Just as inventions like portable paint tubes revolutionised the way paintings were made, modern technology is also reshaping today’s art world – but how?
ArtisTree will uncover the connection between the two in the Art Unchained exhibition and lunchtime forums, jointly curated by art and tech specialists Joanne Ooi, Lisa Botos and Jean-Luc Gustave. Featuring Human Study #1, 5RNP, a robotic art installation by French artist Patrick Tresset, the programme will shine a spotlight on the emerging genre of media art, while exploring the different ways technology influences art — its processes, boundaries and experience.
The Rise of Media Art
One of the direct results of technological innovation is the emergence of media art. More than just digital art, “media art” refers to a wide range of art forms that make use of technologies such as computer graphics, animation, virtual reality, 3D printing, and in the case of Tresset’s art practice, robotics. Broadly speaking, media art is artwork created by or with technology, frequently housed in or existing in a digital format.
“Very few people know about media art,” says Ooi, a former art gallerist and creative director. According to Ooi, in Hong Kong, fine art encompasses painting, sculpture and other traditional art forms. With Art Unchained’s exhibition of Tresset’s artwork at ArtisTree, Hong Kong will be exposed to media art for the first time.
“Tresset is a seminal exponent of media art,” continues Ooi. “The exhibition of Human Study #1, 5RNP will introduce this giant yet little-known category of art to the local art industry and the general public, opening their eyes to the creative possibilities unleashed by technology.”
Technology gives artists an enormous and unprecedented array of new tools with which to express their creativity. “It’s a whole new palette,” says Ooi, “one that allows artists to achieve revolutionary effects of all sorts, sensory, intellectual and aesthetic.”
Robots Turned Artists
Tresset’s robots, known for their human-like sketching skills, exemplify the sort of artworks that can be created with this “palette”. On display at Art Unchained, Human Study #1, 5RNP will feature five robots simultaneously sketching an audience member (sitter), each in a distinct style. “I fine-tune the robots’ settings before each show so they all appear to have unique characters and [drawing] styles,” explains Tresset.
Tresset, a skilled painter himself, created these robots to explore the relationship between technology, art and humans. “The technology places me at another level where I’m not drawing directly, but instead dictating the robots’ movement to produce spontaneous drawings,” he says. “It’s a play between losing control and having more control at the same time.”
But that’s not to say robots will replace human artists. “What’s important in art is the intention, which machines don’t have,” he says. “Nor do they have emotions or characters – we as observers humanise robots based on their behaviours.”
A Performative Exhibition
The creative process of making art isn’t the only thing influenced by technology, though. According to Botos, a cultural producer and former gallerist, technological innovation is also redefining how art is experienced.
In the past, art viewing usually meant visiting a gallery to see neatly displayed artworks hung on walls. With media art, audiences get a more dynamic experience with Art Unchained being a case in point. With Human Study #1, 5RNP, members of the public will be invited to sit for the robots in life drawing sessions of 20 minutes each, as audience members watch. “You become part of the artwork,” says Botos. “It operates in the manner of a performative piece. The human sitter sets the scene by activating the robot actors, who come to life, perceive and draw.”
Old Meets New
As part of the installation, the robots’ sketches will be mounted on Artistree’s walls for viewing in the traditional manner. Connecting the traditional art world with the new possibilities enabled by technology, Art Unchained is a provocative introduction to new modes of appreciating art. “Ultimately, we want to show that the frontiers of art are shifting,” says Ooi. “We hope that the experience of Art Unchained will trigger discussion and open minds.”
So, consider this: When technology and art come together, what else is possibly art? What are the limits of technology, how does it add to the idea of “art”, and what is the nature of being a human artist…?
Photo caption: Sabina Tupan
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