How new media art & digital canvases can transform homes

By Tim Sinnaeve, managing director, Canada at Barco

Image above, Credit, Jonathan Monaghan (US), No Longer Dead 

Art collecting has long been a passion and pastime for those that wish to own and display a piece of work that they feel a certain emotional connection to. There are any number of reasons why a person would want a piece of art in their home—perhaps the work or artist evokes strong positive memories, or they feel the piece speaks to the design, mood and aesthetic of their home. Regardless, art collecting is a trend that is growing in popularity—in fact, high-net-worth individuals tend to spend more on art than they do on cars.

But just as Romanticism gave way to Impressionism, the art world continues to move forward as artists react to the world around them. For example, we see the worlds of art and technology merging into an exciting new medium, or ‘New Media Art’. More than ever, artists are looking to technology for inspiration and as a digital canvas for their creativity. This new art movement has been gaining in popularity in the art world as more artists are creating digital pieces, and collectors are finding new and engaging ways to display this art in their homes.

But what exactly is New Media Art? And how does technology fit into its creation and into maximizing its impact when displayed?

What is New Media Art?

While there is no universally accepted definition for New Media Art, a good baseline is any work created with new media technologies such as digital art, computer graphics and animation, virtual and interactive art and even art as biotechnology. And while that might seem like an overly broad cross-section, it’s this variety that offers the most opportunity. New Media Art is the new frontier of the art world and one that’s still in flux, meaning there is a lot of room for artists to experiment with the medium.

Excitement for New Media Art is emerging across the art world. A growing number of artists are embracing New Media Art and both museums and private collectors desire the unique innovation of these pieces and are incorporating digital art options into their creative landscapes. And because technology is advancing rapidly, the movement is only just beginning to explore the possibilities with color, form, movement, and backgrounds. Even bleeding-edge technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality are influencing how art is created and displayed.

Jonathan Monaghan, The Phoenix and the Medusa.

An engaging experience

The practical applications of New Media Art are only now surfacing, but the possibilities are bound only by imagination. At its heart, New Media Art provides an opportunity for an immersive entertainment and cultural experience, one that creates an emotional connection to the content. So why has New Media Art not yet become as widespread and popular an experience in high-end homes as the more traditional home theater or media room setups? While we could identify many contributing factors, one main reason is a tendency in our industry to think in terms of products or boxes, such as ‘home theater’ and ‘media room’. Up to this point it’s not really an experience we have brought to our customers. Another element has been the quality and availability of the content.

One overlooked factor is the tendency to display digital art forms on flat panel screens in 16/9 aspect ratio. Our brains are wired to associate this aspect ratio with TVs or computer monitors and this becomes the context of the work displayed. Very few serious art collectors are willing to spend the money on a high end contemporary digital work of art if the end result is mistaken for a nice screensaver on a television, even if that television is framed. From the artist’s perspective, she is unlikely to want to have her art displayed on anything that degrades the intended quality and impact—not to mention the limitations placed on her artistic freedom.

This is why we prefer to think in terms of architectural digital canvases that can enable the immersive entertainment and cultural experiences. It’s important to allow content creators the opportunity to create what they want without placing limitations on them in terms of screen size or aspect ratio. In much the same way artists in years past have been largely unburdened by physical canvas size or shape, so the new media creators should have artistic freedom when it comes to their creations.

The fact that a digital canvas can be created to custom specifications means that they can be integrated in the architecture and design of the home—giving home designers and owners more flexibility in how they want to approach the media experience. It also gives them the ability to choose and alter the experience and the content on display as frequently as desired.

Laser projectors like the Barco Medea are ideal for art work installations

Virtually limitless applications

Driving the New Media Art movement is the artist’s desire to create amazing content, and the art connoisseur’s passion to experience that art in the most conducive environment possible. The technology has to be in service of that goal, otherwise the experience won’t be up to the level that the content creators and customers expect. As we enter this new and exciting space, we have to focus on creating experiences that allow people to enjoy the content and artists they love in new and exciting ways—and ensuring the quality is as high as possible. But what goes into ensuring that the art is displayed exactly as it is intended?

The first step is employing display technology of the highest quality available. It’s important to consider every aspect of the projectors or display systems— taking into account the unique properties of each technology, from the design and build to the luminance and picture quality. Laser projection is a state-of-the-art choice and delivers astounding results in all projection applications. Direct View LED also offers unique capabilities for New Media Art creations.

For the customer, best-in-class technology means creating showcase moments regardless of what experience is being created. Connoisseurs and collectors are getting the most accurate, brightest and crisp representation possible, which translates to the most exciting and immersive experience. From the content creator’s perspective, they are assured that their creation is being seen in the best possible light, as they envisioned it from the start. The experience creates a strong, positive and lasting connection between the artist and the audience.

If homeowners can have the high-quality, laser-based projection and display options that one might find in a museum, luxury resort or high-end theater, then New Media Art becomes relevant in residential environments where the owners want to showcase this up and coming art form.

In practice the experience is not limited to New Media Art, and this is where the line between art and theater becomes blurred. As such, New Media Art can complement the traditional home theater experience. In the past the default configuration has meant that when not in use, the screens and projection areas have remained clearly set up as a theater space. With the addition of a New Media Art alternative, a home owner can have a seamless transition from an immersive entertainment space to an engaging art showcase. If done correctly the experience extends beyond the art itself to encompass the surrounding architecture, and can also encompass virtual wallpapers and other design elements.  A custom created interior design can make the digital canvas the centerpiece of the home, further elevating the experience.

The future of New Media Art

As has been mentioned previously, we’re still in the early years of New Media Art as a collector’s item. As more and more artists continue their experimentation with all that the medium has to offer we’ll see a wider variety of pieces than ever before. Going hand in hand with the artists exploration are the technological advancements that are on the horizon. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to imagine houses that contain pieces of art that use augmented and virtual reality aspects to create completely immersive installations.

Regardless of what advancements come along, the primary reason for collecting art remains the same—filling one’s home with the pieces that have the biggest emotional impact. It’s up to us as architects, designers, integrators and product sellers to ensure that the art is displayed in as engaging a way as possible, no matter the medium.

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