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David Porter » Articles at Suite 101 » Creativity, Technology, Food: Nothing Sacred in the Arts Anymore

Creativity, Technology, Food: Nothing Sacred in the Arts Anymore

The Last Supper Gets a Technological Make-Over - Unknown photo author


A round-up of some recent happy marriages of hot technologies, old arts and imaginations, creating new art forms beyond known boundaries.

As the old certainties melt away that visual and performance arts are clearly in their own defined categories, and technology is something that needn’t trouble pure artists, it’s timely to have a look at some recent developments that confirm how far modern arts not only feed off each other, but feed off themselves.

These are exciting times in the arts world with technology so rapid, so inventive and challenging. Just as good art should be, in whatever format it is dreamed up.

The Media as Performance Art

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, September 2011, Dominic Cavendish described how he, a journalist/theatre critic, was asked to write one of six plays based on voicemails of anonymous, ordinary strangers, as a response to the phone-hacking scandal that engulfed media in the UK and USA in 2011.

As facts were unearthed and some newspapers were found to have eavesdropped phone messages of Royalty, celebrities, politicians, criminals and crime victims, its controversial topicality inspired Theatre503 at Battersea Arts Centre, south London, to create something that ‘pushed against the ethical and legal boundaries’.

He recalled the anonymised material from the voicemails coincided with the August riots, but it was the ‘humdrum chatter that brought home how violated you would feel if your phone were hacked’. This wasn’t simply ‘just retribution’ of a hack being exposed. This brought him into a parallel world where his ‘own profession reflected darkly back’ at him.

So news as theatre, theatre as news, news/media as art. None is new, but they’re becoming increasingly difficult to separate. They are part of the contemporary assault on taboos, mores, old ways of thinking. Technology is both driving and being driven by the arts.

Get a Head Online

The world has long been used to airbrushing and digitally enhancing/altering everything and time- switching to put, for instance, President Obama in a mocked-up picture alongside Martin Luther King, as if they were ever together. Programs that make faces look as if they’re reflected in the funfair Hall of Mirrors are old hat.

There’s weariness with ‘planking’: photos of people lying like a plank, flat on their front in any unlikely place; owling (photographed like an owl) and batmanning (hanging upside down). Horsemanning is a refreshing twist.

It’s the latest web craze. One person’s body and another person’s head are posed to look like one person has been decapitated. It employs clever stagecraft instead of techno-wizardry.

In The Sunday Times (September 2011), Kate Mansey said horsemanning pictures ‘range from the absurd to the gruesome’. She said it’s named from the headless horseman in the story and film The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Intel As Art Exhibition

Intel, the world’s main computer chip maker, has opened an exhibition in London: Remastered, A visibly smart production. It ‘reimagines for the digital generation a whole range of traditional artworks’.

Artistic masterpieces like Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed, Picasso’s Guernica, Dali’s The Persistence of Memory and Munch’s The Scream are among those getting a retelling, a reinterpreting of meaning for a digital, contemporary audience. Through high-range Intel 7 processors, motion-capture, conductive ink and 3D, interactive, interconnective installations are created.

Matt Warman, The Daily Telegraph’s Consumer Technology Editor reviewed the opening on September 22nd, by surmising that Intel needed not only to demonstrate its technology in use in all devices, but that they can expand to other disciplines. They wanted, according to Warman, people to invent and manufacture other devices which harness Intel power.

Food as New Art

As boundaries of creativity disciplines continue to blur, Intel employed ‘food architects’ to use crowd sourcing to mount the food-art recreation of da Vinci’s The Last Supper, which also featured a first class menu from the Titanic and the final meal of death row’s Robert Buell to add ‘social finish’ to the exhibition.

The pair who built a reputation making castles out of jelly were reported by Maria Popova in The Atlantic (April 2011), as British food consultancy, (Sam) Bompas and (Harry) Parr, better known as Jellymongers. They have transposed famous London landmarks from Buckingham Palace to St Paul’s Cathedral in jelly, using their own science ‘cutting edge technology and architecture’.

They challenge the dining experience. Other creative highlights have been Alcoholic Architecture, a bar flooded with vaporised gin and tonic (people had to inhale to enjoy it) and an Artisanal Chewing Gum Factory. For Easter 2011 they offered a two-day Rabbit Cafe (albino rabbits) and a room-sized chocolate waterfall, producing 12,000 litres an hour.

Popova described this ‘cross-pollinating of disciplines as fundamental to creativity’. She’s not wrong. It’s the same relish of fusion and mix as in contemporary internet and movie mash-ups.

It’s arts, science and technology merging in fertile procreation. Yet it’s also the fear of technology killing off the actor and then realising that shouldn’t happen in a truly inventive world.

Jelly as art stands apart, reinterpreting the old and understood into something that looks the same yet is different and, in the end, edible. For these artists, at least, art eats itself.

First published on Suite 101, 23 September 2011

Image: The Last Supper Gets a Technological Make-Over – Unknown photo author

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