Technology in the Arts: Friend or Foe? by Kayla Gilbert

In today’s society, we rely heavily on technology to keep us connected, organized, and entertained.  Yet, how does technology work in the field of the arts? Some find it utterly disturbing and detrimental to the essence of artistry, while others see it as an exciting new tool that unlocks another world of possibilities.  So this leaves us with the question, is technology in the art world our friend? Or is it our foe?

Instead of thinking of technology as replacing traditional forms of media, we should think of technology as a means of creating artwork that could not have been created before.  Now, our imagination has yet another outlet that has rarely been explored in comparison to art forms such as painting, sculpture, and drawing. George Whale argues in his Why Use Computers to Make Drawings that technology is a media that we can learn from and ultimately use as a full collaborator to our artistic endeavors.  This concept of learning about methods of art is one that I had never thought about before, yet I can understand how this might occur.  If I were to use technology to create a more traditional piece of art (with minimal interactivity and participation), I would need to fully comprehend various aspects about aesthetics that are also used when creating something by hand.  For example, if I wanted to code something in Processing that realistically resembled an aerial view of a tree in the foreground and a mountain in the background, I would need to apply the same principles that I apply to a painting.


  1. The tree in the foreground should be a lighter shade than the mountain to create a sense of depth
  2. Certain parts of the tree should be the lightest to indicate even more dimension
  3. The tree and mountain should be at certain angles to depict an aerial view


Harold Cohen and AARON

These are all concepts that I would consider when creating certain artwork by hand and thus, using technology to create other works could also be a learning process for different facets of aesthetics.   One artist by the name of Harold Cohen, created a robot named AARON in which he explored the drawing process and learned more about this process from creating the code for AARON.  Cohen explains his journey with AARON and the beauty of his creation in The Further Exploits of AARON.


Yet, with these technological advances, are people losing their appreciation for more traditional artwork?  In my mind, it appears that people see paintings that depict real life (with so much precision and detail that they look like photographs!) and they breeze by them without a second look.  To me, something like Jan Davidsz. De Heem’s Still Life with Grapes is absolutely breath-taking, not only because of the beauty of the objects themselves, but because of the time and care it must have taken to produce a work of this kind.

Still Life with Grapes by Jan De Heem


When you look very closely, you notice the little insects swarming around in the entire painting.  It’s absolutely stunning! Although a work like this is centuries old, if one were to be made in today’s society, I fear no one would really care, suggesting a “been there, done that” attitude.   While I do agree that new media art is exciting and innovative, I hope that people can still appreciate works like De Heem’s because it takes just as much talent, patience, and skill to create a work like Still Life with Grapes as it does to create a work like AARON.