The Aura of the Digital Object

From todays talk on the aura of the art object in relation to Walter Benjamin’s Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, I have been thinking more on what constitues the ‘aura’ for the digital object. From the discussion we came to the conclusion that the aura was something that was given to the object through our own values or through the importance we assign to it, I think this method of thinking adapts perfectly to digital or new media projects, this as opposed to placing high significance on the original which runs into difficulty when faced with the copy/paste abilities of digital technology.

I’ve thought about this in reference to digital paintings, where the whole idea of copy and paste, opposed to the idea of the orignal is quite prominent. Unlike an image created with oil paints on canvas, what is the ‘original’ of the digital painting? Could it be the original psd file it was created on? (if the work was created on photoshop) From this, many copies can be printed out, all of the same quality and size as the other, or easily changed if needed, showing us the same image. But is the first one printed the original if all the others are the same quality and dimensions and if so, what makes this one the original? Is the psd the original asset of the works creation when it can be duplicated and reworked on a different machine, or is the computer that created the truly original aspect of the work as it functioned as the ‘canvas’ so to speak. Maybe the combination of all of these aspects make the digital painting original.

Answering these questions is not easy as everyone has their different opinions of what constitues the original and what constitues the aura of a work. I’ve asked more questions where I meant to answer others, one thing is certain that the concept of the aura of an artwork in the digital era either has to be re contextualised or will inevitably becoming void or a non issue when discussing digital artworks. Whether it is a good or bad thing is anybody’s guess



Cheers to Ben for linking me to these works, where the works of Rubens and Van Dyck have been digitally manipulated. Extremely good example for my contemporary art context.

Scott Snibbe

Other examples of interactive wall works, the first one records the shadow of the viewer and the second is a projection that can be manipulated.


The idea of perspective was a subject that underwent major developments as part of the Renaissance and has continued to develop in several directions since. Further developments in science and maths influenced artists in how they depicted subjects in their works and in turn a wide range of more realistic works were produced. From researching this subject I have tried write down some comparisons between the Renaissance and art in the 21st century. (Don’t have any quotes just now but will try to add them when i get home)

I’m trying to relate this back to the body in art as much as possible because I still want to go down that route. What I’ve been finding is subjects like anatomy and the adoption of mathematic principles enabled artists to represented the body more realistically on the 2D canvas, one trait was that they acted as if they were look through a window into the scene they were painting. Aspects such as one character standing in front of another, or the shadow of a person reflecting on the environment were all issues that artists worked on and developed, the use of grid systems mixed with directed light sources and a knowledge of the anatomy allowed for these works to be created. This was opposed to works by the egyptians who painted bigger figures depending on their importance or the greeks who supposedly thought that perspective was a trick and was not needed for art to serve its purpose (quotes)

In relation to modern times, the role of perspective has differed greatly as artists began to move into abstract painting and sculpture. To continue into contemporary art, the computer has become a vital tool for the creation of new perspectives that exist with the screen in digital environments or through art created with the use of hardware and software. Anne Friedburg discusses this in her book “The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft” which I have yet to read but imagine it will become and integral book to research this topic fully. Alberti was one of the earliest people to study perpective and regarded mathematics as a fundamental element of the subject. He saw in nature patterns which developed his theory and stated that “all steps of learning should be sought from nature” and the that the role of the artist was to imitate it.

My comparison with contemporary practice is that if digital technologies have the ability to develop new perspectives within artistic fields then maths again plays a crucial role through its part in computer science and algorithms that define the functions for computer programmes to run. These elements also take the idea of perspective in 2D one step further by allowing different manipulations and movement within space, different parts of an image can be created and moved into position depending on the thoughts of the artist. To further this, the development of the 3D environment provides us with the ability to build and manoeuvre round 3D objects on a 2D screen, interaction is also a new theme in relation to virtual worlds like Second Life. The idea of mathematics coming from nature has now turned on itself by using the computer to build environments in order to mimic nature in virtual worlds.

Liminal Identities

I like these kind of projects, this one by Rebecca Allen, that cross the boundary of the real and the virtual. In the case the physical object will capture the faces of the exhibition users and transfer them into the installation digital counterpart. There is also the ability to breathe on the installation, capturing different senses and transferring them into the virtual realm.


Art for Networks (2002)

This exhibition is discussed in New Media in the White Cube and Beyond and has caught my eye mainly because of the range of works that were included within the show. Sarah Cook describes this show as “a travelling group exhibition focusing on a practice engendered by new media (“networking”) presented in a range of media and art forms”

Cook discusses the need for museums to change how they interact with artworks, and describes the downsides of trying to display new media art projects within this environment. As she goes on to discuss alternatives to the traditional museum exhibition this particular show is used as a case study. Comparing the show to a software programme she states:

A premise of the project was that it could change its installation and checklist with each new gallery exhibiting it, in essence offering an ever-changing data flow that could be modified to demonstrate different aspects of each project and to produce different outcomes, depending on the audiences and the organisers.

The show function as one of the first exhibitions that featured new media art to cross the boundary into the white cube space and though not focussing on the effect of the technology as part of the show, the idea of the network takes forefront

The context for the art (its interconnectedness in a network, computer generated or not, that involved an audience of active participants) says something significant about its content – in part by describing the process behind the making of the artwork

I think this is quite an interesting topic to look at, this show demonstrates the networks ability to adapt and change to different venues that serve different purposes (with reference to new media projects or otherwise).

I also like to see shows that incorporate both new media and traditional artworks

My idea of the Digital Renaissance

The term itself meaning ‘re-birth’ seems a fitting title for the artwork being created in the 21st century; the rise of digital technology has caused the world to go through major transformations, a whole new world when compared to say the 19th century or even the early 20th century. The speed of technological development at points seems to be an unconscious progression, new gadgets and devices are constantly streaming onto the market that we hardly have time to realise their importance before they are upgraded and considered old and dated. The world just now is going through a digital rebirth as we constantly rely on technologies functioning in order to keep everything running smoothly, to communicate and increasingly to buy and share with each other.

The Digital Renaissance however, unlike its predecessors, exists globally and not within a certain location. Like the old Renaissance painters developing perspective and other issues within painting sculpture etc. I see a comparison with the artists of the 21st century created a new ‘perspective’ of things with the use of digital technologies. It also continues to be a fluid and ever changing re birth of art into the digital era as a result of the rapid development of technology, meaning that there are no distinct characteristics as yet of what digital artworks look like.

It’s something I need to think about more but these are my initial thoughts on the Digital Renaissance