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The Beautiful and Strange World of Digital

April 13, 2017

In my own studies as a student of both media arts and traditional studio arts at the University of South Carolina, I am finding that options are limitless. Merely by sitting in front of a computer and experimenting with different software, one can create musical scores, detailed illustrations, or intricate video sequences. When art and technology combine, beautiful and strange things can happen. Enter the work of Santiago Echeverry. When I first heard that I would be assembling a multimedia tour for a community exhibition, I was nervous and excited. I hoped that the art I would be working with would be unique and visually striking, but I was not prepared for the visceral and evocative portraits that were forged in a wholly digital flame. 

Although digital media may not have the physicality and authenticity of analog media from the past, the strength of digital processes lie in a few important aspects: connectivity, the ability to edit, and storage/duplication. The internet and the World Wide Web are undoubtedly making communication easier and more rapid, so it only makes sense that digital media are easier to transfer from one person or place to another, meaning that it is easier to connect digitally. The second aspect, the ability to edit creations, is very important.  Since digital artifacts are represented in binary language as a series of 1s and 0s, computers can easily make changes. For example, a painter can’t hit “Ctrl Z” and undo a mistake they may have made on the canvas, but a digital illustration can easily be changed by the click of a button. For this same reason, the storage and duplication of digital artifacts is much easier than copying a painting or storing a sculpture. All in all, digital artifacts are more dynamic than anything that past media have been able to produce.
    
As the digital revolution is nearing its culmination, we should all keep one thing in mind. Although it is now easier to create, store, and share information and art, we still have a responsibility, to others and to ourselves, to use our new digital voices ethically. When more people have access and the ability to create, the variety of creations is infinite. Echeverry’s project, Cabaret: Unsung Heroes, captures fleeting moments in the lives of the LGBT community of Wilton Manors, Florida.  Like many artists before him, he uses his trade to explore deeper and to give these people a voice that can be heard. When I asked him why he chose digital means of creating his pieces, the artist told me that his passion is time, and that the natural ties that digital art forms have to time allow him to “sample fragments of life that will be captured, reordered, and interpreted for the future.” 

By Stephen Dvorak, CMA Media Production Intern