in Artists & Engineers

23 Artists Who Use Technology as Their Canvas

Technology is the focus of a growing number of art exhibitions. Creative men and women around the world design social commentary on things such as the use of drones or computers in our lives. But sometimes, the medium must be the message, and cutting-edge technologies serve as excellent tools for creating art.

Today’s artists are reaching for 3D printers, drones, and VR headsets in the same way they reach for paint brushes or clay. Technology is helping artists realizes their creations and express their ideas in ways that weren’t previously possible.

Check out these 23 amazing artists, art pieces, and exhibitions to learn how people are using technology to explore the creative world.

 

3D Printing

Ioan Florea’s Ford Torino

With 3D printing, Ioan Florea sculpted a Ford Torino replica whose intricate designs make the car stunning to look at. Every angle has something new, so you can pour over the car for hours and feel like you haven’t seen everything. While car lovers will certainly appreciate the creation, this isn’t meant to be a recreation of the 1971 model. The car, made of liquid metal, reflects the artist’s personal designs and handiwork as a tribute to personalization in the digital age.

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia

The Gate Museum in Atlanta is using known historical records and 3D printing technology to recreate The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the seventh wonder of the ancient world. The goal of this creation is just as much a political protest against cultural terrorism as it is art. The original stood for almost 800 years before it was destroyed, in the same way that many ancient relics in the Middle East are being destroyed by ISIS today. The museum is taking an ancient subject and giving it a modern spin as a plea against “art as collateral damage” during wartime.

She Who Sees the Unknown

Morehshin Allahyari recently exhibited 3D-printed Middle Eastern goddesses in She Who Sees the Unknown at the TRANSFER Gallery in Brooklyn.

Instead of using 3D printing technology to create new manufactured pieces, Allahyari is using it to bring back something old in the form of forgotten goddesses, or jinns, from Middle Eastern mythology, Julia at 3Ders.org writes. Allahyari pulls from her Iranian heritage and her own gender to create commentary on the balance (and sometimes imbalance) between East and West or male and female.  

Anya Gallaccio at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Anya Gallaccio is known for working with materials such as flowers, sugar, and ice that will quickly decay. For a 2015 installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, Gallaccio worked with students who used a 3D printer that produces clay to replicate the Devil’s Tower, a national monument in Wyoming. She wanted to compare the immediacy of 3D printing with the “slow build” of geological formations that take centuries to form.

 

Virtual Reality

The Art of Dying by Dream Logic

The Dream Logic community of “artists, technologists, designers, experimenters, and entrepreneurs” produces virtual and augmented reality art shows that center around a specific theme.

Last October, they launched their first show, The Art of Dying, and asked more than 500 participants and two dozen artists to reimagine what it means to be mortal. Their goal was to encourage participants to question what it means to die and how society treats death.

Björk Digital

The eponymous Björk Digital is a traveling exhibition that started in Montreal, then moved to the Icelandic musician’s hometown of Reykjavik before returning to the United States. It uses virtual reality plus Björk’s own music to creating an engaging, personalized experience to connect with the art without distractions.

“Participants are led in groups of 25 to a series of rooms equipped with virtual reality headsets and headphones, which you strap on before sitting on stools that spin,” Jim Farber writes at Conde Nast Traveler. “The new piece erases any sense of the building, the audience, or even yourself. Should you gaze down at your hands or legs, you won’t see your body but, instead, the bottom of the piece’s primeval cave setting.”

Gretchen Andrew’s Alternate Reality

Gretchen Andrew is one of the pioneers of virtual reality and art, and created Alternate Reality, touted as the world’s first virtual reality art show. Only one piece was actually hung on the wall, though; the rest were exhibited through a VR replica of the space.

Andrews studied Information Systems at Boston College and then worked in Google’s internal products department, Liz Ohanesian writes at LA Weekly. She wants to use her knowledge of technology to continue exploring the artistic world.

Space Between the Skies

Hosted by apexart, an educational non-profit visual arts space in New York, Space Between the Skies offered three VR installations that challenged the art consumption experience. Curator and artist Christopher Manzione only hung one piece on the wall for a group viewing experience, but everything else was individualized. Instead of viewing the art as a third party, the viewer became a part of the art and engaged with it.

DiMoDA Exhibit at the RISD Museum

The Digital Museum of Digital Art is an ongoing interactive collection and exhibition by two artists: William Robertson and Alfredo Salazar-Caro. For a 2017 installation at the RISD Museum in Providence, Rhode Island, the exhibition was broken into four different rooms, where visitors could engage with the work of four virtual reality artists by wearing headsets. Museum goers without headsets on could still experience the art, as the headsets’ displays were shown on televisions along the walls.

 

Drone Technology

Once Is Nothing: A Drone Art Exhibition

Hosted by InterAccess, an art gallery in Toronto, Once Is Nothing: A Drone Art Exhibition questioned how drones will change how we think about borders, surveillance, and even personal identity. In its debut in the spring of 2016, artist Laura Millard filmed her piece with drones floating just above the ground at ankle level instead of soaring high up, as we typically imagine them.

