As more production tools become available on a digital platform, it’s becoming easier for anyone to produce a work of art and publish it online. Such is the rate of this phenomenon that it may become an increasingly common occurrence for the art we pay for ending up enclosed within a hard drive.
If we pay for digital art, are we paying for a hard drive?
This question was deliberated during a panel at the inaugural Betwixt Festival on Saturday. The four presenters – Dayang MNT Yraola, Suzy Sulaiman, Pichaya Aime Suphavanij, and Michelle Ho – discussed digital art and the role it plays, curating prominent artists and their work within Southeast Asia.
The concept of paying for digital art isn’t entirely new. There are many sites that support a large community of artists and act as a platform for users to share their work and sell their digital images including DeviantArt, Pixiv, Flickr, and 500px.
However, it’s this sentiment that digital art isn’t in fact tangible and that consumers are merely paying for bits and bytes in a hard drive. That’s not to say that art is dead as a physical medium but it’s interesting to think about the disparity between digital and physical art and the issues surrounding it, including its ownership, maintenance, and lifespan. It definitely changes the way consumers interact with the art.
The art featured in the panel was meant to showcase the diverse amount of work within the community, as well as how it was affected by the variables of technology, community, and place.
One of these works was an installation of a pedicab featuring a screen that played videos of police brutality in the Philippines. Presenting this serious issue within the familiar environment of a pedicab emphasised how it wasn’t entirely a foreign concept but one that hits much closer to home and would serve to inform those in the dark of events that are actually occurring.
This panel on digital art was preceded by another panel that focused on concepts between art and technology.
Professor Vibeke Sorensen opened the first panel, introducing the concept of “beyond the gap”. Addressing the “gaps” in society, such as those between art and technology, Prof. Sorensen also broached the gap of gender equality. This was addressed with the conscious decision to have all-female speakers.
Firstly, Debbie Ding, who presented the idea of prototype as the finished product in artistic expression. Angela Chong focused on light-based art to draw a contrast between the extremes of light and dark. She was especially interested in telling stories that were tied to objects and the human trait of attachment to belongings. Denisa Kera talked of Hackerspaces/open spaces that connected humanity.
From this first edition of Betwixt, what we’ve seen and heard painted a solid picture of what the festival is all about. We’re definitely looking forward to a second run next year.