The Matrix of Sensations

by

Donald Kuspit

http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/authors/kuspit.asp

 

 

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Digital art can be used to make these chance processes vividly evident, as in Joseph Nechvatal’s computer virus paintings. It can also be used to select from the "heterogenous variations...those that feature adaptive fit," as in Peter Campus’ digital video works. In contrast to the former, which are concerned with "generating ideational variation," the latter imply that there are "somewhat stable criteria by which variations that offer viable solutions to the problem at hand are separated from those that embody no advance and hence are useless." Taken together, Nechvatal and Campus’ digital works spell out the alpha and omega of the creative process. Above all, they make it clear that, however much we may understand the creative process subjectively -- and we can understand it subjectively, for, as Simonton writes, the "fundamental units... manipulated in the creative process are such ‘psychological entities’ as the sensations that we attend to, the emotions that we experience, and the diverse cognitive schemata, ideas, concepts, or recollections that we can retrieve from long-term memory" -- it remains objective.

 

There are more possibilities of freedom in digital art -- that is, the "mental elements" are "free[r] to enter into various combinations" and thus to be manipulated -- than in architecture, painting and sculpture. This is the reason we now have buildings, two-dimensional pictures and three-dimensional objects being modeled and generated by the digital mechanisms of the computer and manufactured by computer-controlled machines.

 

The computer has enormously expanded creativity by allowing for a greater exploration of chance, and thus the creation of more complex esthetic "permutations" -- different combinations of identical elements -- than traditional art has ever created, indeed, allowed or even thought of.  It has also given us a more efficient means of manufacturing art that never existed before.

 

Most crucially, the computer extends the horizon of creativity infinitely -- certainly compared to the finite creativity of pre-computer art -- by allowing the artist to tread a fine line between unstable and stable permutations, sometimes sharply differentiating them, sometimes blurring the difference between them. Thus, Nechvatal presents unstable permutations -- which Simonton would call "aggregates" -- and Campus presents relatively stable permutations -- which Simonton would name "configurations." But Nechvatal’s aggregates have a stable predictability, and Campus’ configurations have an unstablity indicated by their mercurial character.

 

The computer makes it clear that "aggregates" and "configurations" exist on the same continuum of representation. Gestural Abstraction’s unstable aggregates and Geometrical Abstraction’s stable configurations involve the same fundamental units, in the former case unintegrated in a seemingly "chance confluence," in the latter case "interrelated" in a "patterned whole." Even more transparently, the computer makes it clear that, in Simonton’s words, "the permutation process continues without pause." And, one might add, computer creativity is infinitely elastic -- so much so that it affords the opportunity for making a new kind of Gesamtkunstwerk, a single work of art which incorporates all the other arts, neither exclusively visual nor verbal nor auditory, neither exclusively spatial nor temporal, but all of these at once.

 

 

 

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DONALD KUSPIT is professor of art history and philosophy at SUNY Stony Brook and A.D. White professor at large at Cornell University.

 

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Also published in Spanish here:

Donald Kuspit, Arte Digital y Videoarte,

Circulo de Bellas Artes Madrid, p. 33-35, color illustrations 2,3&4

 

 

Images included in the article:

Joseph Nechvatal

peccadillO alfrescO

2004

computer-robotic assisted acrylic on canvas

Joseph Nechvatal

OrgasmO autOmOderO

2004

computer-robotic assisted acrylic on canvas

Joseph Nechvatal

Ebon Fisher meets G.H. meets Steve Miller meets Tina La Porta

2005

 

 

 

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