The contemporary notion of technological arts makes a direct reference to an old relationship between the making of art and the technologies available at the time. However, in the last decades of the XX century, there was an exponential increment of the penetration of technology mostly because of the emergence of the digital. One of the most intense changes has to do with the temporary compression that the numeric developments impose, including on themselves, and which determine, on the spot, a continuous succession of innovations and corresponding obsolescences. This is, in fact, an inherent condition to the very concept of technological art.
Whenever we witness the rise of a new technological way of making art, immediately there is a kind of virtual threat in terms of annihilation of the remaining forms of artistic intervention. More than a century of intense technological transformations allows us to safely say that that is not the source of the danger. On the contrary, it originates from other latitudes that already have nothing to do with the technological presence but mostly with the conceptual posture that, sometimes, accompany them. What truly embodies the reality of our time is the coexistence of varied forms of making art, without any sort of preponderance, much less of a technological nature.
One of the consequences of the intense contemporary experimentation on the level of technologies is the consequent multimediality that these produce. This is an important topic in this domain, mostly because there is the temptation, we would risk saying almost totalitarian, of closing around the digital. This technological whole produces a multitude of hypotheses of appearance, inherent to the chameleonic condition of the algorithmic combinations, therefore producing a technological simulacrum that, in fact, has no correspondence in reality. What seems important is to keep all technological possibilities open, whether they are digital or not. The post-medial condition (as Rosalind Krauss [i]calls it) requires this diversity, especially because it is not centred in the specificity of the medium but in a much more important relationship that guides the thought on the work to the totality of the result presented.
We have then a broad technological spectrum operating in the contemporary arts; however, we must outline the important contribution given by the digital technologies. In spite of the problems that we already mentioned, the fact is that digital technology allowed some innovative developments, mainly in the perfectment and inclusion of the artistic experiences, namely, on the level of interactivity – almost turned into an aesthetic category due to the growing influence it produces in the works of the new media artists (Fig. 1).
Interactivity is positioned, then, as one of the identitary characteristics of the digital technological arts, favouring the approach to a new territory: the net. Here, at the heart of virtuality, we will find some of the most stimulating experiences in the artistic production, now dematerialized but fully engaged in the dynamics of the global communication brought by the internet.
Interactivity is, in fact, a structuring premise in the new digital arts by demanding the spectator’s participation, denied for so long. Transforming the spectator into an operator allows the (exaggerated) claim of a kind of authorial symmetry between artist and receiver. However, there is something unequivocally attractive in these new technological works: their communicative transparency clearly makes possible a very strong penetration and, at the same time, a broader and positive reception. Some dangers, however, may arise.
An aesthetics of communicative proximity sets interactivity purposes which, in some cases, leave the artistic intentionality between brackets in order to concentrate everything on the intended relationship with the receiver, endangering, in the most radical cases, the final result.
It would be wrong to think that only in the virtual territory of the net interactive pieces can be found. Many of the contemporary artistic experiences are also made with the construction of real objects charged with interactive intentionality. Here, though, the relationship, for being tangible, demands a direct interaction.
Technological arts are part of today’s artistic panorama. A hundred and fifty years after photography introduced the problem, suddenly in our days it is not a problem anymore, and it is presented as a global solution for the art territory. The healthy coexistence between the most varied forms of technological artistic practices, ranging from photography to the internet, video, cinema, sound and, above all, the existence of technological objects impossible to classify, lead us to a clear conclusion: technological arts are, in our time, a synonym of the artistic experimentation largely practiced in the open and plural territory of the contemporary arts. This kind of adulthood also brings the necessary discernment before the amazement usually provoked by technologies and, this way, the conjugation of efforts around what is truly important in art making: to produce artistic objects.
We are witnessing today a redefinition of the space of the technological arts because, as Andreas Broeckmann[ii] rightly points out, if the first generations had a more fearful relationship with the computer than with the television, in our days digital culture is indistinguishable from contemporary culture, hence the naturalness of the digital possibilities for the artists' work. This assumption of a technological normality will surely promote the reflection but, also, the production of artistic objects freed of the technological label that today they carry.
[i] Krauss, Rosalind, A Voyage on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition, Thames & Hudson, London, 2000.
[ii] Broeckmann, Andreas, Deep Screen – Art in Digital Culture, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2008.