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Technology and Art

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Firstly, I do not profess to be an art critic at all. When one thinks about art, many people rate artists like Picasso or Monet. In music, there is a wider spread, from classical music by Beethoven, for example, to modern music in which bracket I would firmly put musicians such as Prince, Michael Jackson and Bob Marley. Then there is theatre, fashion, photography and cinema.

Everyone has their own choices and rightly so, but the main criteria I believe that applies is firstly, the fact that the artist creates something that changes the way we, the audience, see or experience life, and secondly, creates something that remains timeless. From Elvis Presley to Steven Spielberg, somehow our perspective changes, usually for the better. And that piece of art becomes an iconic sign of the times.

Until relatively recently, most art has been created by the artists using their imagination and their tools of trade – be it paints, musical instruments or cameras. In the technological digital age we live in, however, things have changed drastically for two reasons.

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Take your smartphone for example. To see a smartphone without one camera (let alone two which is the norm) is almost unknown. So, for a start, you are now able to take photographs, edit them to your satisfaction and share them. But did you know that Windows Store has over 90 applications available which will allow you, amongst other things, to turn your phone into a piano keyboard or guitar, a movie maker and editor, re-mix recorded music, or use it as a DJ jam device. There are also over 250 applications that allow you to draw, sketch, colour and edit images to your heart’s content. And that is just your smartphone, a reasonably powered computer can be used as a fully-fledged video or music editing studio, complete with really professional image and sound editing tools. Anything digital can be tweaked or manipulated to your heart’s content.

So, most of us now have full access to the creative tools of our choice to enable us to express our record our creative thoughts easily and cheaply. The second reason why art has changed is the fact that the internet now allows us full and almost instant access to a global audience. Marketing has never been easier. From Instagram, to Facebook – the ability to publish your ideas or creations is boundless. Take a look at the YouTube stars such as PewDiePie, Joey Graceffa or Smosh. (Look them up!) These youngsters make millions a year with their own brand of “art”, but are it really? On Google+ you are able to access, and add to, their art collections. YouTube offers free channel art designs, to allow you to develop and market your own channel. And once you have enough hits, they will actually pay you what could be large sums of money to keep producing.

So, the question, is digital art really art? How do you compare, for example, a saxophone player who learns his art over decades and can perform in front of a live audience, with a clever modern musician who extracts the same notes from a computer? Or a digital painter who digitally edits an image using a totally artificial palette from a painter who works on a canvas with acrylic or oil paints and brushes, with skills learned from college and experience? And no doubt the sculptor who can now use 3d printing to create an object, rather than carving it out of raw material?

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Some artist argue that digital technology gives them new and more powerful tools to be able to express their imaginations creatively. However, they are less accomplished in their trade, and mistakes can easily be rectified and re-edited. While there is no denying that it enables creative people to better express their ideas, it also challenges a purist perception of art.

At the end of the day, art, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But in my humble opinion, art is a true and pure expression of the artist’s imagination and being. The more this is transmitted via technology, the less their essence is perceived.

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