What have Digital Technologies Brought to Simulation Art? An artwork can refer to other work(s) of other a rtist(s) by citing certain ph rase(s), showing recognizable image(s), suggesting known theme(s), etc. By doing this the artist can construct different layers of meanings in one piece of art without making it too complicated by itself, besides allowing the audience to enjoy the secret garden of context according to their degree of knowledge and understanding of classics. On the other hand it is natural for artists who, after all, are influenced by their predecessors’ works more or less, to use those images from well known pieces. It is a technique for an artist who wants to span a multilayered textile in his/her work, to give a deeper color to it, as well as offering an intellectual game between the artist and the audience. This was typical among Japanese poetry in the tenth century. To appreciate short poems which were even used as personal messages, one had to have a full knowledge on Japanese and Chinese literature.
Reference to other works or symbols, or well-known cultural topics or models, can be seen everywhere in different genres of art in deverse ways of application. Collage, parody and simulation are examples of the ways artists treat other artists’ works. Digital technology brought a change into the field. Before, copying someone’s work meant painting exactly similar
images by hand except for the case of collage, where artists use prints which come out as multiple copies from the beginning. Making an exact copy was already a skill. But with a scanner and a personal computer, one can digitally copy, cut and paste. Once an image is digitized, all of its copies are the same. The artist can make as many versions as possible, or make as many trials as possible before reaching the what he/she likes. Image processing and paint softwares help the artist to manipulate the digitized images.
What is the meaning of these changes to the artists? Technical ease and wider possibilities? Yes, like sampling technique in music, elaborate digital collage is already an established technique
for some artists. But not onlythat. Digital technology made possible to make the trace of the effort taken by the artist more transparent, by applying no physical material or brush while copying. This allows the final artwork to be more free from the original. In Yasumasa Morimura’s works, the artist himself plays the role of the figures in well-known occidental paintings, news photographies, and recently more kliché images such as rock star portraits as well as cartoons, the works show how digital technology helped the artist to evolve his style.
Tadanori Yokoo started using Macintosch as he thought it would help him working on collage kind of oil painting. The first pieces with the personal computer look interestingly similar to his
works in oil. But then he found that he could do more with this new medium, not only dividing the 2D space on the canvas as he used to do, but making layers in the 3D space behind the screen, and he even invented a technique to bring in a sense of time by introducing simple kinetic systems (they are analog) behind the prints. He has been a wellknown illustrator and then a painter, but he has created completely new style through the use of digital technology.
There are other interesting Japanese artists who use digital technology to make the reference to other artists’ works or other already existing images to provoke multi-layered meanings from them. Toshihiro Anzai and Rieko Nakamura use telecommunication to exchange
image files as they collaborate on what they call “RENGA” (linked image) project. The idea itself refers to the linked verse in Japanese history of poetry,
while the nature of digital data adds a completely different meaning to the action of passing one’s work to the next artist. Takayuki Terakado uses image processing and computer painting to derive or extract the images he knows that should exist behind the screen. Nobuhiro Shibayama wants to revive Muybridge’s photographies using multimedia technology. Hideki Nakazawa has been making a series of parodies of well-known paintings with his unique
understanding of the pieces. I don’t think this is a field which has been fully studied. Japan and the West have a historically different attitude toward citing or copyright. I don’t know if this fact is related to the way of using digital technology in such a way in Japan. It will be interesting if there are any chances to discuss about it with curators and artists from other countries.
- Machiko Kusahara born in Tokyo, currently Associate Professor of art and media technology in the Faculty of Art, Tokyo Institute of Polytechnics. Published widely about topics related to art and technology and edited 17 videodiscs about computer animation & visualization. She has curated several exhibitions in Japan, and was co-curator of the
Australian International Video Symposium, Sydney, 1994. She is co-founder of the artist group Digital Image, and has exhibited her own computer graphic work as well, most recently at the Edge, Siggraph 1994 (Renga, with Toshihiro Anzai and Rieko Nakamura.