Real and Implied

The Prichard Art Gallery in Moscow, Idaho, recently hosted a series that evaluated how we use violence and technology to solve conflict. For example, one room of the Real and Implied exhibition had 15 toy cap guns hooked up to a computer. Whenever the United States carried out a drone strike, a cap gwent off, and information about the strike was printed from the computer.

The exhibition also featured a looping video called 24 Drones in which the devices descended around three dancing women — almost like Space Invaders.

Da Vinci and the Drone

What would Leonardo da Vinci think about drones delivering pizza or T-shirts from Amazon? What would he think about people using them as weapons? These are the questions Vesna Kittelson explored in her Da Vinci and the Drone exhibit at the Form + Content Gallery in Minneapolis, which ran through June 2016.

Kittelson focused on the tension between da Vinci’s designs and modern drone use.

Dispatches

Thirty-four contemporary artists and photojournalists contributed to Dispatches, an exhibition at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The exhibition was broken into five thematic zones, including the Post 9-11 world, the 2016 elections, and borders/migrations. Photographer Tomas van Houtryve also led a discussion in November about his two pieces, which discussed migrant movements and ecological changes facing America.

First Person View

Drone technology is changing how we see the world and what our human limits in filming are. The Knockdown Center in Queens explored those themes in 2015 with its exhibition First Person View. The show was originally conceived as an obstacle course, where visitors would complete eight challenges — each getting harder than the last — as their drones moved through the space.

 

Robotics

AUTOPORTRAIT

Some say that the hottest new artist in Brooklyn is ADA0002, a car manufacturing robot that left corporate America to pursue its dream of being an artist.

“AUTOPORTRAIT” was formed as a partnership with Cadillac and Visionaire. Visitors can have their portraits done by the machine and watch the artistic process in action. The actual drawing experience by the robot is just as much art as the finished portrait itself.

Rayguns, Robots, Drones

The Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Ketchum, Idaho, hosted an exhibition called Rayguns, Robots, Drones in January that featured artists from all over the world to discuss what technology means for society through the depiction of robots and drones.

The curators then took the art a step further and invited local high school robotics teams to show off their creations, followed by discussions about drones for rescue purposes by the local fire department. This showed how art and technology affect the entire community and can bring multiple groups of people together.

Robots Building Robots

Amanda Donnan curated works by artists around the world and commissioned a performative response by Meghan Trainor for the Robots Building Robots exhibition at Seattle University’s College of Arts and Sciences.

The exhibition was inspired by the concept of “lights out production,” where robot-run factories run through the night and don’t even need lights because there are no humans that need to see. “Robots were designed to run without humans, yet even with the lights on, they often ended up painting themselves,” says Tyler Coburn, one of the artists featured.

AARON

We tend to think of robotics as a new form of art expression, but Harold Cohen has been testing this concept for 40 years. Cohen developed AARON in 1973, and the robot has continued to advance its painting skills (with actual paint and brushes) as its founder taught it more complex techniques. AARON even has an “imagination” built with AI that lets it paint an object without a reference.

Sculpture Factory

Artist Quayola uses industrial robots to replicate classic sculptures in what he calls “unfinished objects.” Recently, the artist turned his medium from a modern form of sculpture into performance art, in which the robot becomes the apprentice and recreates one of Michelangelo’s sculptures over eight weeks.

Quayola prefers to leave his sculptures unfinished to highlight the idea that an object has its creation (or destiny) within it, and it’s only a matter of finding the right way to draw it out.

 

Multimedia

Neurosociety

Hosted by the Pace Art + Technology Gallery in Menlo Park, California, Neurosociety was a 2016–2017 art installation by ex-Talking Heads singer David Byrne and technologist Mala Gaonkar. The show combined the work of 15 cognitive neuroscience labs to create a four-room journey into how humans connect with each other.

“Appropriately enough for the Talking Heads singer, it’s a serious mind trip: you’ll do everything from predicting real elections to seeing yourself represented in a doll’s body,” Jon Fingas wrote at Engadget. “Your choices will even contribute to research data for the labs in question.”

Jordan Wolfson’s Robots

Jordan Wolfson turned heads with his robot sculpture (Female figure) in 2014, and his 2016 installation at New York’s David Zwirner Gallery was equally as evocative. Partially an extension to his last piece, the robot was controlled by a series of pulleys like a puppet and played on themes of collapse and destruction.

“Even in miniature, it was clear the installation — part mixed-media sculpture, part choreographed performance, part massive whirring machine there to activate it all — would be something to behold when it debuted,” Nate Freeman wrote at ArtNews.

Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest

From 11:57 to midnight every night in January 2017, Pipilotti Rist’s Open My Glade was visible in Times Square as part of the Midnight Moment by Times Square Arts. In her collection, Rist created a series of photos that focused on the struggle of women in media.

Rist stood out by turning the glass ceiling metaphor into a literal glass barrier. In many of the images, Rist was shown pressed up against glass as if she was barely able to fit and dying to break through. Her work definitely captured the attention of passers-by in Times Square.

Petra Cortright

Petra Cortright is bringing Impressionist ideals to the modern age. Cortright pulls digital imagery and then manipulates and prints it on various surfaces until she is happy with the product. She even wears gamer glasses when she works so she can focus. Several of her YouTube videos that explain her process have become art pieces themselves.