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The Passions of 2004 | Culture

Tangling with technology? It's an art

Even skeptics are making peace with advancements that affect their fields and enhance the ways in which they express themselves.

December 19, 2004|Scott Timberg | Times Staff Writer

In a sense we're having a new Arts and Crafts movement, similar to the one 100 years ago. Except this time instead of being anti-technology it's very much using technology. It's partly because the nature of the technology in the two eras: In William Morris' time technology was associated with mass production and taking things away from the individual craftsperson or artist and putting them on a big bureaucratic scale.

Whereas today what technology does -- because it's much cheaper -- is allow much more customization and more craft. There certainly are artists who feel the technology removed them from their true art, but the dominant attitude is that it furthers art. Even things like jewelry making have become one craftsperson using computer design to further their art.

Computer technology, once they got away from punch cards, was very much tied to a kind of counterculture attitude, "This is gonna empower individuals; it's an alternative to large structures." This came out of hacker culture, in the Bay Area and MIT, in the mid- and late '60s. These people were not artists, they were nerds. But they were nonconformists. They saw themselves as an alternative to IBM.

It gave computer technology a feel that, say, chemistry doesn't have. It led to gaming and to Internet, this fooling around with the computer the way an artist might, with cleverness and self-expression. It seemed cool, if a bit geeky at the same time; it didn't seem monolithic, corporate, anti-expression. And what's happening in the arts is the working out of that revolution.

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