II: Navigating Digital Art in the Institution

In reflection on my previous blog, IDFA’s Doclab 2024 is a must visit when interested by the cutting edge of technology in new media, technolgy, and art — an added bonus being that the program is free of charge (just a little heads up for next year). Now with a year to go, it sparks my contemplation about the impact of technologies, such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality on contemporary art discourse. Especially in the light of the skepticism expressed during our class discussions regarding the introduction of technologies in art and cultural discourse, such as Nikol’s piece on the Digital Wardrobe and the previous discussed article of Maria on Digital Technology as Medium of Art Creation. Many of us, as aspiring art historians and potentially future curators or pogrammers at major insitiutions that shape our discourse, have raised questions about aspects of digital such as the immateriality or intangibility of it. Or, they have raised doubts about the fundemental necessity of digital technology presented within art, given that it is frequently perceived as something inherently pure and soulful.

Perhaps, technology has to often been perceived simply as a tool for improvement, devoid of creativity. Nevertheless, I argue that the overarching category of mew media or mixed media in contemporary art discourse shows that the future involves sciences like artificial intelligence or virtual reality. To explore this concept, I think it’s crucial to distuingish the medium of the digital from its technological facets, or perhaps even more fittingly, to avoid defining new media solely based oetter to not let the soul definier by its inherent technological nature. Rather, in new media or digital media we should focus more on the idea of a new form of narration; as it combines the familar concept text with other immersive aspects. In the case of Voice In My Head AI, to shape the narrative/text in an trutly unique way, and for Emperor it adds these 4D landscapes. It can in a sense be related to cinema, it is an extender of the world, yet like the medium of documentary it is an constructed version of this by the maker. Therefore we can see new media as form of art, as it is always a representation which is created and curator by its artists.

As is likely evident, my perspective on the digital in art is optimistic, as per my interest lays in the new media site of art. Still I realise its pitfalls, but rather seeing it as a technology, we should focus more on the immersive and interactive technological aspects to narrate, represent and, reflect the contemporary world and beyond. Now to the question of how this development works within the actual institutions that represent art; I believe there exists a somewhat ambivalent relationship. Institutions that work in media already, Like IDFA, wholeheartedly embrace technology and actively incorporate it within their programs, while other “traditional” institutions are more reserved. These spaces realise the virtual realm of zeros and ones doesn’t necessarily confine itself to the traditional white cube. Nevertheless, its fragility becomes apparent as it depends on storage devices such as SSDs, hard drives and others, which can be altered or lost idefinitely.

Nonetheless, scholars have offered ways in which the digital realm can revolutionize the museum, presenting three pillars: the institution as an “information-seeking space, a social gathering space and a new artefact, embodying social processes and projects”. The institution would employ technology as a tool to communicate contemporary culture. Even with the (somewhat valid) skepticism towards technology, such as artificial intelligence, I believe when executed thoughtfully, digital arts can seamlessly find their place with any institutionalised setting.


David Bearman & Kati Geber (2008) Transforming Cultural Heritage Institutions through New Media, Museum Management and Curatorship, 23:4, 385-399, DOI: 10.1080/09647770802517431