Sunday, October 24, 2010

Here's a question that will become relevant now I'm at art college : am I a visual artist?

Looking at my monster stickers I realize that they're visually fairly slapdash. Sizes, shapes, colours are random. I didn't spend much time worrying about exactly how they would look.

Frankly, I don't care. Jesson Yip suggests that I try to use restricted palettes rather than the current garish cacophony of colours. And, although, in a sense, I like the childish hues of the designer toy world, I'm sure his muted tones would look great too.

And if someone wants to hack the program to produce grey-scale, gothic monsters, ready for Halloween, then I'd be equally happy with that.

But ultimately, I don't feel particularly energized to spend much time fiddling with the look.

And here's the real issue. I don't really care because, to me, the idea of the interactivity is what matters. The fact that you run the program, print the stickers, go and stick them somewhere. This is the art work.

However, now I wonder. This making a distinction between the process (eg. encoded in the software, the activity of the audience) and the final product is natural for the computer geek. It's what we do every day : distinguish our program (with which we can be well satisfied) from the customer's data.

But it is completely alien to the artist, for who the finished product is the end to which everything else is mere means. Does my attitude betray, in fact, that I'm too much the computer geek and not enough the artist?

We often laugh (or weep) at the graphic designer or customer who seems more obsessed by the colour or font used in the user-interface than our grand feats of architecture that actually made the system work at all. But is the designer or artist naive as we would normally assume? Or simply someone for who this distinction between process and the final result is invalid?


Hmmm .... :-/

Doh! Stupid art college!


John Powers said...

It's funny that I was trying to think through process and product last night. The trouble is I usually make hash of things. I will post what I wrote last night sometime today and I have a second post in mind. Ah, the problem is I tend to make things less clear.

But there is a bit of reading that I think would be of interest to you in thinking about the validity of the distinction.

The first is Gregory Bateson. His last book wasn't completed at the time of his death, but his daughter edited it and it was published as Angels Fear: Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred. link The critical part is Chapter 4 "The Model." Chapter 10 "Metalogue: Are You Creeping Up?" is also of interest.

The second is the work of Christopher Alexander. I'm not at all familiar with his most recent series of books, only with his first series. Stephen Grabow spent 6 months with Alexander to write Christopher Alexander: Towards a New Paradigm in Architecture. I think that book may be hard for you to find, but worth checking to see if in the library. If it's not I can copy the final chapter "Synthesis" for you as it addresses your question directly.

Alexander's shorter version is probably that the distinction is invalid.

Scribe said...

Good post. Is the value in a piece of art - or indeed in anything - whether you "like" it (the product), or in how much it makes you think/feel/question/answer/understand (a process spinning off the product, although the process a user/viewer/etc takes away may be utterly different to what you as the producer followed/intended.)

Is it better to measure "success" in terms of how well a viewer thinks what you want them to think as a result of the product? (e.g. about a topic, a particular opinion, a particular question?) If most people dismiss your work without considering this process, has the product failed?

Or is it just set in the wrong context?