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What is New Media Art?

By James Doehring
Updated May 16, 2024
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New media art is an umbrella term for all forms of art that do not utilize traditional materials and techniques. The various types of new media art may have little in common with each other despite the use of an experimental medium. The term new media art is constantly being re-evaluated as certain media, such as film, tend to become more mainstream tools.

Cyberart is a type of new media art that uses the computer as the expressive medium. Computer software can produce art forms in a variety of ways, with the level of creative input from artists ranging. Some forms of cyberart are primarily concerned with modifying or touching up photographs or digital versions of art produced in traditional ways. Other methods allow an artist to create images from scratch by either using a mouse or special tool that mimics the function of a paintbrush.

The use of the Internet is significant to new media art. It not only constitutes a novel medium itself, but can also alter the social dynamics of creating and viewing art. As a medium, the Internet allows multiple artists to collaborate and provides completed material to draw inspiration from. As a social tool, the Internet allows individuals to both exhibit and view digital forms of art.

Installation art is typically a three-dimensional and site-specific type of new media art that is designed to transform the perception of a space. It may be interactive, offering distinct experiences based on a viewer’s activity. Embedded sensors can respond to temperature, motion, or user proximity. There was a spike of interest in interactive installation art following the digital advances of the 1990s.

A new medium for art is living matter. The genre of bioart involves materials such as DNA, cells, and living tissue. Joe Davis, a research affiliate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, has encoded both textual messages and digital images in genetic material. The use of biotechnology to create works of art has given rise to a host of ethical questions, however. Many feel that genetic engineering should not be used for aesthetic purposes.

Exhibiting new media art can be a significant challenge for art museums, which are better suited for displaying traditional paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Installation and video art can often be found in museums, while interactive Internet art and bioart is not generally displayed in the museum setting.

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Discussion Comments
By Fa5t3r — On Nov 17, 2014

@pastanaga - Actually, they use the gene for florescence as a genetic marker so that they can tell if other genes have been implanted successfully, so that artist with the rabbits was just taking advantage of existing technology rather than innovating on his own.

I don't think it's disingenuous to still call digital art new media. When you look at how many years our ancestors have been using paint and clay and stone in famous art, you can see there is a bit of a difference there.

By pastanaga — On Nov 17, 2014

@MrsPramm - It's interesting that we still call digital art "new media art", when it's actually been around for a while. Aspects of it might be cutting edge, but there are probably paint innovations every year that don't move painters to the point where they declare their work to be new media.

I'm much more inclined to apply the term to something like those miniatures, or to the biological art I've seen online in the last few years, like making glow in the dark rabbits and fish. I think that sort of technique is going to end up being a big part of our future.

By MrsPramm — On Nov 16, 2014

There have been some amazing examples of miniatures floating around the internet recently. I saw one a few days ago where an artist had worked with scientists to create sculptures so small you couldn't see them with the naked eye, but as detailed under a microscope as sculptures carved from marble.

I've seen examples of nano technology before, where they have spelled out a name or something in molecules, but this was the first time they had deliberately collaborated with an artist with the intention of creating art rather than just proving they could do something.

I doubt it's going to take off as a medium, because you need so much technology and equipment to make it, and I don't know if it will be housed in a modern art gallery any time soon, but it's definitely an interesting example of new media art.

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