Friday, 19 June 2009


"Imagine that you have before you a flagon of wine. You may choose your own favourite vintage for this imaginary demonstration, so that it be a deep shimmering crimson in colour. You have two goblets before you. One is of solid gold, wrought in the most exquisite patterns. The other is of crystal-clear glass, thin as a bubble, and as transparent. Pour and drink; and according to your choice of goblet, I shall know whether or not you are a connoisseur of wine. For if you have no feelings about wine one way or the other, you will want the sensation of drinking the stuff out of a vessel that may have cost thousands of pounds; but if you are a member of that vanishing tribe, the amateurs of fine vintages, you will choose the crystal, because everything about it is calculated to reveal rather than hide the beautiful thing which it was meant to contain."
The Crystal Goblet, or Printing Should Be Invisible by Beatrice Warde (1900 -- 1969)

The 'postdigital' is not a new term or concept, but it is a term and a concept that has been forcibly re-appropriated by the 52group, in a draft paper that seeks to refocus our attention, particularly in relation to education. The basic premise is that 'digital' is becoming increasingly meaningless, as technology becomes crystal-clear, thin as a bubble, and transparent. Being fooled into mistaking the 'digital' for a thing in itself, rather than seeing it purely as an enabler (and just one alongside many other non-digital enablers), is a mistake that I make all the time. I have been more guilty than most of gaining more pleasure from the exquisitely patterned golden goblet than from the wine.

However, absorbing and accepting postdigitalism has brought clarity to my thinking, and I have already found myself responding to everyday work related issues from a postdigitalist viewpoint. I have spontaneously and effortlessly argued that 'it's not really about the technology', whereas in the past I might have happily argued that is was. That's not to say that I have suddenly become anti-digital. Far from it. It's just that anti or pro digital is not the issue. 'The canvas of the digital' provides me with an ever changing medium from which I can tap creative potential, but the canvas itself is not the art. More importantly, this digital canvas is not the only one in my studio. From a postdigitalist perspective, to dwell on the canvas misses the point. It is about the idea, the intention, the expression, the interpretation. It is about the conversations and the arguments. It is about the spirit of the artist and the success of the artwork. The skill with which the artist manipulates the paint on the canvas is crucial and should not be undervalued or rejected, just as we should not undervalue or reject the digital, but the art is not created by the canvas or the paint. It is created by the artist.

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