extended dance mix, the unofficial release… the t-shirt, the movie, the game … Market segmentation to sell more. Benjamin expected an increase in commodification. However, in the long term, the only ones who have made massive profits from the arts in the age of digital reproduction have been the warehouse owners and distributors.

As the aura of originality becomes more nebulous in the digital age. The record collections of Baby Boomers gather dust, and their libraries of books are given away. Now creating unique works of art is a political statement; the intention is for them to remain private, or at least constricted and restricted, drawcard attractions for blockbuster exhibitions.

Now the aura of cultic value is an area for grifters to exploit as once priests preyed on their flocks offering unseen values. NFT sellers offer ownership of digital properties, like buying seating in heaven. Will the fetichism of owning something unique become just another kink of appreciation?

Ownership is irrelevant to Owels piece, display value is everything

True Beauty @ First Site

Last Friday night at a party the printmaker Joel Gailer was stamping “THE TRUTH IS A COPY” on people – I got one stamped on my arm. I love the anti-Socratic statement as Socrates held that reality was but a copy of the true form. However, if the truth is not a good copy of reality than it not true.

The three current exhibitions at 1st Site Gallery at RMIT combine to further complicate any ideas you might have about truth, beauty, copies and reality.

“Render Complete” by Spencer Lai, Matthew Berka and Hamish Storrie, reflects on ideal beauty in “a society that is obsessed with the act of imaging itself and the spaces in which we inhabit.” It is like a digital Han Belmar doll with an Ikea catalogue. The digital simulacra are an ideal dream as the computerized narrator keeps on confessing in the video.

“Trashland” by Lucie McIntosh is about an enhanced reality, a better than real party. Naked Barbie dolls in glitter gimp masks, the repeated photographs of a head with all the details sprayed over except for the glitter lips, real glitter lips stuck on to the photographs. At one end of the space three television sets form “a shrine to instants passed by, trash punk, wasters and party people”. The only problem with “Trashland” is that there is not enough of it – the space is too empty to convince me that the exhibition really is over the top.

“Cardboard Cabin” by Harry Hay is an installation with a few paintings leading up to it. The installation is like a physical version of Hay’s paintings, with the same run-down Australian shed aesthetics. The installation of a cabin with furniture, tools and walls all made of painted corrugated cardboard. The photographs hanging on the wall of the shed in cardboard frames are photographs of a cardboard world contributing another level of simulacra. Creating a caricature copy of part of the world out of a different material has a special kind of appeal. (I was just watching the episode of James May’s Toy Story with the plasticine garden last night.)

Getting back to the old philosophical stamping grounds truth, beauty, copies and reality. “Render Complete” proposes that true beauty is an ideal dream that cannot be copied. Whereas, “Trashland” argues that reality can be beautiful but trashy. And “Cardboard Cabin” is an enjoyable copy of an ugly truth. I love the way these exhibitions confute (confutation, to confuse an argument, is less strong than a refutation but tactically can be just as successful as it is less aggressive) ideas of truth and beauty. I think this is one of the reasons that I love art because there is confutation in way that artists explore ideas.

“And let us not forget those auditory hallucinations which, as ‘Socrates’ demon’ have been interpreted in a religious sense.” – Nietzsche


Midsumma @ Platform

*UQ/Midsumma Queer City at Platform Artist Group, curated by the Art Pimp (aka Din Heagney), is a fun exhibition. The artists selected by the Art Pimp are playful, even trivial rather than serious. (“Life is too important to be taken seriously” Oscar Wilde) And there is enough variety in the art for the viewer to find something that appeals to them from photographer Linsey Gosper’s installation in Vitrine to Sam Wallman’s comic illustrations in the Majorca building cabinets.

Frame cabinet has an exhibition of records and flip animation books by the artists involved in TAPR Tape Projects. Neither music records nor flip animation books for a good exhibition in a glass case, so two videos display these works in operation.

The Underground Garden by Matt Shaw is a miniature cityscape at night. The succulents planted in a black pebble ground are trees next to the metal grates that form skyscrapers. Matt Shaw is the garden artist for Collective Melbourne, a craft/art/garden/coffee-shop in St. Kilda.

In the Platform cabinets there is, from the USA, Jombi Supastar’s extravagant multi-media drawings have the intensity and primitive power of an outsider artist. And from NZ, Jason Lingard’s elegant erotic idols are the thinking person’s eye candy. For me local artist, Freddie Jackson’s digital print morphing a mirror-ball and the death-star is one of the stars of the show; Star Wars is such high camp.

Hannah Raisin’s “Suger Mumma” in Sample is an installation that uses a lot of Fruit Loops, the brightly coloured breakfast cereal. Mounting the Fruit Loops on cling-wrap she made a one piece bathing costume and bathing cap. Then she takes a milk bath by the sea. This is all recorded on video and photos and displayed in the Sample cabinet. The sickly sweet Fruit Loops provided a counterpoint to the excitation.

Platform and the Art Pimp do not appear to be suffering any chill effect from the censorship by the City of Melbourne last year of the nude photographs in exhibition, ‘The Puma, The Stranger and The Mountain’, by Cecilia Fogelberg and Trevor Flinn. The work in *UQ are fun, erotic and sexy.


BSG Exhibitions

The rooms and stairwell of Brunswick Street Gallery (BSG) are once again full of a diverse selection of exhibitions.

Katie Saunders, “Promonation” reminded me of those all those Australian images of the beach full of young and free muscular blonde fascists. Saunders’s image fills the gallery in a mosaic of individual cards, like those used in massed stadium displays to create giant images. The acrobatics of her almost identical figures appears perfectly choreographed, like the mass displays at recent the Beijing Olympics. Saunders is inspired by her childhood in China and Chinese propaganda.

Anastasia Wiltshire, “Interplay”, is a series of paintings of ambiguous interiors with subdued colors populated with children. Wiltshire’s draftsmanship is evident in her figures. Her paintings appear incomplete creating an atmosphere of fleeting time.

Emma Anna, “Dear Indigo” is Joseph Cornell-style boxes, blueprint Rayograms (Man Ray-style), text sewn together with blue thread and a small installation of a table and chair. The colors of the exhibition are largely white and blue. With all of these art history references and artful installation the installation felt crowded and slightly impersonal. Emma Anna has chosen to promote this exhibition in the Fringe Festival.

Skye Andrew’s punk paintings of text, “It never rains in L.A.”, are full of ugly colors, splotches and crude brush strokes. These are tough uncompromising paintings in a style that is deliberately crude and tasteless.

Imants Krumins, “Peripatetic Cow The” is a visually dyslexic digital photography montage. Like the title of the exhibition Krumins has rearranged the images. And the images that have been artfully aged creating a feeling of nostalgia. With the addition of text they look like images from a book and indeed, Krumins is an artist and author.

In the stairwell of BSG there is an exhibition of photographers from Red Bubble. And at the top of the stairwell the Digital Fringe has a projection. The Digital Fringe is part of the Fringe Festival. 


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