Wednesday, 14 October 2009



Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kamarudzaman Md. Isa

Assoc. Prof. Hj. Ponirin Amin

Faculty of Art & Design, Universiti Teknologi MARA

40450, Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia



Eversince the early invention of computers in the early 50’s for number crunching and until the recent development of graphics onscreen with the development of GUI (Graphical user interface), artists has been challenging the machine to produce artistic artworks. With its new potentials, artists will continue to further push the boundaries of art by moving the images beyond paper and canvas onto fabrics, floors, and walls with digital printing and projections. Today digital art can become part of our environment and the clothing we wear, heightening aesthetic experiences and the value of life, culture, craft and the traditions of the viewer’s experience even more. Technology will continue to develop and we cannot just judge the integrity by the tools used in the creation process.

Digital art is yet to gain the acceptance and regard reserved for "serious" art forms such as sculpture, painting and drawing, perhaps due to the erroneous impression of many that "the computer does it“, This paper attempts to discuss the conflict of value system faced by Digital Arts in the participating in the mainstream art scene in Malaysia and the education system of Fine Art.

Keywords: Digital Art, Value system, New Art form


The advancement in the digital technology has brought about the convergence of much technology into one common platform. The miniaturization of electronics, from the once chunky transistors, to present day micro and even nanochips, and the Digital bits and bytes of “1”s and “0”s which previously only conceived for use in the domain of Computing is now already widely applied into Telecommunications, Broadcasting, the Video and Audio Industry, making a smooth transition and democratization of information across several hardware platforms.

The democratization of information and knowledge is further enhanced with the widely presence of the Internet into every home, globally. The new generation of users born of this era, commonly referred to as the “Net Gen”, has even cultivated their own new Net Culture, with its own uniqueness in preferences, taste and outlooks about the world we live in.


With this technology convergence, we have a coming together of multiple levels of application including also in the field of the Arts. Hybrid practices combine digital and non-digital art forms, blurs traditional boundaries and challenge narrowly defined labels. As a very new medium in the artistic world, it has also widely be classified under several mode, namely as a Digital Art, the Computer Art and even as the Electronic Arts. The Austin Museum of Digital Art, USA, indicated that it may manifest in several forms, namely as a the product, as the process, and even as the subject.

a) Product

Art whose final form is digital in nature is digital art. These are works that are viewed on a computer, such as software or web sites. This also includes works that use nonstandard hardware, such as electronics and robotics. The hardware need not be functional: a sculpture made of integrated circuit boards could be considered digital art.

AMODA feels that the expressive capabilities of this new medium have only been touched upon, and so they are interested in seeing how artists express themselves through it.

b) Process

Art that was created using digital technology in the process of its creation would also be digital art. Obvious examples include computer-generated animation, synthesized music, and computer-designed sculpture. While these works might be presented in traditional media (e.g. film, audio tape and marble), their production was facilitated by the use of digital technology.

Less obvious examples include: a painting designed by visitors to a web page; a play which reenacts an e-mail exchange; or music that samples sounds from an arcade game. These are still works which could not exist without digital technology to aid their production.

As an institution, AMODA are interested in how digital technology is altering the production of art. This alteration can be subtle or profound, either by impacting traditional production or allowing novel approaches.

c) Subject

Finally, art that addresses or discusses digital technology is also digital art. A painting depicting a woman using an ATM machine, a bust of Alan Turing, and song about chat rooms could all be considered digital art. Digital technology need not be the focus of the piece, or even mentioned intentionally. AMODA are interested in works that, through their subject, say something about digital technology and its impact on the world.

Digital Art

Refers to those information through bits and bytes that are translated for use by computer. From the Wikipedia, at, Digital art is used an umbrella term for a range of artistic works and practices that exploit digital technology. Since the 1970s various names have been used to describe what is now called digital art including computer art and multimedia art but digital art is itself placed under the larger umbrella term new media art.

The impact of digital technology has transformed traditional activities such as painting, drawing and sculpture, while new forms, such as net art, digital installation art, and virtual reality, have become recognized artistic practices. More generally the term digital artist is used to describe an artist who makes use of digital technologies in the production of art. In an expanded sense, "digital art" is a term applied to contemporary art that uses the methods of mass production or digital media.

As a product, the computer output may appear in printed format or even projected-image format. As a process it will be in the passive or dynamic mode. The printed still image mode of artistic expression of ideas and concepts, or also the dynamic motion which appears either the interactive format through onscreen menu-driven mode or the more experiential animatic projection, supported with sensors which even further heightened the viewers involvement through experiential participation with the medium. Being also in digital format, this experience can be further enhanced with the use of digital Audio and digital Video images.

