De Vaucanson, Digesting Duck © Musée des arts et metiers - Cnam/photo Pascal Faligot
An 18th-century punch-card operating system devised by Jacques de Vaucanson for his legendary automata could be the first application of digital technology to art. After 1945 programs with binary codes became the standard method for storing electronic information, eventually enabling the digitisation of visual, auditory and many other kinds of data.
Richard Hamilton, Shock and Awe, 2010. Image Gautier Deblonde. © R. Hamilton. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2015
The fact that any user can manipulate digital data has introduced new forms of image-making. In place of unique works resulting from individual artists’ actions, there’s simply a steady increment of the digital database. The outcome of combining several digital images is neither more nor less ‘original’ than its sources.
Feng Mengbo, Long March: Restart (detail shown at top), 2008. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence. Courtesy of the artist and Chambers Fine Art
Artists have harnessed digital technology in numerous ways. Some exploit the parasitism of digital information on physical media. Wade Guyton feeds paper through inkjet printers ‘to make works that act like drawings’. Feng Mengbo has adapted video-game interactivity to the scale of installation art.
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