"Digital art, like computers, doesn't seem to be made with longevity in mind. Every few years, both the machines and the art created with them suddenly need a major upgrade.
But Ars Electronica, Austria's influential digital-art center, is out to prove that digital art can stand the test of time, albeit only a quarter century, with a series of exhibitions showcasing the best digital art of the last 25 years.
The Digital Avant-Garde shows, in celebration of Ars' own 25th anniversary, will be presented in New York City at the American Museum of the Moving Image, Eyebeam Gallery and the Austrian Cultural Forum.
The works in all three exhibitions, which all opened to the public Friday, don't just hang around looking pretty. Visitors are invited to play, poke, pat and reprogram the art, much of which was created by artists collaborating with engineers or scientists.
Surprisingly, much of the older art is still interesting, fun to look at and interact with. Even the tired virtual-reality environments, once so trendy, make you feel you've been transported elsewhere, even though wild gestures and stumbling about in front of what is, to everyone but you, a flat monitor make you look goofy.
That said, some of the art on display wouldn't draw a second glance if it weren't digital -- a set of three-dimensional portraits aren't particularly special, until you realize that tapping on a nearby touch screen changes the portraits' "moods" and how they react to each other and to you.
"Aside from the landscape, the most common living-room wall accessory is the portrait, and I am looking forward to a time when variable, customizable images will take the place of the typical pictures on paper and canvas one sees today," said John Gerrard, who created Networked Portraits with Erwin Reitböck, Martin Bruner, Andreas Jalsovec, Christopher Lindinger and Pascal Maresch.
Networked Portraits is on display at the American Museum of the Moving Image, whose portion of the exhibits has been dubbed Interactions/Art and Technology. The Interactions show displays new work created by teams of artists and scientists working together at Ars Electronica's Futurelab.
One of the standout pieces at the Interactions exhibit is Interactive Bars, a digital terrarium of colorful computerized blobs that slither happily over to human visitors, who can pick them up, pet them and fling them about the installation.
The blobs also respond to items placed in their enclosure, sliding over to investigate keys, glasses of opening-night wine and whatever else people fish out of their pockets and plonk into the terrarium.
Interactive Bars was created by Peter Kogler and Franz Pomassl, Markus Decker, Markus Greunz, Gerald Schröcker, Dietmar Offenhuber, Horst Hörtner, Pascal Maresch and Jürgen Hagler. "