Friday, 8 November 2013

Art forms in the digital world

    Which art forms are most amenable to the digital format? Performing arts such as dance and drama had never made the leap to any mechanical reproduction, unlike music. Hence dance and drama can be ruled out at the onset. Some forms are more easily ruled out than others. Sculpture for instance. Handicrafts and embroidery also belong to this category.
    Music is a more complicated form. It depends not only on the digital file but also on the hardware. If some form of music requires the music to come from the listener’s right, left, front, back, top and bottom; then one needs speakers able to produce such an effect. The performative visual aspect of music, like dance and drama, never moved successfully to mechanical reproduction. Hence they too are ruled out.
    Narration of stories, or oral literature transformed itself and created a new form when it moved to the realm of the written text. On the other hand, an audio recording of an oral narration is a form which is amenable to mechanical reproduction. Audio plays are examples of how such a format is used to its fullest potential.
    Written literature is quite amenable to the digital world. Though the handiness and quirks of a physical book (think of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy) is sometimes lost in a digital book, the digital book comes with its own benefits, such as improved searching and annotating abilities.
    Static, immobile, visual art, such as painting, is not very amenable to the digital realm. The tactile textures of the drawn/ painted medium is usually lost in the digital format. Even a three-dimensional rendering does not fully transfer the features of visual art. Think of Van Gogh’s paintings with its raised surfaces of colour, or Byzantine art with inlaid gold work and their textures. In addition to texture, is the issue of size. A digital rendering never transfers the exact impact of the size of a visual artwork. The visual impact of a Raphael canvas several metres in dimension is never fully expressed in the digital world. Even if one were to use a projector which projects digital images of very large proportions and high clarity and focus, the visual impact of size of the physical art work is still not fully transferred onto the digital rendering.
    Cinema is a form which is perhaps very amenable to being transferred into the digital world.
    Photography is an art form which, if it is to be considered an art form, is the result of manipulation of what one would have seen normally. It is by its very nature a distortion. Hence, it is also well-suited to the digital world, and is in fact enhanced by the digital realm.

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