View Full Version : Themes of the "Digital" Era

05 May 2005, 12:33 AM
So, I'm not sure if this is an entirely silly question or not, but here it is. In my Humanities class this year, we talk a lot about the themes of a certain era. For Renaissance, it's youth, individuality, classicism, I'm sure you all know this. Baroque is power, counter-reformation, that sort of thing, and then Romanticism borders mostly on divinity. If those are the themes of past eras, what are the themes of our era?

I think that one of the major ones (kind of replacing Classicism from the past) is Fiction. I see a lot of people who draw characters from their own minds or the minds of others. Fanart is very fictional. I personally draw characters from my own stories and novels. I definately see fiction and fantasy as being one of the main themes of art these days.

Anything else?

05 May 2005, 12:39 AM
Escapism is a big one these days. The characters and creatures from the miinds of yourself and others are a perfect example of it. Not always, of course, but in the fact that thye allow for an easy and ready escape from everyday life and allow for that in a very multi farious way.
Parallel with that you'll find very purist things to, images which are supposeed to depict a very abstract thing without it's context. This can easily be traced back to escapism too I feel. I will probably indulge in similar stuff soon enough, and I'm not saying it's inherently wrong though. I find that it's quite possible to use escapism as a very fruitful aspect in a lot of things, after all a monk will retreat from daily life and find peace in himself for reaching enlightenment, so there you go. :)
This is happening for very complex reasons which I actually do not really want to elaborate on. But you didn't mention it in your post so that's why I'm saying.

05 May 2005, 02:02 AM
Very complex, which into and beyond art. I'm all for escapism, but only in the realm of imagination. I attribute a good deal of the popular themes (with regards to escapism) simply to the innate feelings and emotions that are coupled with them, with reference to history and popular culture's view on them.
I constantly imagine adventure, what kind of theme is has varies, but they've all got the common denominator of escapism.

05 May 2005, 03:26 AM
Adventure and larger than life qualities seem to be big. Escapism I find interesting. What is it that current art is trying to escape from? Isn't art always an escape of some kind?

05 May 2005, 04:28 AM
Do we live in the post-post-modern age now? I can't keep track. It would have been nice to live in a time with a definite 'positive' label, when groups of people with similar ideals strived in like-minded creative pursuits. Post-modernism, or whatever it is nowadays, seems to describe what we aren't, but doesn't really describe what we are.

Given that, I'm not sure there are any prevalent communally shared themes in the digital age. With the loss of community in many places, self-absorption seems to have grown, but I'd have to ponder on whether self or escapism are themes that are consciously explored in art, or whether they are rather symptoms we see reflected in the subject matter of much contemporary art.

Perhaps we are aimless and themeless in a world of our own separate escapist fantasies. And for many the cure seems to be nostalgic fantasies.

To be sure, I don't really know, but if we are voting for one then I nominate Absurdity because it is my favourite. Or has that been done already?

05 May 2005, 11:42 AM
Not at all. :D Absurdity in what kind of forms?

05 May 2005, 12:02 PM
I think threads like this and "show your favourite pic" are so great cause
I start thinking how all ages have had different kinds of great stuff
and then hopefully I don't get stuck doing stuff typical to this age and get
inspirired not only by the few artists known to me, but so many
incredibly talented people from all times I find here.

Now if I only could do justice to all that with my work :)

05 May 2005, 12:55 PM
I'd actually say that the digital era is experimentalism. With the freedom of using digital tools, one can save as many version as one wants and experiment like crazy, trying new things to see if it'll look neat. You can't really ruin an image because the "save" feature. It's really quite wonderful the freedom we digital artists possess. There is no wrong way to do things anymore.

As for subject matter, I agree with Jan-Mark on this one, and that it probably is escapism.

05 May 2005, 03:01 PM
well...I had a conversation with my art proffessor yesterday about the tools of post-modernism...

he stated that post-modernism uses alegory to express thoughts, modernism used symbolism...

So I think the digital age kinda refers back to medieval symbolism, because I notice artists using the digital medium to relive(or bring back) the enlightenment age, you know the regular demon fighting an angel, a woman surrounded by fairies...etc...

05 May 2005, 10:08 PM
Experimentalism is huge, definately. I hadn't thought of that, since I usually think of the themes in the paintings rather than things "doing" the paintings, I guess. I definately reak havoc all across images because I can go back later. I'm trying to move farther away from that, but "undo" is still my favorite tool.

