An Adventure in Education, Technology, and the Arts, Pt 1

Restroom Stall Conversations
It is hard to imagine why it took me so long to realize that I had the resources right in front of me this entire time. I am a term employee at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Don't be fooled. This is not my first rodeo. This is actually my second time working as the Graduate Admissions Assistant. I mainly process applications; however a considerable amount of my time is spent organizing portfolios. For this reason my exposure to technology, education and the arts has been almost exclusively administrative--facilitating the processes that eventually lead to creating art (whether it be with technology or not).

I have been grappling with the topic of the arts, education, and technology since my last post because it appears that my fellow conversants are more interested in discussing the creation of art through the use of technology. Today I finally realized that everything I needed to really explore this topic more was all around me. After a series of conversations I was given a list of faculty who would shed light on the processes of using technology to create art. 

Although my "research" has only just started I have come to a few conclusions or have at least I have found myself gravitating toward certain ideas. Initially I thought that using technology in the process of producing art would some how compromise the artist--bringing to question, "Where is the hand of the artist in the work?" While it could be argued that a certain amount of control is lost when creating art with technology it was pointed out to me that my generation and anyone younger would be more comfortable with using technology as a means to produce art simply because it is natural. Thus, in a sense creating art by means of technology is only natural in this era because that is what we surround ourselves with. 

The first challenge that was brought to light when creating "media art" was affordability. This was actually during a conversation with a professor in the video editing lab, James Dingle. He explained that while students can create many things while they were pursuing their degree they struggled outside of school because they didn't have access to the equipment or software that they needed to create their art. Second, artists and students alike are faced with the challenge of staying relevant in the ever-changing realm of technology, and after creating media art where does one exhibit it? Most galleries are not equipped for high tech installations nor are they keen on nontraditional exhibitions. This issue will probably evolve with time though as video art is cited as a backlash against traditional gallery exhibitions. Other challenges included the tools and skills required to harness technology. James admitted that technology is such a large world that students and artists can get lost trying to decide what tools to use, how to use them, and where to start. "Freedom is powerful," he said, but it is easy to get lost. 

We briefly touched on the question, "What is art?" and the separation between Fine Art and entertainment and how do you separate them on the Internet (and if you need to). The most interesting concept that James brought to my attention was how do artists formulate their own ideas when they have access to so many others instantly on the Internet (think Google). Technology makes connecting and networking so easy; however it also makes it incredibly difficult to stand out because you are surrounded by so many others. And if it so easy to create then how is it art? 

The final subject we covered was copyright and fair use. In my background I have usually encountered these issues from the administrative (read: rule enforcers) perspective. Legal issues aren't something that usually covered in art school, and I have always felt that they should... until today. Prior to today's discussion I had viewed artists who use other's work as feeling a sense of entitlement to things on the Internet; however James pointed out that very few people who he works with or his students create art to sell it, thus, in a sense they weren't hurting the "copyright owner" by using an image as part of a larger work. He also cited that most of his students most likely view things like Google Image as a platform that provides tools to help produce larger works. He used Cliff Evans' work as an example. He creates on art by using the Internet and hundreds of images. 

Wow. Can you believe that people were willing to just drop what they were doing and talk to me about the arts, education and technology? I was, but I think that if a random person came to me expressing an interest in what I was passionate about I would probably do the same. Aren't passionate people awesome? 

More to come, just you wait ;)

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