The Problem and Prospect of the Fusion of Technology and Other Industries through Artistic Practice

, ,
The Problem and Prospect of the Fusion of Technology and Other Industries through Artistic Practice
Choi Byoung-il
_ Associate Professor, Visual Communication Design Major,
 College of Art & Design, Konkuk University
We usually imagine a typical artist standing before a canvas on an easel looking serious, wearing an apron smeared with paint, holding a palette in one hand and a brush in the other. Applying this to a media artist is somewhat awkward and incongruous as he deals with different media. However, we need to rethink that this awkwardness is caused by only the media.
Technology-based or new media art differs from conventional art forms in that work is possible without perfect understanding or competent use of technology, and involves other fields of art. For example, if an artist wants to produce work with a flower reacting to sound, he recounts his idea to an engineer or programmer and has them to make this idea into a work. The engineer looks for a sensor and positions it correctly; the programmer makes an algorithm to read the signal from the sensor. A modeler can then make the physical work based on a sketch by the artist. In conventional art, for which technology was rarely used, there is little need to involve engineers, programmers, and modelers. In conventional art practice artists are able to collaborate only with their assistants or their best pupils.
New media artworks including conception and production can be made through a combination of different fields. The working method of new media art can combine industries, and the process is similar to that of industrial production. It is unnecessary for an artist to engage in the whole processes of work from beginning to end to embody his idea, and mass production is possible by using industrial production. Such processes were not part of an artistic act in conventional art-working, and an artist could not have a link with an artwork through this process.
How do we see separation between work conception and work production? Does anyone produce media work if he has an idea and time? Are the artist and the producer co-owners of the work?
I have collaborated with programmers, electricians, and control engineers to produce my work. In this process I thought of the above questions, and could answer them ambiguously. I think it is really necessary to separate work conception from work making. In media work, operation is as important as concept. The success and failure of operation is profoundly influenced by the help of each field’s experts. Expert advice may shorten the time it takes to turn out artworks, and can realize an artist’s intention more easily.
The answer to the second question, “Can anyone do media work?” is “No.” It is not an arrogant attitude as an artist. Any media artist has to consider and understand technology. I think anyone can and should do media work if he or she fully understands technology and wants to make media work using technology. As to the last question, I think media work made by an engineer at the request of an artist who offered a concept and idea is not in joint possession. As engineers often reply to what I demand, based on their expertise, without considering the context of my work, their help is insignificant or fragmentary in many cases. If an engineer explores solutions aggressively with a concern for the work itself, work may rely too much on technical experiment, deviating from my original intention.
There were two types of collaborative work: collaboration with a new-media artist with remarkable ability in programming and collaboration with a professional programmer. In the former case the process of working together was very smooth because the artist knew all my previous work and understood the context of my newly conceived work. When I explained what I wanted, he did what I really wanted. In the latter case I showed an expert programmer an operation scenario and flowchart I had conceived. The programmer produced a program based on this. After using the program I made notes of its problems, made a list of points to be added or modified, and sent them to the programmer. The programmer sent the program back to me after modifying the source codes. I got satisfactory results after repeating this process.
Another case I consider is when a designer or an artist works in cooperation with experts in other fields. The former is an ideal condition all practitioners want. A collaborator understands the entire context of work, and knows exactly what he has to do. There is little room for problems, but it is a condition hard to anticipate in reality. Most works are executed under the latter case. Lots of problems and complaints arise among designers, artists, and experts in other areas. In my case there was no problem since what I wanted was simple and clear. However, there may be various complaints derived from the gap of opinions between the artist who works only with monitors and one who addresses real objects. Also diverse troubles can arise between an artist who lacks an understanding of a specific field and presents a vague direction and the producer who wants something obvious.
I think most of problems derive from the artist. That is why the artist often becomes unreasonable in his demands or makes an indefinite decision based on no knowledge of necessary fields or a lack of understanding. Some experts ask artists to rectify details for their convenience. In some cases however, joint is terminated in the middle because some artist is unreasonable in his demands, wanting his ideas embodied perfectly.
The solution to this problem is to understand each other well, but it is not as easy as we think. An artist has to assume the role of a supervisor, but lacks an actual understanding of the technology. A technician has sufficient knowledge of technology, but cannot or refuses to understand the context of the work. When I make some suggestion, an engineer puts more importance on the technology’s level of difficulty than the work’s meaning and intention. When I meet and talk with engineers or experts in other areas for work, the question I was most frequently asked is “Why are you doing this?” That is why the engineers consider what I think is necessary, unnecessary. By contrast, artists react similarly to what engineers consider necessary.
While creating work, I think more about the problems that may arise in the process of collaboration than the work itself, which is not so productive. I try to solve all everything myself, but have to know so many things beyond the work to do this, and even undergo a reduction of my work idea in some cases. This is like a baseball player running for basic physical strength to become an athlete.
Repeating this process several times, I start to feel like a coordinator. A coordinator is neither an artist nor an engineer. He is someone who understands the artist’s intention well, and can give technical advice. As the coordinator has working knowledge of engineering, he can review which field of technology an artist wants is suitable, which disciplines have to be combined, what concrete practical methods are best for the artist’s intention, and how the artist contacts those who provide aid. This coordinator’s role is of great significance in the process of mass-producing the artist’s work.
Another way is to produce a prototype of an artist’s work professionally. Under this system, one consults with an artist, and selects materials, considering mass production from an early stage in work design. Although it is really hard to find a proper person for this role, I think this person is really needed in media art.
Is there no problem if an artist only conceives work and there is a proper coordinator? One sees that language is not the source of intellectual growth but is merely its byproduct. By contrast, some see that language plays a significant role in cognitive development, and forms the core of an infant’s spiritual function. Thinking evolves through the tool of language.
In conceiving work requiring diverse technologies beyond an artist’s expertise, the artist should not forget that technology itself is not a simple means produce work processes but an element to be grasped and internalized before executing work. However, technology is just used as a simple tool in many media artworks. Technology here becomes part of a sensational magic show. Only marvelous, novel technology is used in some exhibitions of interactive artworks that seek amusement rather than the expression of an artist’s idea and intention. With this, the art world is critical of media art. It is very important to understand our thoughts expanding through the vehicle of technology and media art with determined ideas on this.