Physical Work After Covid-19

I was sitting in a lecture on the museum and its place in the art world, and I wanted to talk a little bit about how I see viewing physical art, digital art, and how there has been a lot of talk about art going heavily online due to covid-19 and the effects on galleries and museums. 


It's interesting to see this idea be pushed as far as it is by bringing artwork online through photos, and the reaction and interaction the work has on viewers. Physical artwork will lose a large part of itself when condensed into a digital photo and placed online. The only work that can live digitally to its fullest is digitally minded or digitally made work without losing some of its original context. 


Art cannot be fully separated from the context of where it is currently located, and this can be questioned both in a museum as well as on a digital wall. 


Of course I'm happy to see artwork become more accessible through digital distribution, but the physical work represented digitally takes away from the whole of the work. Artwork born digitally is the only work that can subvert this. I viewed Super Mario Clouds by Cory Arcangel, a work that uses a modified Super Mario cartridge to show only the clouds, played on a screen or projected onto a wall, out of context, seeing only the video on Youtube, and disliked the it. However, after seeing the piece in a photo where it was shown, projected on walls and shown on a CRT, I enjoyed the work far more. What's lost in these two representations of the work from its installation is in the relationship with the light bouncing from the wall onto the viewer, the hum of the NES, and any other number of small, hard to describe sensations.



While there are plenty of exciting opportunities to be taken from this pandemic, including art being shown from windows (or as my girlfriend suggests, taking my work to other people's windows,) art being laid out in town, and new digital options, the loss of seeing work in person would take a massive hit on the meaning and experience of physical artwork. It will also change who is making what work. I have started exploring digital means of making artwork that can be experienced online in its fullest and I am excited about what will come out, but I won't abandon my physical work, or the physical work of my friends, and to see that work never get that person to person relationship is upsetting. Digital is beautiful, but we are not digital people, and should not ignore the need to experience things in person.