Weight of Time Passed, photograph
“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.”
– Stewart Brand
I spend most of my day looking at paintings and photography on a computer monitor and have been researching various aspects of publishing artwork, both online and in more traditional mediums.
It has struck me that the computer monitor is becoming (or has already become) the most common medium by which we view art. It’s not galleries and museums, and perhaps not even books anymore. Our common visual reference is the monitor.
This has some potentially far reaching consequences. Monitors (assuming it’s a good one, which is becoming more common) display images with a dynamic range and quality that reproductions cannot match. Viewing a piece of art on a large, good monitor has become a really nice experience. Because light is streaming through the image instead of reflecting off of it, their is a luminosity to images viewed this way that cannot be matched when the image is on paper or canvas.
I suspect many will agree that the images on a monitor beat images in a book or a print. Now for the controversial part of my post…
How does this experience compare to seeing the original piece of art? I’m wondering if our visual taste buds are becoming accustomed to seeing art with the luminosity and quality of a monitor band whether we will become “disappointed” when we see originals. I know that I’ve already had this experience in certain museums, where my first impression of certain paintings or photographs has been one of great disappointment. Perhaps a copy I saw on a poster or in a book had been somehow more vivid and the real thing is a letdown.
I know that there are definite tactile qualities that a piece of original art has that a display cannot reproduce. This is more true of paintings than of photographs, which have no three dimensional character and are all, after all, reproductions. But I wonder how the increased use and quality of monitors and the resulting experience of viewing art might subtly influence how painters paint and how viewers react to original work?
I can’t imagine monitors will ever replace original art, but I also can’t imagine that how we see original art hasn’t been affected by this relatively new way of experiencing it.