The New Visual Age The Influence of Computer Graphics on Art and Society

Only a few years ago it would have seemed ridiculous to discuss the influence of computer graphics on art and society. Although computer-generated graphics had already been applied in important areas of science and technology, its influence was not yet felt in the arts or in society at large. It was the most recent developments in microelectronics which mainly led to a turning point in the history of computer art. Particularly the opportunities opened by microprocessors, their decreased execution time and increased storage capacity allowing ever greater access at lower prices to larger groups of interested amateurs have opened new perspectives to the most diverse ranges of activity. 'Free' computer graphics can serve as a source of new programming methods and of ideas for creating new shapes. It is through playful experiments, but also through confrontation with classical art, that experience is gained which can be useful in several ways: (1) Theory of Art. From the viewpoint of the theoretician or the behavioural scientist who is concerned with aesthetics, computer-generated drawings represent examples of simulated pieces of art. The possibility of rapid creation and of variation in structures, as in text analysis, is also essential. (2) Education. Computer graphics is nearly indispensable when one is confronted with dynamic processes which cannot be illustrated by individual pictures, but only by animated sequences. The visualization of instructional material is one of the great tasks of our future. (3) Entertainment.. Forms of aesthetic activity can be imagined which allow the viewer to enter into a sort of dialogue with the computer or the aesthetic program; by interaction some sort of a play with graphic structures may emerge. (4)Shaping of the Environment. Until recently, the shaping of our environment was left to the more or less spontaneous ideas of individuals. But today we are convinced that an optimal coordination of our living space with its inhabitants has become a necessity. Apart from the task of a technical transformation and often adaptation to existing psychological and sociological conditions, we are confronted with the problem of aesthetic structuring. The sudden interest in visual computer art has had repercussions on its artistic forms, which, while still being ignored by art critics, have drawn the attention of designers, educators, and the entertainment industry. An additional stimulus was created by the advancement of microelectronics which added a new dimension of artistic activity: the old dream of being able to play freely with colours and shapes has come true. The new interactive method facilitated through the above-mentioned improvements even allows a sort of graphic improvisation: the artist conceives the general framework for multitude of graphic creations which the user, now promoted to the successor of the hitherto passive onlooker, is able to activate according to his own taste. At the beginning of computer graphics activities, mechanical plotting represented the only possible choice, the production of a picture took ten to twenty minutes; at times even half an hour or more. The result was an image which could be hung on the wall: which means that at least from an external viewpoint, the traditional artistic criteria were still respected. The newly obtained dynamics, however, explode the classical frame and lead to an expansion which makes the integration into classical art forms impossible. The universality of means and the peculiarities of data processing systems make the traditional categories questionable for yet another reason: acoustic instruments can be used for the output of data just as well as the screens. That means no less and no more than that the program can be used to create and to structure musical and linguistic elements artistically. It is clear that the old ways can no longer satisfy the needs of these expanding forms of expression.

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