The mass adoption of technology: what does it mean for art? | SOPRG

The art techniques that are available to artists are usually given by the knowledge and technology available. The process of learning and producing art has varied over time. Before the invention of the printing press, a person that knows watercolor painting would teach this technique to a group of students, and that would be the way that this knowledge gets passed on. Before the invention of writing, this would be the only way to transmit knowledge. Technological advances have been usually tied with the ability to propagate knowledge. The invention of writing brings ways to distribute and transmit knowledge, exchange information. It is also a means for artistic expression. Fast forward to other inventions, and they have produced —one way or another— an enhancement of this principle. More ways to disseminate information and art, that also bring about more production of art or even a new artform. Think of the printing press, the invention of photography, broadcasting through radio and television, film, and the Internet through its various iterations (that include Web3 and NFTs).

Let’s talk about what NFTs bring to art, exclusively as a means of expression and not the industry as a whole. For starters, you can have a collection of artworks that are connected through the same theme, with relative ease. Especially if you compare this to a time where art was made through techniques that required painstaking process. Having an edition that is part of a NFT collection might mean that you are not looking at the complete artwork.

Internet is a means to distribute content. That is intuitively known, but let’s keep that in mind. Because then, you have a digital means to create art. That is not the same as the actual Internet. So Internet has been constantly distributing art, without an adequate way to digitally protect the intellectual property of a digital artist. That’s why that digital artists have a natural ally in NFTs. People are now certified owners of art. You can have marketplaces where people are buying these non-fungible assets. So, it’s a two-way street of benefits. Owners are certified, and artists get the recognition they deserve for their creations.

It also allows the participation of the audience in the experience through smart contracts (dynamic NFTs), and even have autonomous systems be the ones that create the art in what is known as generative art. Now, this is art that is exclusive for NFTs. They become a differentiated medium.

As it can be observed, Web3 in the art world is —in some ways— no different than the previous inventions that allowed for the inception of new art. Namely, that you can propagate ideas in new ways (sometimes faster, sometimes it is to more people, sometimes both) and it can be an artform in and of itself.

New mediums for art can be criticized as not legitimate forms of art. Photography was thought to be competing with painting as both are expressions that require visual representation. And so, was thought as less than painting. But that made painting take a look at itself and start off the abstract movement, as it concluded that perhaps it shouldn’t be concerned with the representation of reality. Film as a medium started off with similar disdain from elites, which considered it a form of entertainment for the popular classes, and that only plays were a dignified form of art. This is why in the beginning of cinema, there were many similarities between the artforms.  And what’s more, what pushed through the adoption of cinema was the adaptation of plays into movies. But today, you would not compare the two forms. Yes, acting, direction, make-up and costumes are needed in both. But even so, they are different in terms of how you perform in each medium.

Art will always be art

People are already starting to mess around with AI to create some sort of artistic output. For what it’s worth, there will always be a clear distinction between art, and other activities that require mass production based on similar techniques. For example, AI is already part of some newsrooms, as it can already gather information and provide a news bulletin. It also has been able to produce poetry (or something akin to it). Regardless of any discussions of AI and creativity, it is very easy to establish which of the two is art. Which of the two requires constant and massive output. Which of these two endeavors is better suited for artificial intelligence to take over, which is a topic for another lengthy discussion. But, with regards to the AI that produces poetry, proponents of generative art argue that the artist —in this case— is not the AI but the creator of the software. So, it’s not the actual AI that is the artist, but the person that endowed this software with the tools (other works of art, the vision, and the aesthetic taste) to produce art.

People that create this creative software argue that the purpose is not to replace writers and artists in general, but to understand creativity. At least, this is what Pablo Gervás —a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Universidad Complutense de Madrid— says about his AI called WASP.

Art as the process

It is possible then, that a stimulating art experience in the future is one where the artists “show their work”. Having access to the tools that allow for an in-depth understanding of creativity, and for creating an artistic output at the behest of the artist in accordance to a specific vision, has to mean that a new paradigm for experiencing art could come. Perhaps a means with which the spectator can interact, and help produce an artform that is in the image of the vision of the artist so that the audience has some sort of real exposure and interaction with the process.

Creativity and art are what SOPRG is all about. Understanding that NFTs was going to change art, this gallery decided that they would hop in to make sure that true artists still have a say in Web3. From “old-fashioned” art created through paintings, to having an actual gallery in the metaverse. If you want art, just have a look at the paintings and NFTs SOPRG has on display.