Gagnon Responds to Kuspit
Lou Gagnon responds to Donald Kuspit's words on digitalism.
Response to Mr. Kuspit
By Lou Gagnon
This is little more than the coupling of both tired arguments - "Abstraction vs. representation" and "painting is dead" – with a technology twist.
Having used both "analog" and "digital" tools in my career as both an architect and an artist, I can say that they are not equivalents in the creative process. The fatal flaw of this elaboration is assigning the "code" or concept as the primary creative act.
Every creative human that I know starts with an analog process - a sketch, note or diagram. Digital tools are mainly production tools used in the refinement and analysis of the original concept (to produce not create the "code"). Powerful as they may seem, the cumbersome complexities of navigating a digital tool system (CPU, software, visual interface, input device and power supply) cannot currently compete with the fluidity and focus attainable with the analog system - (pen and paper). All digital characters are modeled and animated using haptic and visual input from analog (real & professionally trained) humans.
I resist digital art as "art" for the following reasons: Digital Art has no haptic record of human activity imbedded in the final object. No under painting, no sketch lines, no corrections; just slick and polished representation (yes it is still just representation), whether it is rich in information or not.
More simply: it does not smell. Are we to lobotomize our senses to accept Mr. Kuspit’s premise and thereby prefer lots of limited information to less information that actually "touches" us? We can relate to haptic records because we share a tactile world, because we make mistakes and we incorporate or work around them. We need that tactile feedback. I can take all the digital images that I can store of my children and all of them combined will pale in comparison to the fleeting power of holding their hand, smelling their hair and thumbing through their drawings.
Many modern and contemporary buildings, while brilliant records of design and building technology, fail miserably to address the human, both in scale and in relation to a community. That is why there is a sculpture, fountain or garden in front of most modern buildings.
The most powerful tool is the one that gets used. The most powerful form of communication is the one that actually communicates.
Perhaps we are doomed to Mr. Kuspit’s supposition. When a child spends more time with printers than paint, or when the image assembled by pre-designed digital parts gives a sense of finish that a clumsy, unskilled drawing may lack. In a world of unlimited "undos" and no messy cleanups, how can the stench and mess of paint and the frustration of ability not being able to match vision compete?
Children and adults spend more time watching TV than contemplating still images so that when they walk into a gallery what are they going to gravitate to? A still image can only lead you so far, there is some interaction required, it is open-ended. Linear media is a much more conclusive seduction. If you want to be lead, then watch TV.
Personally, the transcendence is less finite with a still image. While my belief may be suspended during a video, its conclusion is limited and therefore disposable. Once I get it, I am done with it. It is, however, comforting to know that the pieces, when placed in the right order, do add up to the picture in the box. I know first-hand that there is very little that is comforting about inventing the problem and then the solution. Then we are puzzled why novelty is more seductive than the sublime.
All this leaves me wondering why one of the first and longest lasting recorded images is the outline of the human hand in the caves of France. Clearly sitting around the fire and telling stories was not enough. I suppose that in the world of the human genome, binary logic and MP3’s, it is tempting to codify art as well.
I am glad to be free of the little dark room filled with power cords, flickering LCD’s and whirring little fans in plastic boxes. I am free to walk in the sunshine and smell the flowers however haptic, analog and direct that may be. Free to continue leaving my fingerprints in the colored dirt and burnt sticks I push across pulverized plant fibers. Then again what do I know? my path to understanding this issue is limited to what I have learned making stuff not history.