As for bringing back old eras, I love to do that. I love Baroque art and chiaroscuro and the "etherial light" of the Romantic age. For me, at least, that's a big thing.

05 May 2005, 10:40 PM
I really don't think there's such a definite theme for our time. Chances are there wasn't for most of the previous era's either, until someone decided to look back and label them. Whatever pattern there may be now, it's not going to be apparent until much later. But if you want to find themes for art being done now, try to see what the trends of the world are right now in general: fragmentation of nationstate-based society, rise of individualism and free social association for example.

05 May 2005, 12:05 AM
Whoa. So then could we go so far to say that today people are breaking into individualism in the wake of nationalism, like people broke into individualism in the wake of the church in the Renaissance?

That's totally far fetched, but an interesting idea. I don't think it's quite the same, though, but a really cool comparrison. :O

05 May 2005, 05:41 PM
You could say so. After the globalisation you see in richer countries, there could be a sense of loss of ones identity. I had expected this thread to sooner or later get here, lol. Well, with the loss of ones identity there's probably the need to redefine it. Even if there's an enrichment as there should have been, through mingling of cultures. There would probably be the need to express the new ideas and the new scope of freedom learnt from that. So basically yeah there's that.

05 May 2005, 06:37 PM
I'm not sure it's loss of identity, just identifying with different things. After WWII, as I see it, the holy status of national identity took a big hit, and now as you say globalisation is affecting the way we perceive the world and we have the possibility to communicate much more freely across the physical borders of the states we live in. Without the unifying power of nationalism it is hard to identify with a very diverse group of people who happen to live within the borders of what is called a state. We identify with those we have something in common with, and without nationalism a lot of that common ground is gone.

The way I see it, right now, humans are drifters. Leaderless, without consensus, without goals. There is confusion, and no clear idea of where to go. It's not necessarely a bad place to be because right now so much can be done, so many options are open.

People want to belong somewhere though, which I think is why internet communities are so numerous. Maybe art could become a common ground to form communities around? Obviously this is such a community, but we discuss more than collaborate. Chances are the more interesting project-communities would not be ones that set out to make "art", but rather ones that just set out to do something they find interesting and end up making something unique.

05 May 2005, 06:56 PM
Your arguments are good, but I think we somewhat mean to say the same thing. When I say identity I inherently think the human sense of identity is profoundly linked to other humans, the loss of ground in any matter concerning that I would experience as being "beside myself', which to me means loss of identity.

I think the effort has been made here also at cgtalk. Collaborative animation projects and I think some other things too. Not sure what they were because they were indeed not so numerous. That might be because of the barriers still between us all, in culture and religion and philosophy(also a very local phenomenon sometimes).

Most cultural issues are still happeneing after emigration for instance. The first generation simply doesn't readily adopt another culture, but now since there has been time for a generation to pass, the newer generation can easily feel misplaced having grown up with other cultural influences taught in their homes. Leading to a search for a new self. One they can live with. I see it a lot here. One does find common ground in arts, maybe not enough in visual arts but certainly in musical art. Music is more emotional, so we allready have enough in common in that respect to commune easily. Allthough I'm not at all satisfied with the degradation of quality to music nowadays, nor with it's moral degradation. Also imho opinion due to ignorance and the abuse of massmedia for stupification and profit. Pardon my french, but you know exactly what I mean when I say gangsta pimp for instance. A very shallow plot for money in most cases, and I stress I'm not benig racist before that argument happens.

05 May 2005, 12:10 AM
I know there are collaborative projects here, and that's good. I was thinking about a different thing though, something more spontaneous, since that sort of seems to be the spirit of the age. If you're familiar with the term emergence in the sense of "emergent gameplay" or such, that's sort of similar. I mean the idea that a complex system such as a society will, through incalculable interactions produce unexpecter results. Since we're now able to interact with so many people so effortlessly, I wouldn't be surprised to see the rise of a new kind of participatory art or entertainment. The line between the two would not be very apparent I think. Things like that I like bees game might be early examples of what's to come. Art could be integrated quite seamlessly into everyday life through pervasive entertainment and games that you take part in as you go about your business. Most of these games would probably be pure entertainment, but if the games are based on people interacting, there's plenty of room for creativity as well.

An artist could be someone who designs a game and how it affects people's lives, what the players are shown and what they may learn. It could be a pretty subtle way of conveying messages, emotions, ideas or whatever an artist may wish to convey to the audience. Real interactive storytelling. Actually, why isn't this being done more already? It's not like this is an obscure idea, there was even a movie, albeit a nightmarish one, about it if you think.. "The game."

