Struggling with a new technology or medium, figuring out how to make it do what I want is not my favorite part of the artistic process (not that I dislike this part). I like most the part where it comes together into something interesting. I'm more comfortable working in spaces where I'm confidant in my abilities. This means that I naturally tend towards already established spaces, away from technological novelty.

Just because the focus is on making something interesting rather than only playing with new forms, doesn't mean it always becomes what Michael Naimark calls last word art. What makes a piece seem interesting might just be its novelty. You never know until time passes whether you were actually making something to last, or if it was only interesting because it was new. Being the first to do something has its only kind of legacy, but only if that thing amounts to something on its own.


As technology advances we will always be bombarded by a series of novel use cases of technology for art. Exploring the new and novel is not inherently wrong, but it is worth considering the reason for any goals of pioneering a medium. Kyle McDonald had an interesting critique on the need to claim first or define an incremental change as groundbreaking.

There is an undeniable ego to artists proclaiming themselves as pioneers. Importantly, many of the First & Last authors mentioned in the article have a deep understanding of the history of their medium, which likely contributed to their understanding of a possible future and novelty.

I would hope the goal of this exploration is in order to find new ways to connect with those interacting with art. Marshall McLuhan has discussed the importance of medium, and it is possible that these new mediums of work will help a series of artists connect in a way we never expected.


Along the spectrum of First Word <---->Last Word, my work is more towards First Word because my medium of choice (VR), is not as widely explored and documented like other forms: drawing, computer art, film. Orson Welles put it well when he was talking about his first cameraman, "You never made a picture, and you don't know what can't be done!" I don't know what's impossible. As far as I'm concerned, it's the wild west!
In regards to how culture accepts technology: I think it's based on how well it's introduced, and only well-introduced tech can shape culture. For example, the novel idea of the touch screen has been around for decades before the iPhone popularized it with the first touch screen monitor produced in 1983. That's First Word. When the iPhone comes around and popularizes it and becomes embedded into modern culture, that's Last Word.


One main purpose of art, in my mind, is to show something that has never been seen before. Art as communication of an idea is extremely powerful, and if an idea is represented in a way that has never been seen before, or a completely novel idea is represented, it can catch the attention of the viewer/experiencer and let them understand it in a way nothing else can. In this respect, new technology is crucial to art, in that it can express ideas that can't be expressed any other way.

I don't think my own work is first word art or last word art, really, because I haven't done anything that hasn't been done before, but I also haven't done anything in an already existing medium that is good enough to stand out much in that medium. However, I definitely would lean more toward first word art. I do find it a little daunting to try to use a medium that has been exhausted so fully, or at least to use it in a way that stands out. I get more out of trying to do something that's never been done before than just trying to perfect my technical skills, even though sometimes I wish I didn't feel that way.

One danger I see in using cutting-edge technology is losing your message or losing yourself in the tech. It's easy to come up with an idea that fits the medium rather than vice-versa, and while that's a good exercise and can sometimes even have artistic value, you're much more likely to produce something worthwhile if you choose the medium to match the idea.

sovid – Reading 03

While I disagree with those mentioned in the article who say that first word art is not art, I would place myself and my interests closer to the last word art side of the spectrum. While I aim to create new and interesting stories for my animations, I do want to create something new and meaningful in a largely accessible and heavily used medium, 3D software. New advancements in 3D software, however, fall into a deeper subdivision of the spectrum - if a new version of Maya comes out with new and unheard of simulation systems built in, for example, then the well-known tool becomes something that people can begin to experiment with once again. The idea of novel ideas not aging well is interesting because there are cases where that is true and cases where that is false. Molnár's generative plotter drawings were certainly revolutionary for the time and she still continues to make work using similar ideas and techniques that she had early on in her career.


It's hard to pinpoint where I lie on the spectrum of first word art to last word art because I grew up in a very traditional view of art that encompassed representation and the gestural qualities of the hand, but since coming to CMU I have more or less abandoned that practice, not necessarily by choice. The domain of CMU's School of Art lies on the first word art side of the spectrum, but even as I have shifted to fit into that range, I still believe I lean more towards last word art than many of my peers. In Naimark's theory, all the art that is in between--including mine--have no particular lasting significance beyond the label "art". I am pretty okay with that, however. My goal as an artist is not to make lasting art, whether through novelty or through mastery. My goal is to make art that is interesting now, which ultimately lie best in the middle of the spectrum anyways.

Technology is the optimal medium to achieve things that are interesting now. I don't have anything to say about how technology and culture shape each other besides the obvious: that they are a positive feedback loop. Since technology is inherently ephemeral, our work won't persist if it is solely based on the novelty of technology. That doesn't mean technological art can't last, however. Technology is just another medium to express core ideas. If the idea persists, then the work will persist, as well. That is the one failing of Naimark's theory of first word and last word art; it fails to remember all the art in between that have persisted.