Experimental research in the digital media arts

Barker, T. (2013) Experimental research in the digital media arts. In: Chan, J. and Thomas, K. (eds.) Handbook of Research on Creativity. Edward Elgar: Cheltenham, UK. ISBN 9780857939807

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.

Publisher's URL: http://www.e-elgar.com/bookentry_main.lasso?id=14698


When Gene Youngblood tells us that experimental art is meaningless, he is of course trying to draw our attention to the fact that all art is experimental, otherwise it is not art. Following Youngblood, creative practice might be thought of as an experiment, a process of bricolage, or of assemblage, where new relationships are able to be tested. From this perspective, ex-perimental art could be meaningfully considered alongside experimental practices in science, and further, as a part of a larger ‘experimental culture’. This is, of course, not to say that experimental practice in science and art consists entirely of interchangeable methods and principles. Instead, we could position science and art within a culture of technological experimentation, where both disciplines converge in their use of new techniques and technologies to re-imagine our bodies, minds and the worlds that we live in. In experimental art, the artist – a figure that Youngblood terms a design-scientist – is not looking for new facts about the world; he or she is not necessarily looking for specific and falsifiable answers to problems, as is the norm for scientific experiments. The experimental artist designs the parameters of an experiment, setting up the conditions and limits to explore a phenomenon or concept. Within this framework, creativity and experimentalism might be considered as two sides of the same coin. The capacity to experiment, to empirically test new ideas and uncover new connections, first requires the creation of concepts, hypotheses, limits and methods. Likewise, the capacity for creativity, as the ability to bring difference into the world, requires that a number of experiments first be carried out. After all new ideas, objects and technologies do not arrive as fully formed ‘things’ but are continually refined through an experimental process. This contribution to the Handbook of Research on Creativity explores the relationship between creativity and experimentalism by giving a set of examples that apply digital technologies beyond their conventional use. Firstly, I explore an art project titled Scenario (2011) conducted at the iCinema Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, where I was a research fellow from 2009 to 2012. The Scenario project takes place in a 360-degree virtual environment. It experimentally applies interactive and visualization technologies to create novel contexts for users to explore cinematic images and an interactive narrative. In order to further illustrate the explanation of experimental research in the arts, I then explore the compositional practice of Nick Fells, a UK based composer and an academic at the Uni-versity of Glasgow. In particular I focus on his recent project Arine (2010), a piece in which Fells experimentally applies digital recording techniques to the live performances of a classi-cal ensemble. Fells’ experimentation is designed as an attempt to put the performers in a closer contact with the technological and bodily process of music making. Both these projects have been chosen to illustrate the notion of experimentalism as a creative process, where an artist develops a set of initial conditions, or starting positions, from which the experiment unfolds. In order to further the discussion of research methods used in Scenario and Arine, I then investigate Reiko Goto and Tim Collins’ recent research project Eden 3 (2008–ongoing). This project provides an example of an experimental process that likewise proceeds from initial conditions set by the artist but also, as is the case in scientific experiments, extends human beings’ capacity to observe something of the workings of the world via its mediation. In this case, Goto and Collins design a unique environmental sensing device to detect biological re-sponses to changing atmospheric conditions. By using this data to control a computer driven sonification system they mediate this process, giving aesthetic form to previously unobserved phenomena.

Item Type:Book Sections
Keywords:Media Art Practice-Based Research Experimental Art Philosophy of Experimentalism
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Barker, Professor Timothy
Authors: Barker, T.
Subjects:N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
T Technology > TT Handicrafts Arts and crafts
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Publisher:Edward Elgar

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record