Art Meets the Computer part one:

Clash of the Titans

by Eolake Stobblehouse

I was posed a curious question the other day. One that I had not expected at all, but maybe should have.

Granted, the setting was perfect for a question about aesthetics. I was sitting over a cup of coffee, being interviewed by a sweet and bright woman, in Copenhagen's famous art museum the Glyptotek. We were surrounded by Rodin sculptures, van Gogh paintings, whatnot.

So out of the blue she says to me: "You know when I first saw your web site, I was struck by the tender and warm beauty that it has, and I felt this conflict between that and the medium, the computer. I had not thought that something like that could exist in that medium."

Now you gotta understand, this was not my niece or whatever. This was the editor of Webworld, she is less than thirty years old, and she uses a computer and the web every day. Yet she perceives a conflict between computers and fine, warm aesthetics.

So, does she have a point? Is it hopeless to try to create and distribute on a cold machine the things that master artists have struggled to manifest on canvas and in marble up through the ages?

Well, lets count the points. A computer monitor is not up to displaying anywhere near the resolution of a large canvas. A computer is a bitch to learn often, it is expensive for many people, it cannot easily make anything of three dimensions which has physicality and structure and weight.

OK, all well and good. But personally I dont' think these are the real issues. The thing is that a computer from the start was something so hideously expensive and combersome that it only belonged where the money was. And the money is not with creative people. The money is with the banks, the large corporations, with Incorporated Bully Machine. The computer is for the suits. The suits can afford to hire nerds to help them with the computer, so the computer is hard to use.

The computer belongs to Big Brother, to the control society. What it does is hard mathematical calculations to make corporations richer and scientists more famous.

Or rather, was. Today, because there were people who did not agree that it had to be that way, it is different. We have computers affordable to just about anybody with a job. Today we have computers that even folks who hate technology can be enthusiastic about using. Today, children of 5 are being creative on a computer.

As for the rest of it... The monitors are getting bigger and better and cheaper all the time, and so are the printers. The differences of fidelity in that medium and in others are shrinking rapidly. Already it's at a level where it need not matter in most cases at all.

I've had quality envy. I'm publishing on the web, and I've thought: In the future, I'm also gonna publish real novels on paper, and offset picture books on slick paper, and...

Guess what, by 2005, who's gonna need it? With a monitor with fx 30.000.000 pixels in millions of colors, and with web download times of a split-second for an image of any size, what is the difference any more? People will read my books on a Reader Machine that is much lighther and looks better than any paper book ever did.

And sculpting will also be computer-aided. Already the technology is there, only too expensive yet.

It all stems from the simple fact that the web and the computer is a new medium. All media were combersome and slow and low-fidelity in the beginning.

There is absolutely no conflict between art crafted slowly by hand and art crafted fast by electronics. Only how much unnecessary work come between the artist and the product.

In a couple of decades, in the Glyptotek, no one will even think about whether a particular work that they are enjoying was designed on a computer or not. It will not matter at all.

Yours, Eolake Stobblehouse

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