The Intersection of Technology & Art

From the early cave paintings in Lascaux to the marble masterpieces of ancient Greece, art has served as a timeless mirror reflecting the human experience and cultural evolution. 

Throughout history, artistic mediums have encompassed tangible materials and craftsmanship. Whether it is the intricate brushwork of Rembrandt or the sculptures of Michelangelo, physicality has been central to the way artists work. Even “cultural resets,” such as Duchamp’s introduction of the ready-made concept, expanded artistic possibilities while still being rooted in tangible materiality.

Art has always reflected the human experience. Over 600 paintings cover the interior of the Lascaux cave in France, dated to 17,000 years old. The paintings show animals of the Paleolithic Age that were living in the area at the time.

As we navigate the complexities of the digital age, the definition of art broadens to incorporate intangible and interactive elements. The emergence of video art in the late 1960s marked an initial attempt to merge technology with artistic expression, but the result was often rudimentary and struggled to captivate. As society progresses into a technology-dominated era, the intersection of art and technology becomes an increasingly vital commentary on our world.

Recent exhibitions, such as those by Agnieszka Pilat and the experimental art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast, signify a shift in the relationship between art and technology. Pilat’s installation Heterobota, featured in this year’s Triennial at the National Gallery of Victoria, challenged conventional creativity by employing Boston Dynamics robot dogs as painters. These mechanised artists, roaming freely and creating abstract compositions, provoked profound questions about the intersection of technology and humanity. As viewers witnessed the robotic dogs engage in the act of creation, they were compelled to confront how technology shapes our lives and perceptions, blurring the boundaries of art, technology, and humanity.

Distortions in Spacetime
by Marshmallow Laser Feast, Works of Nature, ACMI, 2023, image by Eugene Hyland

Similarly, Marshmallow Laser Feast’s exhibition, Works of Nature, showcased at ACMI, transcends traditional artistic boundaries by immersing viewers in a sensory journey exploring the interconnectedness of nature, the human body, and the universe. Through large-scale screen works, interactive experiences, and guided meditations, the exhibition invites audiences to contemplate the sublime forces governing existence.

What distinguishes these exhibitions is not merely their use of technology but their ability to use technology as an artistic expression that is captivating and relevant. By seamlessly integrating tech with traditional artistic elements, they offer a glimpse into a future where art becomes a dynamic dialogue between the old and new, traditional and technological media.

These exhibitions succeeded in reflecting contemporary society, which in my opinion is integral to important art. In an age defined by rapid advancement and societal transformation, the fusion of art and technology becomes a powerful tool for documenting and interpreting the world around us.

The convergence of technology and art represents a new frontier in creative expression. By pushing the boundaries of traditional mediums and embracing innovative technologies, artists redefine what it means to create and experience art. Installations such as those by Pilat and Marshmallow Laser Feast embody a refined approach, transcending the rudimentary to engage us and to offer a meaningful dialogue on the roles of technology in our lives.

Evolver by Marshmallow Laser Feast, Works of Nature, ACMI, 2023, image by Eugene Hyland

This exploration has traversed a remarkable journey from the early video works of the 1960s to the immersive digital experiences of today. What once may have felt experimental has evolved into sophisticated expressions that entrance and engage audiences on profound levels. 

This development is important not only to keep the artistic expression relevant but also to cultivate a new generation of art lovers and collectors. In an age where technology permeates every aspect of our lives, it is exciting to see how new media produces work that is not only relevant but also resonates, allowing viewers to connect with art in new ways.

As artists continue to push the boundaries of what is possible at this intersection, the future of artistic expression holds endless possibilities, ensuring that art remains as important as it always has been. 

By Wiebke Brix, Head of Art

Top Image: Installation view of Agnieszka Pilat’s work Heterobota on display as part of NGV Triennial from 3 December 2023 – 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy

May 2024