Figures of Learning: The Conditional Artist

Posted by Tara Kelton at May 05, 2015 02:35 PM |
As part of its Making Methods for Digital Humanities project, CIS-RAW organized two consultations on new figures of learning in the digital context. For a proposed journal issue on the theme of ‘bodies of knowledge’ which draws upon these conversations, participants were invited to write short sketches on these figures of learning. This abstract by Tara Kelton explores the conditional artist, and the outcomes of inserting chance in the realization of art work through the use of new multimedia and digital technologies.
Figures of Learning: The Conditional Artist

Korsmit, George. Nobody ‘s out there, we’re all in here. Realisation of a wall painting, 2008.


For five weeks George Korsmit and his assistants worked from a platform on a mobile scaffold to create this largescale mural. The corner points of each quadrilateral and the colors used to fill it in were determined within specific parameters by throwing dice.

This annotated visual essay presents the strategy in which artists provide instructions/parameters for the creation of artworks, to be executed by hired labour / users and describes how contemporary practitioners have employed this strategy across new technologies and webbased services such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turks, YouTube and Facebook.

By inserting chance into the realization of artworks, a distance is created between the artist and the product, and the artist cannot predict a precise outcome this results in new, unexpected visual forms and potentially infinite variation. The relationship between human gesture and interface is inverted rather than using a mouse to command software interfaces, instead, computational parameters direct human gestures. The essay will also demonstrate how instructional art strategies are used as tools for critiquing systems of power, both on and offline, drawing attention to the invisible labor that powers these systems, using their own mechanisms.

Visual examples include both the historical and contemporary, from the work of early conceptual and computer artists (Sol Lewitt, John Baldessari) to present day art and design practitioners (Studio Moniker, IOCOSE).