Here's an interview with digital artist John Simon. Pretty interesting, but I don't know what to think about his art. He taught "computer art" at SVA, and I like his approach (from the little I can make out of it.)
When I was teaching in the Computer Art MFA program at the School of Visual Arts [in New York] I taught both programming and systems. The systems class was meant to explain how the computer worked, layer by layer, from "why the user interface looks like a desktop" to "how electricity and transistors can be made to store and manipulate information." I don't think we should allow creative innovators to use application software without showing them how it is all put together.
He had a piece in bitstreams, so maybe Tom could comment on his work?
- jim 7-08-2001 5:18 pm

Thanks for the link to the interview. Simon is emerging (along with Jeremy Blake and John Maeda, artists whose work resembles his) as a "poster child" for digital art, so I was curious to read what he has to say. He has enormous credibility with curators (and artwriters like Atkins) because he has done Web projects but also because he makes objects (the LCD screens) that can be collected and displayed by museums. Rumor has it that his last show at Sandra Gering sold out, and that all the buyers were curators. I know it sounds cynical, but these institutional buyers are feeling some pressure to come back from trips to NY with some "computer art," and Simon's pieces fit the bill for several reasons. First, they are based on the grid, and permutations of dots and lines, which curators understand from studying Mondrian and Sol Lewitt in school. Second, they look like what we imagine "computer art" to be, with the added intellectual benefit of laying bare the computer's own processes (classic Modernism). And finally, they're self-contained--you can pop'em right up on the wall next to paintings! Personally I think his ever-changing pixelscapes are advanced screen savers, but they're cleverly done and pleasurable to watch. The exposed hardware on his earliest group of works (depicted in the interview) struck me as nerdy, but now he's using plasma screens so that's not so much an issue.

As for the matter of whether artists need to write code, I think Simon says it very well: "I believe artists who work from a strong personal vision will make interesting art with Photoshop or anything else they find necessary to realize their ideas. That said, using a software tool by just following the demos and the menus is going to produce very similar results."

Here's a link to his website.
- tom moody 7-08-2001 10:28 pm [add a comment]

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