[NetBehaviour] Digital Woodcut
rob at robmyers.org
Thu Apr 25 13:51:00 CEST 2013
Woodcut is an old analogue printmaking technology, in Europe it dates
back to the 1400s. A picture or design is carved into a flat block of
wood which is then inked and pressed onto a sheet of paper to produce
the finished image. At the turn of the 20th Century, woodcut was
appropriated by the Expressionists as an authentically direct and
traditional medium in which to experiment.
Bitmaps are way of representing images digitally as a grids of discrete
values, dating back to the 1960s. Over time, the range of colours and
the amount of detail that it is possible to display in a bitmap has
grown from chunky black and white mosaics to hyperreal multi-million
colour multi-million pixel images.
In popular culture the upcoming generation will in part define itself
culturally by valorizing the dross of its parents' era. This is a
process similar to pastoral or to cultural appropriation in high art.
The 80s were big in the 2000s, the 60s were big in the 80s, and the 40s
were big in the 60s.
Part of that process currently is the use of lo-bit aesthetics, 8-bit
and 16-bit image and sound aesthetics used to create contemporary art.
To those of us who spent a lot of time, money and effort climbing the
bit density well for digital art, this can appear a naive exercise in
nostalgia for the moment before one was born. Disney's use of lo-bit
aesthetics in its film Wreck-It-Ralph might appear to confirm this.
But stripped of its status signifying function and its need to suffice
for practical requirements, lo-bit aesthetics join analogue photography
and mechanical writing instruments as historical tools that are now
appreciated for their contingent and historically entangled aesthetic
properties rather than their efficiency or novelty. The blur or
jaggedness, the wonkiness or blotching that once frustrated the
signification of meaning now enables it.
Like using woodcut in the age of offset lithography.
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