Art and Technology

by Allie Schaitel, UW Whitewater student and Arts Wisconsin intern

The 21st century has brought along many changes in basically every sector possible. Today’s technology is fast-moving, persistent, and transformative, and it’s showing no signs of stopping or slowing down with its array of possibilities and cultural contributions. As far as the art world is concerned, technology has opened up new doors to the process of creating, changed the way that artists and galleries market their art, as well as created barriers to attendance. When it comes down to it though, arts agencies, organizations, museums, galleries, as well as individual artists must creatively devise ways to use technology to their advantage. Technology has also brought on new forms such as:

  • virtual reality
  • glitch art
  • digital art
  • conceptual artunnamed2

Questions About Art and Technology:  Technology has raised many questions in relation to the arts: What does the future of art and technology look like? What can museums and galleries do to keep up with these changes? Is the inclusion of technology in the art world inherently good for it? How do the instant access to information and the use of portable devices affect how we take appreciate art forms? What is the best way for artists to go about presenting themselves online? Can you buy youtube views to promote your art online for example? How has the definition of art changed since more people can create and exhibit their works online?

The inclusion of technology in the arts perhaps began with the invention of the printing press. This invention provided to be a disruption to former practices, changing the system from that point on. When new technology emerges, it sometimes comes with rejection but over time, the new technology becomes accepted in the movement. It is now the ‘norm’ for artists to have an online presence complete with a website and profiles on multiple social media pages. Artists can participate in online juried shows, find calls to entry, connect with collectors, and more. The internet provides a means for meaningful connections between artists, art communities, and audiences. The days of only seeing and participating in the arts in a physical place is over.

How Museums/Galleries use technology

Museums and galleries experiment with various means to bring works to a larger audience:

Instead of rejecting the influx of technology available, a lot of museums are embracing tools to bring the museum experience into the contemporary digital culture. These places have media teams that are developing programs around the competition that the inundation of screens in our reality brings and to find practices that best utilize the internet. The Google Art Project, for example, is a platform where the public has access to images of artworks and virtual tours in museums that are partnered with the program. This program allows users inside the museum or thousands of miles away to have an enriching experience either gathering a broader knowledge about the history of pieces, the artist’s intent, or notes from the curator.


What’s the downside to technology?

There might be a downside to all of this though. Critics say the inclusion of screens and fancy gadgets in a museum setting are interfering with the solitary, intellectual, contemplative aspects of museum-going. Some feel as though when traditional gallery/museum practices are interfered with technology, it is ruining its very essence. Experts also wonder if the instant gratification, quick consumption era we’re in is congruent with the objectives of museum-going. The main function of a museum is the have a personal experience and connection with the content you’re viewing- is this possible when your attention is focused on a screen or device? But, is there actually a ‘proper’ way to view and experience art?

Barriers to Arts Attendance

Also, studies have shown that the inclusion of technology in our culture is providing a barrier to arts attendance, as people have instant access to theater, movies, visual arts, and music on their devices or on their television. People can go on Tumblr or Instagram to see high quality photos of visual art, they can use the internet to read poems and short stories, they can go on YouTube to watch their favorite ballet. For a lot of people, the internet is their sole means for arts consumption. Therefore, arts establishments must be creative in the way they market their events and bolster interest around shows and events. The arts are still being consumed by the masses through digital content, but it is fair to wonder if the traditional viewing of plays, galleries, operas, and concerts will fall to the wayside in favor for the less expensive, more convenient forms through electronic media. See the reports on barriers to arts attendance here.

The web holds a power that has yet been completely uncovered by anyone in the art industry since there are limitless opportunities for experimentation and creation. The way humans express themselves has been transformed immensely by the new tools the Digital Age has brought. The definition of art and what makes an artist has changed since so many people have access to programs and devices that are able to create. Artists right out of graduate school blossoming into the art world are attempting to make their work fit in to our Instagram Age (“art for likes”), and that is entirely different than it was even 15 years ago. Here are some artists creating work that purposefully engages with our digital culture for you to check out.