I decided for my 46 circuit of the planet, I am going to try something a little new. I get my kids out the door to school every morning, and I often find myself spending an hour drinking coffee and either depressing myself with the news or dulling myself with Instagram and Reddit for an hour. It is an incredibly stupid way to spend that morning time, so I decided last night I’m just going to empty my brain each morning with whatever is there, no matter how inane or unpolished it may be.
In that vain, I have been wrestling with thoughts on the subject of Digital Art for years, but lately been thinking about it a lot more in the wake of the generative AI panic. I have all sorts of thoughts on that, but will wait for another day. Right now I want to wax poetically about why I both hate and love Digital Art, or at the very least love the artists and hate the medium.
I’m kinda oldish, and came of age alongside the internet in a way different form the generation after mine. I sit in that sweet spot at the tail end of GenX where, while school trained us for the last war, we were at an important age to take advantage of the rapid shift of technology. That means I got to see digital art evolve in real time from this weird space of the video art of the 80s to the highly sophisticated work of today. It always left me wanting, but I couldn’t really get my finger on why for the longest time.
The answer as to why I just find the art, while technically interesting, uninspired and boring, is stupid and simple. It is the ability to undo. Command Z. The murderess of missed opportunities. The slayer of learning from your mistakes. The abstraction of the artist from the process of making art.
There is of course more nuance to this and how I view these things. I also got to address the fact that I adore the work of some artists whose primary method is now driven by digital. I also use digital tools for constructing my own compositions and organizing myself. All of these things needs to be addressed by me at some point as I unpack my thinking here, but the short answer is lack of errors.
I look at my own process in the various mediums I choose to engage in, and it is filled with mistakes. I can chart my learning and use of tools and the impact on my work from piece to piece. A recent project I finished (and have to put a project post here for soon) is filled with learnings and evolution all because things didn’t work out just right when I was done. I have to live with those fuck ups and either embrace them and incorporate them, or blow stuff up and begin again, buoyed with the knowledge I just earned.
Computers are marvelous things that have made it possible for us all to be smarter (though lately that trend doesn’t seem to be working out). The danger is, like the photograph prior to it, it abstracts us away from lived reality. It is a uncanny valley version of the world, distorted by the inclinations of the (predominantly) white dudes that wrote the code that makes the applications used to create art. It is a framework, that in an effort to create easy avenues of access, has closed off expression of the self, forcing it into increasingly narrow channels. Because of this, digital art starts to look all the same, is recognizable as it, and increasingly is representative of work attempting to recreate reality, even when the subject is fantastical versions of our reality.
I fucking hate it.