Artem ex machina: Technology’s impact on the changing world of art


When photography was born over 175 years ago, some saw it as the mortal enemy of art. But in reality, the invention of photographs greatly influenced art over the coming years and gave rise to numerous art forms that characterize the entire 20th century.

With the constant intrusion of computers, gadgets and cell phones now in our daily lives, the bond between technology and art has become nearly inseparable. With simple access to an internet connection, the hierarchy of knowledge that once existed between different classes of citizens has dissolved. Now artwork and literature that was typically reserved for those of higher economic status can be examined, appreciated and analyzed by almost anyone. This means nearly everybody now has the tools and resources to create their own artwork, rather than solely the elite.

Comparing the effect that photography had on artwork in the past with today’s technology, it’s clear to see how websites like Facebook and Instagram can have huge influence on modern artists.

But might there also be some negative aspects to be found in art’s relationship with technology?

An artist today will often make available online every image they have ever created, making it a convenient choice for people to stay at home and view the artwork instead of going out to visit a gallery in person.


Art galleries offer a chance for people to engage with each other face-to-face, warm bodies in the same room, and if this isn’t happening anymore then the community of artists and collectors could suffer.

Traditionally, artists would go to a gallery with their portfolio and the gallery would decide if their work was good enough to display or not. Now artists can simply use the internet to exhibit and display their work themselves, making it more important than ever for artists to create a strong business model. Without being able to rely as much on a traditional art gallery, learning how to market yourself as an artist has become extremely important.

Technology has forever changed the way that art is produced, distributed, marketed and even preserved.

“I think technology has had a huge impact on the Arts both in negative and positive ways,” Pam Campanaro, UNC’s director of galleries, said.

“On one hand, technology has given birth to a whole new genre of art. Technology and the internet has become a medium for artists to communicate their ideas.

It also allows them to disperse and share their ideas, concepts, and forms with the masses.”

“It is challenging however, to see exhibitions moving to an online-only forum.

As a director and curator with interests in commissioning site-specific works by emerging artists, I need that emphasis on the physical, real-life engagement with a space. Putting a show or work solely online negates the need for a physical exhibition space,” Campanaro said.

Campanaro’s point highlights the importance of viewing artwork in person instead of through a computer screen.

It is often believed that viewing artwork online is like looking at it through a pair of dirty glasses, or perhaps under water. In order to truly get a feel for a painting, it’s subtleties and the presence it creates, it’s agreed that the work should be viewed in person.

But the fact is that the Internet has removed geographic barriers between artistic communities. It’s possible to explore and dissect paintings, drawings and sculptures from all over the world, making it easy to draw inspiration from anywhere. For someone like Campanaro who curates artwork for a living, this can add dimensions to her work which would otherwise be impossible.

“Social media platforms, particularly Instagram, allow me to see work all across the world. I’ve curated artists into exhibitions by seeing their work online and facilitating online studio visits via Skype or Google Video,” said Campanaro.

Chance Hendrix, a senior studying art and design, gets a chance to work with some of the most advanced technology used to create art today during a normal day of class.

“I mostly use Adobe programs like Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign and work with a Wacom tablet which allows artists and designers to draw their work and transfer it straight to a computer,” Hendrix said.

The development of technology and art continue to affect students like Hendrix whose future career might depend on the subject.

“I am a very traditional artist in the fact that I draw everything on a sketch pad or paper before I scan it into a computer and finish the work. So in essence, I am not losing touch with traditional media but also applying new technology and techniques into my work,” Hendrix said.

But what does this mean then, for the future of technology, art and art galleries?

Future shifts in the art world could come from corners of the tech universe like virtual reality.

Virtual reality is a relatively new advancement which lets users escape to a different reality through the use of a headset that resembles a pair of goggles. With the help of Google and various museums, virtual reality users can already stream 3-dimensional imagery from galleries around the globe straight into these headsets.

In fact, many artistic pioneers have even created virtual reality exhibitions which can actually be found inside some museums. The Jewish Museum in New York, for example, has been home to an exhibit by French designer Pierre Chareau, featuring a virtual reality component where it transports users to an actual house in Paris which Chareau designed himself.

Mark Fetkewicz leads the graphic design program at UNC and has witnessed first hand the immense effects of new technology on his work.

“Graphic design is essentially a social communication apparatus. It’s how we connect, inspire, educate and inform,” Fetkewicz said. “The method and aesthetic construct is evolutionary and reliant on cultural and technological context. As technologies mutate or advance, so too does our visual and verbal form.”


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