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“Light symbolises the highest good, it enables all visual art, and today it lies at the heart of billion-dollar industries. The control of light forms the foundation of contemporary vision. Digital Light brings together artists, curators, technologists and media archaeologists to study the historical evolution of digital light-based technologies. Digital Light provides a critical account of the capacities and limitations of contemporary digital light-based technologies and techniques by tracing their genealogies and comparing them with their predecessor media. As digital light remediates multiple historical forms (photography, print, film, video, projection, paint), the collection draws from all of these histories, connecting them to the digital present and placing them in dialogue with one another.
Light is at once universal and deeply historical. The invention of mechanical media (including photography and cinematography) allied with changing print technologies (half-tone, lithography) helped structure the emerging electronic media of television and video, which in turn shaped the bitmap processing and raster display of digital visual media. Digital light is, as Stephen Jones points out in his contribution, an oxymoron: light is photons, particulate and discrete, and therefore always digital. But photons are also waveforms, subject to manipulation in myriad ways. From Fourier transforms to chip design, colour management to the translation of vector graphics into arithmetic displays, light is constantly disciplined to human purposes. In the form of fibre optics, light is now the infrastructure of all our media; in urban plazas and handheld devices, screens have become ubiquitous, and also standardised. This collection addresses how this occurred, what it means, and how artists, curators and engineers confront and challenge the constraints of increasingly normalised digital visual media.
While various art pieces and other content are considered throughout the collection, the focus is specifically on what such pieces suggest about the intersection of technique and technology. Including accounts by prominent artists and professionals, the collection emphasises the centrality of use and experimentation in the shaping of technological platforms. Indeed, a recurring theme is how techniques of previous media become technologies, inscribed in both digital software and hardware. Contributions include considerations of image-oriented software and file formats; screen technologies; projection and urban screen surfaces; histories of computer graphics, 2D and 3D image editing software, photography and cinematic art; and transformations of light-based art resulting from the distributed architectures of the internet and the logic of the database.”
of a futurity toward which they can propel their audiences.1 The history of lens flares gives us a clue about the transitions between analogue and digital in visual media that lie at the heart of this collection. The movement is by no means one-way. For some years, cinematographic use of flare in films like Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962) had evoked extreme states of consciousness, even of divine light, and with it the long history of light in human affairs. We can only speculate about the
feature of over 90 per cent computer graphic content). So, imagine what it would look like—in fact what it would feel like, if the very high density of pixels shot in the NHK experiment were then displayed across that screen as cinema—in the NHK experiment the possibilities of deep engagement and belief in the experience seem to have lead to a physiological reaction. Since this experiment, Super-Hi Vision has been streamed live between Tokyo and Osaka—but of course that act required a high amount
metal plate and re-circulates it back into the oscilloscope, then timing circuits produced by a computer driving this electrostatic-storage tube can tell the computer the state of a particular location on the tube face while refreshing that state so that it acts as a memory (Williams and Kilburn 1949). Effectively the Williams–Kilburn tube is a form of dynamic RAM but more importantly for us it carries a map of the contents of the computer’s memory and if the waveforms utilised by the storage
amassed an image collection 500 times larger in a mere seven years. And, of course, Flickr’s photo archive is itself dwarfed by the scale and explosive growth of the image collection held by social network contemporary Facebook. While it is difficult to get accurate ‘official’ figures, let alone to verify them, Facebook is undoubtedly the biggest image archive on the Internet by a considerable factor. Various company blog posts track the growth in the volume of uploads, from some 850 million per
technical and chemical conditions, and revealing the processes that cause a photograph to appear as it does, Hilliard shows that reality is depicted according to predetermined technical conditions. Notably, the work does not consider focus as one of these ‘conditions’, nor does it consider film stock or the passage from the negative to the print (we simply assume that Hilliard’s photographs are all printed in the same way). As the catalogue entry at the Tate notes, ‘Photography is both the medium