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Da Vinci in the Digital Age: How Art is Incorporating Technology and Inspiring Innovation

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Da Vinci in the Digital Age: How Art is Incorporating Technology and Inspiring Innovation

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Last Thursday, New York hosted its first Festival of Light in the bureau of Brooklyn known as Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass (or DUMBO, for those of you in the know). The show, as reported by site Biz Bash, was four years in the making - and was so popular that it was shut down early for safety reasons.

The festival follows in the footsteps of light shows overseas in cities like London, Berlin, and Sydney by offering a dazzling display of lights. Exhibits include such installations as projection screens, sculptures lit from within by hundreds of lights, and floating chains of lights.

You may not think of art and technology as intrinsically linked. Art typically manifests in the tangible, in the paint and sculptures found in museums and galleries. The masters of art aren’t the latest and greatest who are creating new ways to make art, they’re Michelangelo and Monet, Renoir and da Vinci. Cutting edge exhibits might get publicity within the underground art community, but rarely will it get the fanfare of the latest iPhone release by Apple.

But the popularity of light shows exhibits a growing trend towards the overlap of art and technology, and art can work with technology to tap into popular culture. Both fields are creative, and both are heavily visual. Individuals working in both fields are fascinated by the cutting edge, and they are passionate about their craft, a shared sentiment that LG recently tapped into with a student art competition. On November 11, LG hosted a gala for the Art of the Pixel student competition. The gala was part of the brand’s launch for its new 4K OLED television. As written by Biz Bash:

“The Art of the Pixel was developed out of the desire to build a deeper relationship with our target consumer and knowing that we had something really special from a product perspective with the 4K and OLED TVs,” said Dave VanderWaal, head of marketing for LG Electronics U.S.A. “We wanted to figure out what this particular consumer segment—influencers with a social platform and penchant for early adoption—were passionate about. In doing this research, we found that our target consumer, the 'innovation tier,' had an emotional connection to art. ... As we started getting into the art world, we focused on those that were interested in advancing art—that's when we started to reach out to the nation's top art schools to support their art programs with a grant and the Art of the Pixel was born.”

The gala was a blend of art and technology that showcased both the student artwork as well as the innovative devices LG offers. Artwork was showcased on the televisions, and the descriptions were displayed on the LG G3 smartphone. In addition to the student submissions, LG placed video projections on the walls that periodically changed throughout the evening, showing the LG brand, images of Art of the Pixel contestants, and classic pieces such as Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.” The event was an ode to innovation and the collaboration between art and digital technology.

“We wanted to use the gala to create a moment for all of the attendees (consumers, key trade partners, press, celebrities, the students, and their schools) who share a common interest in the advancement of art,” VanderWaal said.

Similarly, high-profile museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and D.C.’s Smithsonian have been making strides to infuse mobile devices into the museum experience. The New York Times’ article “Museums Morph Digitally,” Steve Lohr explores how museums are making such technological strides as incorporated 3D installations, features for smartphones, and digital pens to draw on interactive touch-screen surfaces. The Met even has an iPhone app that showcases new and featured exhibits. Rather than the usual signs requesting customers to keep their phones in their pockets, the museum experience will soon be an immersive one that incorporates aspects of the digital age.

In his article “Digital Lessons fro the Museum and Art World,” Lohr expands upon the phenomenon by comparing it to the challenges other businesses face in the increasingly digital age:

Yes, museums are mostly nonprofits. But they are trying to solve the same problem as almost any business today that is not a born-on-the-web company like Google or Facebook: How do you intelligently use digital technology to enhance your business rather than being overrun by it? The physical and the digital sides of your business should work together, so that your investments in the physical world remain a powerful asset.

It makes sense that, in order to stay relevant, any business must adapt to the changing tides and meet the needs of the consumer. But doesn’t that mean that art might lose its intrinsic value? Not necessarily, according to Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, whom Lohr interviewed:

“We live not in the digital, not in the physical, but in the kind of minestrone that our mind makes of the two.” Museums, Ms. Antonelli insists, have an important role to play in helping people explore and understand the emerging hybrid culture. “It’s this strange moment of change,” she explained. “And digital space is increasingly another space we live in.”

In fact, says Lohr, museums are employing more and more digital artists to create exhibits. And the movement is coming to mobile, too. The Guardian has examined the incorporation of mobile with art in its article "How Mobile Tech is Changing the Way We View and Create Art." The article, written by Matt Trueman, proposes that making art mobile taps into a market that is already inherently popular and will thus bring art to the public in an accessible way that is, literally, already at their fingertips. Says Ruth Mackenzie, interim CEO and creative director of The Space:

“The average person looks at their mobile 100 times a day, so just imagine if art were a part of that diet. What if, instead of playing Candy Crush, you did art?”

The Guardian acknowledges that that may be an oversimplification of mobile possibilities for art, but it raises an interesting point. What if we were creating instead of just playing? What if there was a way to make art feel like another mobile game? As technology begins to enter more and more avenues within culture, it becomes more and more woven into the fabric of our society, cementing its permanence and invaluable nature in our day to day lives.

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