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Limitations of the term “Computer Art”


The broad term “Computer Art” might prove more useful than terms to delineate specific computer arts practices, which are necessarily limiting.  The term does not exclude certain approaches to the computer on the basis of their putative relation to pre-computer artforms. In this sense, “Computer Art” may be considered suitable for the area of computer-based artforms, simply describing their provenance instead of judging their status.

However, “Computer Art” lacks the descriptive concision of other categorisations such as “photography” or “film”, which sum up technology, technique, and expectations of output medium and image. That the mere mention of “photography” can do this is a result of acculturation: the name evokes a whole range of processes and images. But how could one phrase convey all the implications of computer images.

Computer-based art is far too disparate to be called a “movement”, though several have sprung up within the body of Computer Art in the past few decades. Rather, artists have adopted in different ways as the availability and power of the computer has increased. Naming and defining artistic movements usually conveys certain historical and stylistic information. By contrast, “Computer Art” carries with it no aesthetic expectations, nor does it proscribe certain techniques for producing the art.

Yet “Computer Art” may be invaluable for this very reason. Instead of focusing on certain artistic movements or approaches to the computer, “Computer Art” can encompass all of them. But it must be defined in different terms from previous definitions in order for it to be useful. Instead of focusing on the technique used to produce it, perhaps there are other criteria that can be applied.