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The Engineering of Vision and the Aesthetics of Computer Art


Just as it would be futile to consider video art in isolation from television, it would be equally unproductive to theorize new emerging forms of computer art without considering their uneasy connections to contemporary image industries, such as the computer graphics industry. Computer artists need this industry to provide them with the latest technological toys which will set them apart from their colleagues still working in the traditional, pre-industrial mediums. The industry uses the artists as beta-testers for new software and hardware. More importantly, the industry uses the mythology of art - our Romantic-modernist belief that the artist is a unique person, a visionary who transcends the everyday reality and pushes the boundaries, etc. - as the most effective sales tool. What better way to market a piece of software than to have an endorsement from the artist? (Thus, paradoxically, computer artist is somebody who transcends the here and now in the act of creation, but can do so only with the help of the very latest tools, the tools of here and now).

If computer art does not exist in isolation from computer graphics industry, let us examine the history and the direction of the industry. Why did computer graphics - the industry concerned with finding more effective ways to produce, store, distribute and present images - achieve such importance? Why is it that today new disciplines which study images and vision continue to expand: image processing, computer vision, research on human-computer interfaces, vision science, and so on? What are the reasons these currently prominent image industries and image sciences have acquired such prominence?

Article  1994