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What Is Information Art?

Debra Barnhart
Debra Barnhart

Information artists create art based on the cross-fertilization of ideas from art and science. They allow scientific research and technology to inspire and shape their work. Not recognizing any dichotomy between art and science, theories of information art suggest that art and techno-science can influence culture equally.

The Information Age has caused an explosion of ways to access and retrieve information.A wide array of methods for artists to express themselves has been established as the result of influence on the visual arts and information art. These modes of expression can range from the use of the principles of the natural sciences and mathematics to the use of computers and video game technology.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

Many who create information art find inspiration in the natural sciences. For example, Ned Kahn is a sculptor who gains insights from physics, geology and astronomy. One of his sculptures, Seismic Sea, consists of a layer of water inside an acrylic dish. By standing on the base of the sculpture, viewers can create vibrations that cause waves to develop inside the dish. They can look up and see the beautiful patterns these waves create as well as see them reflected on the wall.

Dr. Clifford Pickover was not trained as an artist, although he sees himself as one. Educated at Yale University's Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Pickover uses computers and fractal mathematics to create drawings and paintings. His humorous work, E.T. Fractal, looks like one or more aliens, depending on a person’s point of view.

It should go without saying that computers have had a profound influence on information art. Pieces based on video game technology is a growing area of information art. Often, these art games have no definitive goals like the ones found in typical video games. Their intention is to engage the viewer in an interactive experience that makes he or she re-evaluate concepts about art and games.

For the most part, information artists are not just interested in using technology to create art. They seek an understanding of the scientific principals and technology to create new forms of art. Viewing themselves almost as researchers, information artists feel that scientific knowledge can shape artwork. Theories of information art recognize that endeavors in art and techno-scientific innovation both require observation, creativity and abstract thinking.

Creators of information art often point out that prior to the Renaissance, art and science coexisted without any sense of dichotomy. Modern culture, however, has often separated the two, viewing them as disparate disciplines. Theories of information art see this schism as being illogical and based on narrow thinking.

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