More Than A Screensaver

Multiple forms of projection art are beginning to set foot into the art scene, but not without a ton of baggage. This form of art consists mostly of computer-generated scenes, animated by external input, or driven by live control panels such as midi devices or OSC. A common term associated with the art form is “Vjing”. Similar to a DJ, or “disk jockey”, a VJ (video jockey) manipulates a collection of visual animations, often times in coordination with live, multimedia performances.

Projection collab w/ AUGURS

The problem that has arisen from this profession is of large amplitude and in immediate need for conversation. The problem is an unrealized misconception wedged between the spectator and the new media artist.  It arises from the ambiguity surrounding the process of content creation and implementation of computer driven artwork. This is an important conversation because the causative factors are not obvious. The spectator unknowingly discriminates against computer-driven creations and the artist unknowingly encourages this behavior by accepting the “inevitable”.

It’s so easy to become beaten down by naïve speculation. It inspires judgement without understanding the source of criticism. I’ve experienced the temptation of pessimism rising from trivial assessments of my own computer generated artwork. It’s thick and heavy and resistant to further investigation. I used to think it was a pointless effort to try and explain the beautiful intricacies of the profession. No one wants to be slapped in the face with a bunch of technological jargon. That’s just the problem though. My lack of ability to simplify the process haults further communication towards the art form entirely.

Due to the fact that projection art is misunderstood by basically everyone who is not a projection artist, its creative value and contribution will remain hidden. The cause is simple; we have entered an era where any content made with a computer is assumed to be basically automatic, and in turn, empty of hand-rendered awe and inspiration. The birth of this misconception mirrors the explosion of technology and the seemingly impossible task of keeping up-to-date with its advances. A surrendering mindset has infected the minds of those who feel “left behind” in this technological revolution. What this entails for the emerging new media artist, is an indirect rejection of the layperson to acknowledge the effort put into such endeavors. The effort it would take to actually understand the process involved in producing a beautiful animatic generated through GLSL texture coding would be, and is, too much for a conversation. This goes both ways. I personally have no intention of sitting down with each inquiry about my computer generated content in order to unravel the mysteries of different computational mechanisms and software. That would be ridiculous.

Collab w/ Retrocandy

And so a deep crevice runs along the perimeter of assumption and the thirst for knowledge. This separation has not been the gradual product of weathering stones. Rather, it was a sudden cracking and splitting between the plates of technological adeptness in America. The problem is not the gap, no, the problem is that some people are unaware of the gap’s existence. And so a solution will never be sought by the other side. The other side assumes their land is continuous, and this assumption has no obvious impact and no cause for further exploration. Therefore, in the other side’s mind, no gap exists.

Moral of the story: the gap will never be bridged by the others. If the professional artist wishes to remain grounded in traditional values and causes for appreciation within the arts, while also venturing out into the digital realm, it is absolutely necessary that they build the bridge themselves. Not only do they build the bridge, but they must guide the others to the bridge and inform them of its presence. New media artists must always expect the presence of the gap so that they are prepared to bridge it. The gap being the absence of knowledge surrounding the exploitation of art in tech, or vice versa.

Projection art will continue to bathe in the same lukewarm water of a screensaver, unless, you, the artist, do something about it. The most absolutely crucial ingredient to building a good bridge is knowing your process. Be able to explain the series of steps from draft to finished product to a 9-year old kid. This means it shouldn’t be an essay packed with software slang, but a short (3-5) sentenced paragraph of 5th grade vocabulary.

Creativity manifests at multiple levels in a projection art show, but the most important level is the process involved in visual content creation, interactivity, and employment. The part the audience can easily experience or visualize themselves. This gap is where the most attention needs to be paid, because it succumbs most ferociously to the creative process. If unattended, this gap is what leads the layperson to associate the artists’ work with that of a PowerPoint slideshow, and nobody wants that.

Currently, this gap stifles the type of acknowledgement, and in turn admiration, that occurs when viewing a painting by Caravaggio or a sculpture by Donatello. The gap causes a feedback loop of negative assumptions that ultimately severs the ability to comprehend and acknowledge its relationship to art. Understand your process as an artist and be able to explain it at the furrow of an eyebrow. Don’t hesitate to inform people of your process. It is important! and will provide the other side with tools for further exploration and appreciation within the digital realm.