Technology Inspiring Art

Technology Inspiring Art

Technologists routinely get pegged in the geek category, but our roles also require us to come up with creative solutions to technical challenges. This creativity can help us extend into the realm of art. Recently, I used technology as a media for artistic expression while creating a sculpture entitled The Technologist.

Inspiration

Inspiration is so often fused from many memories, emotions, ideas, and events. My inspiration for The Technologist occurred while on vacation at a resort called Twin Farms in Vermont.

I was dancing with my young daughter in a recreation room of witty art to the sound of salsa music on the jukebox. The room contained a strange, playful set of old televisions with old school MTV graphics playing. It happened to be one of the twelve installations called Internet Dweller) by Nam June Paik from his exhibition Electronic Super Highway: Nam June Paik in the ‘90s.

Internet Dweller Nam June Paik

Background

Nam June Paik’s exhibitions were meant to be participatory, as many of his pieces allow the audience to manipulate the sound or video to make their own art. As a one time member of the Fluxus movement and a performance artist, Paik passionately encouraged everyone to participate in events that create art.

One of Paik’s pieces called Random Access allowed the viewer to create sounds with a wand that read magnetic tape attached to a wall. Another, entitled TV Crown, enabled the viewer to change the artistic patterns of lines on a TV screen. Other installations just put the viewer’s face right into the piece with a closed loop camera, like the Electronic Superhighway exhibit.

Creating The Technologist

Based on my encounter with Internet Dweller in Vermont and exposure to other work by Nam June Paik, I created The Technologist. My sculpture is comprised of a simple male wig head with CPU and memory chips – some carefully placed and others smashed into the surface. It also includes parts from a Flip camera and wireless routers. The Technologist‘s eye plays a five-minute video on an embedded iPod nano (4th generation) with sound from attached speakers or headphones.

Two angles of the Technologist

The video playing in The Technologist‘s eye is the first thing that pulls you into the sculpture. It includes footage from Paik’s piece with sights and sounds from the day I encountered it in Vermont. I was so busy recording the artwork that my daughter was begging me to dance more, “Daddy…dance after this picture. Dance!” So my daughter’s voice is also preserved for posterity in the piece.

I have been working on _The Technologist _for over a year as I refined the video and the installation into the head. At first, I attempted to use a Microsoft Zune since it has WiFi capability. The original vision was to produce a series of pieces that could be connected into a network in a future exhibition titled Temple of Technology. Unfortunately, the small Zune does not have a way to loop videos, and I did not want to invest the time in programming a video player for it.

Most iPod nanos have video playback ability and allow looping in a playlist. The iPod nano also places the power cord and headphone jack in a convenient position that allows the wires to run through the middle of the head. So it seemed like a much better solution.

Views of The Technologist — top row: Wild Side, Third Eye, Antenna & AMD CPU; bottom row: Processing Steps, Video Eye, Heads Up Controls

Layers of Meaning

The video in The Technologist‘s eye also contains QR codes, generated with QR Code Generator, that invite the viewer to explore further layers. This leads us to ask: what is the boundary of this art now that it has jumped into your smart phone?

This piece is partly an expression of the relationship between human individuality, spirituality, and natural rhythm and their conflict with the drive of technology. It contains multilayered ideas on this theme, including building loving relationships in the midst of ever increasing demands for efficiency. There is an emotional paradox expressed in the piece on the role of technique versus creativity and love.

The piece is filled with layers of meaning and emotion. So I leave it to you to discover what you see and feel in The Technologist. Please let me know what you find.

 

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