R Response // Thoughts on Art & Interfaces
“…it is interesting how different tools that initially started out offering a specific functionality would eventually gain other tools’ functions until most became more or less the same, minus layout and some workflow. The Reason/ProTools example was a good representation of such evolution. It seems that this unification of tools and functionality is inevitable as technology marches on, meaning that the tools someone uses can largely be attributed to preference rather than functionality.” - Chris
This week I’ve been ruminating quite a bit on one of the oldest and tired metaphysical questions: what is “art?” I’ve specifically been thinking about the rhetoric used to describe and justify art, to name something as art, because the term is also used (almost regularly, in my experience) to obfuscate the significance or operation of an “artistic” object/performance. Maybe the contradiction really started to eat the periphery of my consciousness after reading Shaw this week; the short essay seemed to do nothing but talk around whatever “art” is by talking about the design of the art installations he created. So, in an exercise rivaling the importance of underwater basket-weaving, I started thinking about how, in relation to what we’ve talked about in the class thus far, how I would define “art” in a way that marginalizes the “everything is art; all art is political” rhetoric commonly used to derail conversations about art. Here’s what I came up with:
Art is an interface with which a representational scheme of organized information.
Okay, so what’s the point? I don’t know. It helps me think through the different ways we think about and talk about communication and human experiences. I often think about how I would talk to an android; if such an intelligent being bothered to ask, “what is art?” I want to be prepared with an answer that it would understand. To this end, thinking about art as a representational interface (representational insofar as it just represents an interface, and isn’t necessarily an interface that a consumer can plug in to, but it’s still an interface insofar as a seeing person can superficially consume something) provides me with an different way of thinking about the development of GUIs. When Chris brought up the evolution of the ProTools interface, I thought to myself: well, organizational schemes evolve, too. Perhaps more to the point, interfaces to the same scheme can change to reveal different aspects of the same pieces of information, which gets at Chris’s observation wrt preference v. functionality.