The Clever Monkey

Art and Technology

It seems to me that we might be in the middle of a little art/tech Renaissance right now. Perhaps it is selection bias at work, but I keep running across references to folks putting together cool tech-based art projects that explore art in really interesting ways.

I may be slightly sensitive to this as a Canadian of a Certain Age, of course. A friend once told me about a class he took at university that suggested that Canadian visual arts heavily reinterpreted visual popular media, and even reincorporated image data in other works in a specifically Canadian manner. I’m hand-waving here because this was from a long time ago, and was probably the sort of discussion we would have over many beers. But I recall it really brought into sharp relief some of the things I’d been thinking about, say, Cronenburg films and Canadian body-horror cinema.

(Yes, there is a specifically Canadian body-horror œuvre. Long live the New Flesh.)

I was also exposed to coding and hacking at a pretty early age, and at a time when such things were a little obscure and magical. I’d always had a natural affinity for pants-seat engineering, so it was natural that I’d be one of those people to whom computing, electronics, and robotics were a bit like catnip.

I mention this only to set the stage for an attempt at an explanation for why I think some of the artistic “maker” expressions I’m seeing are really interesting and worth noticing. As a kid who tried to actually write vers libre poetry in Forth, projects like the 1-Bit Symphony really resonate deeply with me. I mean, one of the artefacts is a poster-sized print of the AVR assembly code.

Likewise, I’ve already gushed about Circuit Classics which captures an aesthetic that meshes well with a certain artistic sensibility; it isn’t just retro-nostalgia at work.

And, recently, I ran across another art/music/tech collision in the form of an algorithmic exploration of techno entitled Spicule which I immediately identified as of a piece, spiritually, with these other projects I’ve mentioned.

These are just the highlights. I’m also reminded of local Maker Space “noise nights” and countless sequencer projects that litter the internet. I admit that many of these projects are half-baked (at best), and much of the hardware shipped ends up getting dusty on well-meaning shelves, but the fact remains that something seems to be going on that tickles the hell out of that 14-year old that had so much trouble articulating the notion that computers and software were (or could be) these cool toys of artistic expression.