In From Technological to Virtual Art, respected historian of art and technology Frank Popper traces the development of immersive, interactive new media art from its historical antecedents through today's digital, multimedia, and networked art. Popper shows that contemporary virtual art is a further refinement of the technological art of the late twentieth century and also a departure from it. What is new about this new media art, he argues, is its humanization of technology, its emphasis on interactivity, its philosophical investigation of the real and the virtual, and its multisensory nature. He argues further that what distinguishes the artists who practice virtual art from traditional artists is their combined commitment to aesthetics and technology. Their "extra-artistic" goals—linked to their aesthetic intentions—concern not only science and society but also basic human needs and drives.
Defining virtual art broadly as art that allows us, through an interface with technology, to immerse ourselves in the image and interact with it, Popper identifies an aesthetic-technological logic of creation that allows artistic expression through integration with technology. After describing artistic forerunners of virtual art from 1918 to 1983—including art that used light, movement, and electronics—Popper looks at contemporary new media forms and artists. He surveys works that are digital based but materialized, multimedia offline works, interactive digital installations, and multimedia online works (net art) by many artists, among them John Maeda, Jenny Holzer, Brenda Laurel, Agnes Hegedus, Stelarc, and Igor Stromajer. The biographical details included reinforce Popper's idea that technology is humanized by art. Virtual art, he argues, offers a new model for thinking about humanist values in a technological age.
About the Author
Frank Popper is Professor Emeritus of Aesthetics and the Science of Art at the University of Paris VIII. He is the author of Origins and Development of Kinetic Art, Art, Action, and Participation, Art of the Electronic Age, and other influential works on art and technology.
"[Popper's] word portraits are often both striking and finely rendered, illustrating the lifelong journey we make to connect ourselves with the world.", Robert Atkins, Art in America
"Over three decades ago, when most of the art history establishment was clueless about technology-inspired art, Frank Popper was there recognizing its importance, organizing shows, and trying to help readers understand its implications. Taking advantage of this unprecedented historical vantage point, his latest book offers an expansive survey of technology-inspired work in plastic arts, interactive media, installation, and net art, and explores the ways in which artists integrate aesthetic and cultural concerns to reveal new directions for humanizing technology."
—Stephen Wilson, Professor of Conceptual and Information Arts, San Francisco State University, and author of Information Arts
"The rapid development of digital technology and interface design has made it increasingly difficult to summarize recent trends in the meeting between technology and art. Frank Popper's new book gives an insightful overview of the technological arts by clarifying the concept of 'virtual art.' He outlines its historical development and explains its ability to immerse the body and senses of its participants in a simulated world. Drawing on his long curatorial experience with artists and with exhibitions he has organized, Popper offers a very useful guidebook for readers who wish to know about this compelling artistic sphere."
—Itsuo Sakane, Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences (IAMAS), Japan