Computer Art

As defined by Ian Chilvers in, (1999), the term Computer art is about Art produced with the aid of a computer or more specifically art in which the role of the computer is emphasized. Computer art according to Wikipedia, is any art in which computers played a role in production or display of the artwork. Such art can be an image, sound, animation, video, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, videogame, web site, algorithm, performance or gallery installation. Many traditional disciplines are now integrating digital technologies and, as a result, the lines between traditional works of art and new media works created using computers has been blurred. For instance, an artist may combine traditional painting with algorithm art and other digital techniques. As a result, defining computer art by its end product can thus be difficult. Computer art is by its nature evolutionary since changes in technology and software directly affect what is possible.

Notable artists in this vein include James Faure Walker,Manfred Mohr, Ronald Davis, Joseph Nechvatal, Matthias Groebel, George Grie, Olga Kisseleva, John Lansdown and Perry Welman. It is about images that are electronically produced by a computer , and very often mistaken for illustrations.

Electronic Art

Electronic art is a form of art that makes use of electronic media or, more broadly, refers to technology and/or electronic media. It is related to information art, new media art, video art, digital art, interactive art, internet art, and electronic music. It is considered an outgrowth of conceptual art and systems art. Art that requires electronic devices to deliver and often linked strongly with digital hardware

The term electronic art is almost, but not entirely, synonymous to computer art and digital art. The latter two terms, and especially the term computer-generated art are mostly used for visual artworks generated by computers. However, electronic art has a much broader connotation, referring to artworks that include any type of electronic component, such as works in music, dance, architecture and performance. It is an interdisciplinary field and so artists often collaborate with scientists and engineers when creating their works. Electronic art is often, but not always, interactive. ." Artists make use of technologies like the Internet, computer networks, robotics, wearable technology, digital painting, wireless technology and immersive virtual reality. As the technologies used to deliver works of electronic art become obsolete, electronic art faces serious issues around the challenge to preserve artwork beyond the time of its contemporary production.


As an artistic tool, the computer technology offers an unlimited, multi-faceted capabilities. Unfortunately as today’s professionals, instead of integrating its potentials as truly unique new art form, there is every tendency by art practitioners to label and pigeonhole it back into specific traditional categories such as :

Imaging / Photographic prints either created using bitmaps or raster mode, or simply digitized from camera ready images.

Illustrations created using vector line mode. Computer illustration or digital illustration is the use of digital tools to produce images under the direct manipulation of the artist, usually through a pointing device such as a tablet or a mouse. It is distinguished from computer-generated art, which is produced by a computer using mathematical models created by the artist. It is also distinct from digital manipulation of photographs, in that it is an original construction "from scratch". (Photographic elements may be incorporated into such works, but they are not the primary basis or source for them.)

Prints / Posters prints prepared and distributed as limited edition pieces. Commercials use in the form of advertising visualizations or for entertainment purposes such as music videos and for computer games. For mere convenience and to safeguard the monopoly of the skills, the practice of segregation rather than integration of the multifaceted features that computing has to offer, is still being practiced in the profession, making it difficult for the Digital Artist to make its marks in the industry. The demarcation of a Digital Artist is very blurry, more often than not one can easily be sidelined as a mere Computer Art designer.

Your browser may not support display of this image.DIGITAL ARTS IN EDUCATION

Computer as an art tool is extensively utilized in the Design courses in Art Institutions of Higher Learning in Malaysia, such as in Graphic design, New Media Design and Product Design. Unfortunately, its uptake as a creative tool in the expressive Fine Arts courses is still faced with skeptism amongst the educators, who among them still share a very traditionalist and conservative opinion of what is Fine Art, and what is not. Many art colleges in Malaysia sees only less that 0.0001 percent of their students pursuing Digital Arts for their Fine Art degree project for some unknown reasons.

Idea Development in

Imagination & Talent – just as analogous of the camera for art of photography, the Digital Art students requires much more than mere creative talent and high level of imagination of an artist, an above the normal knowledge and of specialized skills for mastery of the computing tool is required.

Evaluation / Assessments – Unlike conventional artistic medium, where idea generation of the students is traceable through the progressive development of the thumbnail sketches, computers employs the mode of ‘undoing or deleting’ in the computer memory, destroying the evidence of idea process, thus making it difficult for the educators to ascertain originality of ideas for student’s performance evaluation and progress assessments. On the other hand, the advantage of this new ‘undoing’ and ‘deleting’ feature encourages greater non-linear experimentation of ideas, because mistakes can be undone and redone, unlike the conventional tools where once a mistakes is made, it can be detrimental to the whole artworks.

