Delving into your digital toolkit
Are you using every tool in your digital toolkit? Are you ready to think about expanding your creative efforts by experimenting with different digital platforms? There is an exciting realm of digital content out there to help you think about and address important artistic questions. Navigating these tools can be daunting and confusing, so here is my quick beginner’s guide.
What is on offer? Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn might be the ‘go-to’ networking sites, but some of the best tools for allowing you to test out new ideas in your work are Pinterest, Vimeo, Flickr and Instagram. Instagram in particular, has become a major force in the art world and artists now cultivate ‘Instagram practices’.
Why can it be useful? One real benefit to Instagram is that it makes connecting images from your contemporary environment to historic works much easier. By applying your analytic skills it is not too hard to spot formal and thematic ties between, for example, photographs of David Beckham in underwear advertisements and classical Greek sculptures depicting the ideal body beautiful. You can even find art history crossovers in selfie-queen Kim Kardashian’s Instagram feed!
Where should I start? Check out the OCA’s Pinterest, Vimeo, and Instagram sites for inspiration. Art institutions have thousands of followers, and I would recommend the Tate, Louvre and MoMA Instagram feeds. For contemporary art news Artforum is also useful. One of my favourite Instagram accounts has to be @artgarments – it highlights art history’s best fashion moments in breath-taking detail.
What is on offer? Rather than trawl through hundreds of individual organisation websites, head to Google’s Art & Culture platform – Google Art project (GAP). This site hosts a plethora of high-quality images and enables you to browse an eclectic mix of exhibits.
Why can it be useful? Apart from giving you the chance to experience shows you might never otherwise see, virtual exhibits can enthuse you to go and curate your own online exhibition! From collecting virtual materials or objects to discussing their relationships and establishing an argument for the assembly, creating an exhibition will develop your skills in communication (writing ‘wall texts’/labels and mini catalogues or producing your own podcasts and audio commentaries), visual literacy, digital literacy, and critical thinking.
Where should I start? If you haven’t explored We Are Connected, the website designed by the OCA’s final year MA students, go and have a look! Recommended free applications for creating your own exhibition include Padlet, which gives you a ‘wall’ (think of it as a multimedia bulletin board) that you can drag and drop content onto, Google Sites, WordPress and Tumblr. SoundCloud is worth investigating for audio options.
What is on offer? RAGMNA is my acronym for: Reconstructions (they make it possible to digitally move through buildings, overlay different states of an etching, track the build-up of a painting, or model an unbuilt design); Archives (online archives often incorporate thousands of digital images that allow you to zoom in on works to an amazing level of detail and compare different parts of the composition); Geographical Mapping (using Geographic Information Systems, this tool involves tracking the movement of artists and artworks across different places); Network Analysis (a mathematical modelling of relationships between people or things).
Why can it be useful? Virtual reconstructions allow you to investigate the lived experience of spaces (including sight lines) and images, giving you a deeper understanding of past artistic practices – they can make for an incredibly dynamic, engaging experience. Online archives and databases are invaluable for observing changes in the nature of images and objects over time, such as a sculpture that was originally polychrome but over the ages has lost its colour, been damaged etc. Geographical mapping and network analysis sites give you a handy overview of just how specific pictures, artists, viewers and their environments interact with each other.
Where should I start? Art and architectural historians have created (or are working on) recreations of the Roman Forum and the city of Venice. Similarly, ‘cyber archeologists’ have used a combination of technology and artistry to restore cultural heritage destroyed by Islamic State militants – take a peek at Project Mosul (crowd-sourced digital rescue work), or explore the reconstructions on 3D sharing platform Sketchfab. For a flavour of what is on offer in terms of high-resolution images, take a look at Closer to Van Eyck: Rediscovering the Ghent Altarpiece.
A great example of geographical mapping is the interactive website Mapping Titian (you can trace the movement of Titian’s canvases over time!). The graph produced as part of MoMA’s show Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925 is useful for identifying the social networks of artists.
Your digital toolkit is a means of doing research; it should prompt discussions and generate questions that might otherwise go unasked and reveal creative relations that might otherwise go unnoticed. Your digital tools can help you to share your discoveries and collaborate with your fellow students too – it’s a big world out there!