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Digital Divine and the End of Art

In the ancient world, artisans laboured with stone to represent humankind in God’s likeness. In a postmodern age, visions of individual rather than universal truths are now the norm, yet [...]

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International Journal of the Arts

In an era of postmodern digital branding, classical ideals of truth and beauty once revered by the ancient Greeks and later so eloquently championed by the likes of Keats and Blake, now might appear as forlorn and forgotten as Ozymandias lying deserted and abandoned in the desert of antediluvian dreams.

  • "I am passionate about creative work that explores, entertains and illuminates."
    - David L. Tucker
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In the ancient world, artisans laboured with stone to represent humankind in God’s likeness. In a postmodern age, visions of individual rather than universal truths are now the norm, yet contemporary digital artists continue to enhance, epitomize, and iconize in the name of art, turning the ordinary—the proverbial lump of clay—into the extraordinary. As we move further into the 21st century, artificial intelligence and other advanced digital technologies are poised to become the next tools for transforming the everyday into new aesthetic ideals. Currently, cyber researchers speak confidently about a near future in which computers will surpass the intelligence of their creators, and anticipate a time when man and machine will ultimately merge through bio-technology into cyborg. Futurists argue that the human body is already a machine and that the cyborg will simply become the next step along the road of human evolution, in the same way that the ubiquitous smartphone currently extends our McLuhan-esque reach. Building on my previous work exploring ideal form in an alphanumeric age (Tucker 2011, 37) and incorporating a qualitative survey of the literature, as well as interviews with prominent digital artists and cyber researchers, this paper examines how the dawning of the cyborg age will challenge us to rethink art. As the artist and the shiny, perfect object become one, the age-old quest for ideal form will be rearticulated. Art and life will no longer imitate each other but, instead, co-exist in a state of oneness, as genetic, mechanical and bio-engineering provide a first flickering glimpse at immortality. This paper argues whether, in the future, the question “but is it art?” will need to be reframed as “but are we art?”
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Abstract: In an era of postmodern digital branding, classical ideals of truth and beauty once revered by the ancient Greeks and later so eloquently championed by the likes of Keats and Blake, now might appear as forlorn and forgotten as Ozymandias lying deserted and abandoned in the desert of antediluvian dreams. The notion that universal truth can be found in a Grecian Urn no longer resonates with audiences conditioned as consumers to see art as commodity and classical beauty as the raw material of millennial marketers. Yet despite the backlash against classical aesthetics and culture’s march toward a more inclusive, non-elitist understanding of art (Foster 66), there remains ample evidence that ideal beauty’s influence is still very much alive and well and reflected in contemporary digital culture. Not unlike classical civilization, digital culture continues to employ mathematical Golden Rules to produce virtual gods in our own image, achieving in cyberspace what Blake once characterized as “representations of spiritual existences, of gods immortal…embodied and organized in solid marble.” This paper will explore classical Greek archetypes of order, balance and harmony as reflected in contemporary digital media culture, arguing that in an age when art has become synonymous with branding, ideal beauty not only plays a central role in its promulgation but—most significantly—as digital culture merges body and computer chip through motion capture technology, touch-sensitive screen art, Second Life, gaming and ultimately bio-engineering, increasingly, ideal beauty becomes the norm, endowing even the frailest of mortals with god-like characteristics. Keywords: Digital, Classical, Beauty