This issue of maintaining of progress of ideas in Art students can still be traceable by constantly saving every version or saved at every preset time into the hard disk, and eventually transferred onto the CD or DVD for proof of evidence of work, or better still a video recording of screen activities to DVD.


Technical understanding and mastery of how the computing hardware and software works and the integrations of one software with another digitally is needed before true creativity can be tapped from the machine. Where once the forerunners of digital arts has to master the knowledge of computer programming in order to generate art pieces, today, for the ‘newbees’ to computing, many of the creative process are being dictated by the menu-driven commands of the software. For two dimensional artworks, art may be generated on bitmap or raster mode pixel by pixel (using softwares such a Adobe Photoshop, Corel Fractal Painter, Corel draw) or in axis-to-axis vector mode of drawing (using the Adobe Illustrator or Quark XPress software).

For three dimensional artworks there is the three dimensional modeling visualization software tools of Maya, Lightwave and 3D Studio Max, where the artworks can either be pre-rendered for both still presentations or passive animated presentations visualization, and also of the realtime rendering for the virtual reality interactive visualization purposes.

In education, the suspicions of students copying and manipulation their artworks is much higher with the usage of the computing tool. With today’s technology, the ease of image scanning and photographic digitizing of available images may lead to over-emphasis of extensive digital manipulation by students from copyrighted materials rather than from own generated materials. Daniel Giordan argues that the intelligence is not artificial, and it does not rest inside of the computer, instead it rests in the skills of the programmers who created these amazing effects generators, and finally on the artists who decides on what and when to apply it appropriately in his artworks.

Unlike the spontaneity of creative workflow and the high probability of “accidental chance” occurrence that happens with the conventional and traditional art tools, working with the computer also require a lot of preplanning through scripting, and coding and programming (although almost concealed or ubiquitous under the disguise of the Graphical User Interface or GUI template).

Contrary to conventional opinions, Daniel Giordan believed that the computer too allows for an intuitive exploration, and is perfectly suited to the circular development of ideas that is so important to the art making process. Artists will not succeed if they merely fill out a singular thought or message using sound, images, or text. They must push beyond this capability and realize that the true power of digital technology is in how it empowers the artist to freely explore a concept without the encumbrances of traditional media.

The computer allows the artist, as a creator, to focus more on the content of a particular work, than necessarily the means by which it is being made. The digital medium, as Daniel Giordan states, “provides a degree of speed and flexibility that other mediums can’t keep up with”. This allows the artist to execute the work quickly and efficiently. As a result, more time is available to the artist to explore alternative possibilities for every action, as well as fine tune and develop a more coherent product.

Cost Factors - Unfortunately, the rapid progress and technological advancement of the computing industry, and the ever growing development of computing peripherals exceeded any other known traditional art materials, and it requires constant upgrading of knowledge to master the tool. The high cost of the new technology, with its ever increasing capabilities by each month is also another issue that is faced by students to catch up with.


The final product will eventually be presented or exhibited to the public through Art Galleries or the like and artist needs to conform to the required display format of the establishment, or not being accepted at all.

Art Galleries

Brick-and-Mortar Art Galleries

The typical mode of display of most art galleries is in the form of print & framed, hung on gallery walls such as in the Whitney Museum of American Art for still image capture of Digital Artworks.

MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) has adopted the display of animated Digital Arts through slideshows mode of presentation on the computer monitors screens, And slowly gaining acceptance is the image projection mode on the gallery walls as in the Feigen Contemporary, New York.

Virtual Galleries

In the age of technology today, so much relies on the internet and digital communications that even the art world has been split wide open with the prospect of online galleries and millions of possible viewers for any given artists work, where anyone can view the Digital Artists work from anywhere in the world by logging onto the Internet and surfing to the websites as adopted by the MOCA (Museum of Computer Art) and the AMODA (Austin Museum of Digital Art)

Although in July 2007, the Galleriiizu Digital Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur , launches the Asia’s First Digital Art Gallery and also took part in launching of Malaysia’s First Digital Art Award, it is now defunct and does not quite picked up among both artists and art enthusiasts for some unknown reasons.

Art Collectors

Perhaps based on merely economic reason and justifications, Art Collectors is still in monopoly mode over the types of collectable art pieces, and are still debating over the issues of the ROI (return of investments) of Digital Art collections, as it is still embroiled with the issues of non-exclusivity due to the suspicion of possible reproduction and unknown longevity and technology obsolescence.

