Arts Will Change as Artists Discover Computer Power
INTERACTIVE video displays like those at the Getty Museum [see story at right] barely hint at the changes digital image and sound technology will make in the presentation - and creation - of art over the next few years, predicts Eric Martin, director of the Macintosh Lab at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, north of Los Angeles. This year is ``sort of like the point 20 years after the invention of photography or 20 years after the invention of the movies,'' says Mr. Martin, who has been a consultant to Apple Computer and is writing a book called ``Start Anywhere: The Revolution in Personal Media.''Skip to next paragraph
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``Photographers first thought the way you were supposed to handle photography was to imitate painting, and with motion pictures it was to imitate theater,'' he told the Monitor in a telephone interview. ``And then somebody came along and said, `No, no. Here's what it is.'
``We haven't quite gotten to that point with computers. ... We don't realize yet that there's a wholly original, new creative entity at the heart of this'' - a tool that can manipulate words, pictorial images, and sounds and make them interact with one another. ``That will come to us in fits and starts and then explode ... somewhere in the next five years.''
As a computer-literate teacher and experimenter, Martin is a bit ahead of many artists and curators in understanding this technology. ``When I write, I write with a concern for the langauge, but I'm also concerned about the pictorial images that will go with the words, because they're all addressable by the same box I'm writing on,'' he explains. ``The image I've designed for the page could as easily appear in a movie I might make using the computer. And sound becomes a possibility when the page becomes an electronic page.''
At the Getty, the museum's four years of experience with interactive videos have made clear that computer-related technologies raise important questions for the museum world, especially when coupled with the potential for the crystal-clear pictures available on high-definition television (HDTV), a format in limited use in Japan and a few other places.
``If you can see Greek vases on high-definition television in your living room and put on a power glove and `feel' their textures and simulate reality in other convincing ways, then why go to the museum at all?'' asks David Ebitz, who heads the Getty's education and academic affairs section.
In a Monitor interview, Dr. Ebits also raised questions about interactive presentations inside the museum. ``Although we've put these vidoes in very discrete little dark rooms, the videos are compelling - sometimes more compelling than the original object,'' Ebitz says. ``If interactive video is allowed to compete for the visitor's attention with one-point Renaissance perspective, for instance, Renaissance paintings will always lose to the competition.
``I wonder if these reproductions - as they get closer to reality and then, with high-definition TV, even go beyond the range of saturations and light intensity a painting can provide - aren't going to take over. I don't say that fearfully; I'm sort of bemused by this.