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Edinburgh Festival consummates the marriage of Art and Technology

by Cass Art
Edinburgh Festival consummates the marriage of Art and Technology

There’s a lingering Luddite misconception of an uneasy co-existence between the worlds of art and technology; that art endures despite technology, not because of it. OK, so you couldn't imagine Thomas Hardy or Charles Dickens sending tweets. For a start, they’d run out of characters before they even had chance to say “hello”. Nor could you imagine the notoriously impractical Vincent van Gogh being able to boot-up a computer, let alone use a Photoshop programme to enhance his masterpieces.

Even among today's artists, Jack White doesn’t possess a mobile phone, fellow singer Lily Allen, who gave away her computer and Blackberry, admits to being a “Neo-Luddite”, while Beatle Paul McCartney reportedly can’t use cash machines. But there’s a growing symbiotic relationship between art and technology which simply cannot be ignored. And this interaction is the theme of this year’s 67th Edinburgh Festival.

Event director Sir Jonathan Mills says the festival is a celebration of the potential of technology to change our perceptions of the world.

Festival-goers can see photographer and media artist Hyung Su Kim's large-scale installation work, Media Skins, taking over the plaza outside Usher Hall. The artist spectacularly transforms space by creating media facades of LED lights, constructing images of both Scottish and Korean culture.

The display features an original soundtrack based on The Bonnie Banks Of Loch Lomond and the traditional Korean song Arirang to accompany satellite images of worldwide locations, including London, Dubai and the Amazon.

The festival also sets works of classical masters against modern contexts. Beethoven's Fidelio opera has gone galactic, being set on a spaceship in a production by media artist Gary Hill. Leonardo da Vinci's pioneering anatomical drawings are shown alongside the latest medical imagery in The Mechanics of Man exhibition.

Other innovations include an orchestral work featuring sound files contributed by members of the public.

Technology has also been devised for audiences to curate their own festival experiences. This is via the app, Suggest My Fest, and a unique, interactive map of people's social media related comments.

So where can the marriage of art and technology be further consummated after the festival finishes on September 1? Israeli Eyal Gever and Finn Laura Beloff are leading the way in such innovation.

Gever uses latest animation software and 3D printing technology to plot real-time disasters and turn them into sculptures, including tsunamis hitting buildings before Japan's latest earthquake.

Beloff's works can be described as peculiar wearable objects, programmed structures and participatory networked installations, marrying mediums ranging from video to textile.