Value Judgments

The biggest opposing issue facing digital art has to do with the validity of using the computer itself as a means for creation of art. In the case of digital art, part of its non-acceptance is indeed simply unfounded misconception.

Many people still believes that the computer is a ‘super tool’ of sorts, which ‘does the work’ for you. John Pangia, accurately states that “[p]urists can be counted on to rant that there’s no art to it all, that any three year old can cut and paste pictures on a computer.” They believe that with a few mouse clicks, one can let the computer formulate equations into something resembling art. Ironically, that same three year old can be taught to draw and paint as easily as they can learn to use a computer and an image-editing program. Aside from aesthetic value and eye for composition, which are purely personal ideals, drawing and its digital counterpart are both just learned skills. Furthermore, anyone that works with computers will tell you that computers can only do what you tell them. This is common sense, as even automation has to be created by a human at the most basic programming level. Another argument against the validity of digital art is based on the idea that “digital reproduction will cheapen good art” (Pangia).

Conservative frameworks

Your browser may not support display of this image.Your browser may not support display of this image.Unfortunately it is still difficult to break away from the set mentality that an object of Art must still being hung or wall-mounted in galleries or framed and displayed on pedestals. This may be applicable in traditional art forms where the process and finished product is the same one.. Digital arts grew and exists firstly in the computer memory and only presents itself as projected imageries temporarily on the computer screens.

Your browser may not support display of this image.
Unfortunately how would the traditional art connoisseurs at Art Galleries be able to accept projected imageries on gallery walls as a work of High Art as in Plate 2. Or are they are more at ease with the small framed pieces printed from a colour printer as in Plate 3 below.

Your browser may not support display of this image.Resistance

Daniel Giordan in his articles on “Digital Aesthetics” questioned how will the art world of the late 20th century respond to the way that computers have entrenched themselves in our society? He noticed that there are still many today who would bury their heads in the sand, trying to avoid dealing with the issue of digital technology. They would have us believe that digital art is not a viable art form, and that the true modes of artistic expression still lie in painting, photography, sculpture, and the like. To embrace or reject technology is a question which has ceased to be relevant in the business world, with the workplace racing after automation and all of the competitive advantages it brings. In like manner, it is time for the fine arts community to move away from its evasive, distancing stance, and embrace technology and its capacity to help artists express themselves.

Another writer, Jared Karnes touching on the issues of the Validity of Digital Art, and Technology’s Role in the Abolition of High/Low Artistic Classification, observed that compared to chisel and rock, keyboard and monitor just do not seem to cut it in the eyes of many of today’s traditional artists. Digital art is still considered a ‘low’ form of art. He further saya that Low art, in traditional terms, is absolutely not acceptable to the elite purveyors of high art; these people would rather pay millions of dollars for a photo realistic portrait painting of someone, or something, that they could go look at for themselves. People claim that artistic creation by means of using a computer, or digital art, is low art either with mediocre reasoning, or just out of plain elitism/prejudice. It is commonly thought within the art world that, regardless of fairness, two loosely defined categories of art exist: high and low. These categories define tastes in aesthetic properties. Practices such as painting, sculpture, and printmaking are considered high art because of the amount of skill needed to meet the aesthetic standards of higher-class society. Low art is considered as any art form that does not require the academic learning of a specific trade.

There is a huge fundamental difference between these two comparative art movements: one relies only on visual imagery to portray an ideal thought, and one concentrates solely on the intellectual meaning and/or message behind a work. Again, this further separates our categories of classification. While high art is concerned purely with the idea of art for aesthetics’ sake, low art’s aim is to make people think. Low art appeals to people because they can relate to it. They are not perfect, and thus they are comforted in artistic merit that is the same. Just as the final acceptance of the “Kitch Art movements” which was initially defined as an aesthetically impoverished object of shoddy production, that was meant more to identify the consumer with a newly acquired class status has finally gained recognition and able invoke a genuine aesthetic response, so will Digital Art eventually be

Value Assessment

As an Art owner, there still remains till today the conflict of the value assessment of a piece of Digital Artworks.


In the case of digital prints, authentication standards and procedures in traditional printmaking can apply. Digital prints can be editioned, monotypes, reproduction, monoprints or unlimited editions, and the value of the works may correspond to these.

However certification can be issued to ensure the artworks is genuine for every piece by the artists.


In the case of "pure" digital work (those defined by ones and zeros and viewable/experienced on a monitor or projector, there are technologies used to prove authenticity and protect intellectual property rights such as watermarking, electronic signatures and domain name ownership (in the case of net art where the URL is an important element of the artwork).

