Magazine article National Forum

Exploring Visual Influences

Magazine article National Forum

Exploring Visual Influences

Article excerpt

When an artist or animator transforms a piece of paper, an animation cel, or a grid of pixels on a computer screen into a work of art, it is undoubtedly true that the resulting imagery is not entirely unique. Idea development relies heavily on experience, emotional state, and visual influences. In the past, our visual environment consisted mainly of natural elements and manmade structures. Today, the visual environment is composed of multiple layers of images. Television, film, video, computer graphics, and even print advertising have transformed the visual landscape. Consequently, artistic expression has evolved as it attempts to respond to the changing landscape.

Collaborative computer-art projects enable artists to explore their creative visual responses in meaningful ways while enhancing understanding of environmental influences. Artists working with collaborative art and appropriated images pay homage to the image culture as they fuse visual influences with original creative expression. To what extent visual images influence art production varies from artist to artist and from culture to culture.

In 1991, as an experiment, twelve artists were divided into three groups, and each group was given an art object. The first group received a Georgia O'Keeffe print, the second group a Japanese decorative knot, and the third a New Guinea sculpture. The first person in each group created a work of art that was influenced by the group's art object. The second person in each group took the art object created by the first person and produced an art object in response to this new object. The third person produced a work that was influenced by the second art piece created, and the fourth person in each group completed the experiment by creating a piece in response to the third art object. When all objects were completed, the artists displayed the works and discussed their feelings concerning creative idea development and predefined visual influences.

The varying creative results of this experiment inspired the development of a project entitled "The International Collaborative Internet ChainArt Project" in 1992. Computer graphics-imaging software facilitated image manipulation, and the Internet provided a means of transmitting the artwork from participant to participant. In 1992, the World Wide Web (WWW) had not yet been fully developed, so the images were stored on an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server. The participants would get the image, manipulate it, and then put it back on the FTP server using the Internet. Because of slow transfer rates, multiple-- image file formats, and complicated network configurations, this was not an easy task.

The ChainArt project began with a "Call for Participation" sent via e-mail. Within a week, over two hundred people expressed an interest in the project. Participants were divided into twenty-- three groups according to geographic location and computing platform. All groups were composed of at least one individual from outside of the United States and never more than one person from any one state. Originally six people were in each group, but this number fluctuated as involvement increased in some

groups and decreased in others. Individuals in ten different countries contributed a total of 136 images. Each group was given a starter image, and each person in the group was assigned a week to get an image from the FTP site, manipulate it, and put it back. Group members always manipulated the image created by the previous participant. Individuals involved in the project included students, teachers, artists, mathematicians, scientists, animators, designers, filmmakers, and others.

The visual outcome of the ChainArt project, along with the responses to the e-mail questionnaire at the end of the project, furthered my interest in the creative process and how computer graphics and the Internet could facilitate collaborative art projects. Therefore in 1993, the "Digital Journey" collaborative art project was developed using the World Wide Web. …

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