05 May 2005, 01:05 AM
Well, the last bit I can answer. Hardware...:)

And for the first part, it's part of my current education. It involves interactive multi media as well as visual effects. A complex story with interactivity needs complex interaction, because you might risk letting the audience down and out of the illusion. That simply requires a lot of an AI system and possibly also other systems like eye tracking and maybe facial expressions being read.
T facilitate interaction on a computer costs less, and the less it costs the more will use it. SO there might be a future there but for now it's still way to expensive.

I have to agree that the idea is very interesting. The installments usually made involve realtime playback but not rendering yet. But a lot can be done allready. Would be fun indeed to look inot the implications in it.

05 May 2005, 08:58 AM
AR solutions would be really interesting to be sure, but even with very little technology you could do a lot. A game could start when you receive a letter with a map to a location or such, instructions to wait at a public phone at a certain time, to meet someone (another player) in a certain place at a certain time, or whatever.You just need a very good storyteller who can keep all the strings in their hands without making a mess of it, and an infrastructure that enables you to stage scenes if needed and so on.

05 May 2005, 01:14 PM
Do you mean computer generated or artificial reality. If it's simply artificial, I'd say a lot of us are still too chicken to actually play alnog with that enoough. But I think little groups would work. 2 or 3, and some bonding "ritualisation", after that the game starts :).

05 May 2005, 01:55 PM
I'd say a more apt way to describe it would be 'avoidance' and not 'escapism'. But hey, it's a cultural trait, not something unique to the medium.

05 May 2005, 03:44 PM
The times and the medium coincide, so there's the correlation, artists aren't segregated.

I'm quite sure it's not avoidence, in the fact that most will seek an answer to their problems and not avoid them all the time. It's a way to let of steam or to get away, like having a drink with your mates in the weekend, ;).

05 May 2005, 03:59 PM
I completely agree with JM...
Avoidance wouldn't make sense however recirculation and escapism are quite plausible...

btw JM, don't take this wrong, but I therally enjoy your elaborate responses :thumbsup:

05 May 2005, 04:06 PM
LOL, :D, really glad to hear it actually! thx.

05 May 2005, 05:44 PM
The Theme of our Era is simply Life. Living life itself is an art. Your right, our eras theme is Fantasy and ideas we come up with, but in the end thats the future. Without creativity, or creating new things there wouldnt be anything new. We live in an Era were anything is possible, Literly, talking aobut genetics and such.
I'd have to say the theme of this era is Art?

05 May 2005, 09:11 PM
That can also be said about the Renaissance, where art became a new, respectable form of living.

I would have to disagree I think. Our generation doesn't seem to be waking up from a particularly difficult evil. This era reminds me more of the Romantic Era, in that we are trying to define ourselves in not only an industrialized world but a digital world as well. All the fantasy, escapism as JM put it, puts a focus on the individual and the individual's creativity in a world where even "alternative" clothing is mass produced by small persons in some thirdworld country.

So I would say that painters in this era are at least partially reactionary to the loss of individuality brought about by globilization, digitizing, culture cults and mass producing. For example, if you take a look at the average high school, you'd see a lot of different people. There would be the 'normal' kids, who wear the latest fashions and probably play sports. Then there are the goth kids, who dress in black and punky stuff and shop at Hot Topic (no less corporate than Old Navy or Gap). Emo and artsy go in almost the same category, but also involve buying clothes and accesories and the like. Even in the 'alternative' styles of dress, things are mass produced. I think the art of our day, or at least by my generation (still a teen, here) is reactionary to the mass-identity.

05 May 2005, 02:10 AM
probably all of us here define ourselves to some extent more by our web pages than our street address. i lived in 3 different countries last year but i had the same URL. similarly a lot of who are bothering to post on a forum for 3d graphics probably do a lot of socializing online, keep in touch with friends who have moved away, etc. and of course we see all sorts of social scenes re create online, and new ones. of course your local laws and so forth will affect your life, but for those of us who live in fairly first world countries, or even anyplace modern enough to have decent internet access, the differences in our lives are probably due more to our taste than anything else. if i felt like it, i could learn just as much about say, japanese pop music, or far far more, than the average japanese person, just through the net.

you kids growing up with the net are lucky. high school would have sucked a lot less for me if i had known there were other interesting intelligent talented artists active in the world. had to wait for college for that..

as far as historical movements, i think the filter of time has a lot to do with the apparent clarity of our percption, i feel if you lived there at the time, it might not be so obvious.

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