One-off/or Signed Limited Editions copies guarantees the ownership will not be duplicated. Some artists even resort to destroying original file from his hard disk after the painting has been sold.

David Hensler (2001) brought up the issue of the ownership of art and its protection, questioning what can be done to protect a creator's artwork, the artist's freedom of expression, and the viewer's freedom of appreciating it. The issue hasn't been around all that long and we are living in it today, and it's growing. Owning art is something that's hard to explain. The artist somewhat owns it because he created it. But as soon as the art becomes a piece of property... it stops being art, and it is then copyable by today’s standards.


Because the true Digital Art source resides in digital “0”s and “1”s in the computer memory it is actually untouchable, physically. The artwork information is stored in diskettes, CD or DVD or even burned into microchips, and displayed through the computer screen, via large LCD monitors or Large projection screens is still not real, perceptible and concrete to possess as an asset to be worth much more than the cost of the storage medium and the display screen itself. Herein lies the dilemma of placing of high pricing to a piece of Digital Art pieces.


Longevity is also an issue in digital works. Advancement in the technology and research has enabled artists to produce archival work (excepting of course, conceptual digital work or those that are intended to degenerate). Recent research has shown that there are UV inks and print media that can last for as long as 200 years.


Shawna Smart in the article “The Validity Of The Digital Art Medium”, believes that despite the reluctance of mainstream traditional art forums to admit digital art as a serious art form, the field is explosive and gaining ground everyday across the internet, in museums, galleries, and competitions. There is much to be argued in the field, but as a digital artist himself, as well as a vehement proponent for the validity of the digital art medium, he will argue for the validity of the digital medium as a serious art form, as well as attempt to dispel the common myths concerning the medium.

Like any other medium, there are artists of varying degrees of skill, talent, and experience, but there is a level of competence that qualifies in terms of time, effort, thought, presentation, and composition that goes far beyond the snobbery of dismissing the works of such artists as 'nothing but a few clicks." The beginning painter or sculptor can easily match this label of "just a few clicks" with a bad representation of form, color and composition in what could be called "just a few strokes."

This author believes that the main resistance in the traditional art world to digital artistry is related to more of a financial and social exclusivity then any actual lack of talent or work on the part of the serious digital artist.

There is certainly no lack of digital fine art, nor talent in the new medium. I believe it's time that people begin considering the benefits of digital mediums and stop sneering at the artists simply because they develop self-expressive art forms without the wasteful tools and toxic by products of traditional artists. The same discerning standards may be easily applied to any digital piece of art, whether still, multimedia, or interactive presentations. In the end, it is all the expression of the human soul, and therefore cannot be dismissed as an invalid medium on any reasonable grounds.

Perhaps, rather than being confrontational in trying to force fit into the mainstream art scene where the elitist monopoly of art based in individualist patronage and exclusivity, it is perhaps time to refocus, and seek for breakaway alternative New Stream, that is more engaging with the mass patronage with shared values rather than the vicious monopoly of exclusivity.

In the Art Education, it is time to move away from the present “wait-&-see” changes to happen in the mainstream mindset, into a more optimistic intellectual approach preparing the Fine Art students with the sensitivity of this technology potentials and sharpening of their cognitive, affective and psychomotor in mastering this new technology for the future potencials.


Austin Museum of Digital Art, USA, Retrieved September 09, 2009

Daniel Giordan ( ) “Digital Aesthetics” Retrieved September 09, 2009

David Hensler (2001), “To Own Art”, Retrieved September 09, 2009

Ian Chilvers. "Computer art." A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art. 1999. Retrieved September 09, 2009 from the,

Jared Karnes, “Napoleon, a Urinal, and Traction Control a Floating Torso:An Exploration of The Validity of Digital Art, and Technology’s Role in the Abolition of High/Low Artistic Classification”, Retrieved September 09, 2009

Manovich, L. (2001) The Language of New Media, p. 127f. Cambridge Massachusetts and London, England: The MIT Press.

MOCA (Museum of Computer Art), Retrieved September 09, 2009

Pangia, John. (1999), “Digital Art: Is it Creative, or Just Clickable?” Retrieved September 09, 2009

Shawna Smart, “The Validity Of The Digital Art Medium”,

Spalter, A. M. (1999) The Computer in the Visual Arts, p. 48f. United States of America: Addison-Wesley Longman Inc

The Galleriiizu Digital Art Gallery, Retrieved September 09, 2009

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