Art and Digital Interaction

Digital Art created by me with Adobe Illustrator

In a world of digital possibilities, how much interaction and immersion do we need and where are the limits?

Personally, I think that we don’t need a great deal of fancy technology to create an immersive art experience. A well curated and thought-through exhibition in a gallery or museum can be more immersive than an AR or VR exhibition that is not convincing or incoherent. It is nice to have an interactive part of an exhibition to keep engaged and alert, but the quality of the experience of the art is not dependent on that. However, I agree with Coover that “digital media have unique argumentative and expressive characteristics: a digital rhetoric and poetics.” [1] Digital works of art or artworks using digital media have possibilities of expressing meaning and addressing the viewer which are not open to other art. The digital represents almost unlimited possibilities opens up additional dimensions by enabling the use of colours and sound in unprecedented ways.

I am amazed by Carsten Höller’s work [2], and it does indeed look like his exhibitions are a lot of fun. I think many people perceive the view of the artist as entertainer as a very modern one, however, many famous traditional artists were great entertainers, too. One might think, for example, of the Brueghels’ works and their variety of funny and often grotesque characters and scenes.

In my opinion, the use of digital means and technology to create art is a completely different purpose of digital media than the use for scholarship and research and should be kept separate. When both artistic and scientific use of digital tools are brought together, this has to be done very carefully and can be harmful to both disciplines. One good example for this is the artistic aspirations of data visualizers, which may lead to aesthetically pleasing visualizations, but might be scientifically imprecise or even inaccurate (See “What is Wikipedia about”, a visualization that is beautiful to look at but lack scientific rigour and documentation [3]). On the other hand, digital art is easily undervalued as “everyone could do that with the help of Photoshop”. So, I think, it is important to regard both fields – digital art and digital scholarship – separately if we want to evaluate them.

While digital art is still rooted in physical artworks, that have to be installed in a location and can be visited, Net art uses the internet as its location and cuts the connection to the physical reality of the viewer. The experience of art in a gallery or museum involves the viewer’s physical interaction in one way or another (walking around, touching, moving between the artworks), and creates a sense of immediacy and closeness. Net Art only interacts with the viewer through the medium of the computer, which creates a distance between viewer and artwork. However, Net Art can be consumed in many different settings and is not dependent on being present in a certain location. The viewer can access the art in their private space at home, which can create greater intimacy.

I like going to museums and often times, it does not even matter much what exhibition is on – the act of going there makes it a special occasion already. It is a ritual – buying the ticket, putting the bag in the locker, taking only my notebook and pen with me, strolling around the exhibition and being surprised by the next work I see. Occasionally taking out my notebook to scribble something down or make a quick sketch of something inspirational. After a while sitting down in the café to give my sore feet a rest and recapitulate what I experienced.

I like the idea of art being democratic and accessible to everyone, but I enjoy the ritual of visiting a museum more. It is a more immersive, more profound experience for me.

Being an artist myself, I see myself drifting more and more towards digital tools and digital art. Just recently, I created my first painting completely digitally, without ever taking a pencil into my hand and instead using a Wacom tablet and Adobe Illustrator. It was a great experience and I really like the outcome of it. However, it cannot compare with the feeling of holding a brush, the smell of the paint, the stains on my clothes afterwards. The act of creating digital art is a very clean one, but I like the messiness of actual painting. In my opinion, the combination of traditional methods with digital tools is most effective and digital media are a great addition to the traditional repertoire of an artist.

[1] Bartscherer, T. and Coover, R. (eds) (2011) Switching Codes: Thinking Through Digital Technology in the Humanities and the Arts. Chicago ; London: University of Chicago Press.

[2] ArtFundUK (2015) Carsten Höller at Hayward Gallery. Available at: (Accessed: 30 January 2019).


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