Project Description

Light symbolises the highest good, it enables all visual art, and today it lies at the heart of billion-dollar industries. We propose a study of historical evolution of digital light-based technologies through a combination of experiment and close analysis of their use and innovation among professionals and creatives. The research analysis will test the hypothesis that techniques invented by earlier artists and artisans are embodied in contemporary digital media technologies, and that this process of incremental accumulation of skills into hardware and software continues today. The research will test the hypothesis that techniques invented by earlier artists and artisans are embodied in contemporary digital media technologies, and that this process of incremental accumulation of skills into hardware and software continues today.

The Genealogies of Digital Light ARC Discovery project will provide a critical account of the capacities and limitations of contemporary digital light-based technologies and techniques by tracing their genealogies and comparing them with their predecessor media. Through interview, analysis, experiment and critique, we hope to demonstrate that artists and artisans have a major role in redefining technologies through technique; and that close acquaintance with and appreciation of their working practices and the principles they work to are a significant resource for future generations.

The CIs and RAs will trace the ways in which artists and artisans in the Western tradition since the Renaissance have overcome perceived shortcomings of available media through the development of technique, and how these innovations contributed to succeeding generations of light-based technology. We seek to analyse not only the designed capacities but also a) the role of inspiration drawn from historical antecedents and b) the unexpected and accidental qualities of which a given medium is capable. The primary research task will be to identify the capacities of historical and contemporary media technologies (specifically bitmap, 3D, vector graphics and animation software; digital photography, video and film production and editing; and output to print, screen and projection). The second will be to understand the productive capabilities gained and lost in the transition to digital, as a means to distinguish areas in which further innovation is desirable. We refer to this historical perspective as genealogy partly to signal its derivation from Foucault (1976), but more pertinently to identify its key task as one of studying the derivation of the contemporary from its antecedents.