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Zero Frames per Second
How To Make Art
On Atemporality
>The Pianist
MoMA tech notes

Vik Muniz
Ken Jacobs
Hammond / Rosler
This is Modern Art

The Pianist: A Note on Digital Technique

Digital technique is the digital artist's ability to realize his/her vision in software/hardware. How significant is the issue of technique for the digital artist? An analogy can be drawn with the musician's development of his/her art.

For the classical musician, a disciplined approach to technique is essential. Study is focused on the mechanics of performance, on performance as emotional discipline, on music theory and musicological analysis. Discipline is the catalyst that makes expression possible.

For the unschooled musician (exemplified by, say, the "aesthetics of punk"), a disciplined approach to technique is viewed as an impediment to expression. The crucial element is the idea or the attitude; the concerns of technique only interfere with direct expression.

For the classical pianist, the tedium of endless hours of practicing scales takes on an aura of nobility; it's a virtuous, character-building activity.

Instead of practicing scales, the digital artist learns software and hardware, learns programming languages, learns the techniques of creating digital models of sound, image, information, and intelligence.

But generally, the "aura of nobility" that falls to the studious pianist does not currently fall to the disciplined digital artist. Currently, the attitude of the digital art world seems closer to the punk aesthetic: concept is everything, technique is secondary: a distracting necessity.

There is perhaps even a prejudice that digital technique and artistic vision are mutually exclusive: an individual can have one or the other, but not both. Thus a complete division of labor between artist and technician is seen as desirable.

This attitude could change. Technique can be a force that liberates expression. When an artist masters new techniques, there is an expansion of possibilities, not a contraction.

In time, "digital virtuosity" may approach the status of musical virtuosity or painterly virtuosity, that is: neither a coveted end-unto-itself, nor a smokescreen for lack of conceptual content, but merely a valuable asset that can allow an artist to attain his/her vision in new ways.

(Kurt Ralske, January 2004)

Copyright 1996-2005 Kurt Ralske