What is “art”? Who the heck knows? However, a lot of folks seem to know what isn’t art. Many folks hold the view that art is partly, if not wholly, defined by its medium; that some work can’t be art because of the tools used to make it, whereas other work must be art by a similar principle.
For instance, some folks believe that if a computer is the tool, the result can’t be art, because it follows that the computer is doing all the work and no talent or skill on the part of the operator is actually required. In some circles, the term “Photoshop” has taken on a decidedly derogatory connotation, the belief being that most work, if not everything, coming out of a computer these days is just the result of pushing a few Photoshop “buttons” and of course that’s not “art”. The word “cheating” is sometimes used in this regard. I have been accused of simply taking a photograph and “messing with it”, as if a watercolourist isn’t simply taking some paint and a piece of paper and “messing with them”!
Obviously, such views are absurdly simplistic and show a great deal of ignorance, but not completely unjustified. Unfortunately, the situation is exacerbated, if not caused, by the fact that everyone has a copy of Photoshop these days. It must be one of the most widely pirated applications on the planet, not to mention that Photoshop Elements is bundled with most new digital cameras. As a result, a lot of folks are just pushing a few Photoshop “buttons” and flooding the world with unprecedented amounts of pixel drek.
But it is specious to conclude that all work produced with a computer is junk just because a lot of it might be, just as it is specious to think that all work produced with paint and a brush, or chisel and stone, is fine art, just because some of it is. I suspect Charles Dickens would have been just as great a writer with a word processor.
I recently discovered a nicely written piece entitled A Defense of Digital Art (no longer available). Please check it out.