Digital Deceits

imac project

Recently I have been at a bit of play restoring a few mid-nineties computers I was given. I have been testing my technical skills and sourcing up a few parts, all in the effort of a little thought I had. I’d like to go back and spend some time with some of the programs I first got serious about computers with. Namely, Illustrator, Photoshop, and After Effects – all of the pre-Creative Suite variety.

Why even bother doing this? Well, there is this thought I’ve had lately. Actually, it’s more of a frustration or an annoyance with how applications are marketed and how the constant push to the next biggest thing just seems to be more and more boring to me.  I admit that when Illustrator 10 and Photoshop 6 came out I was all a gush with little-electric-box-wonder, but these days perhaps I’m jaded, or perhaps I am just older, but the thrill is gone and instead I have been wondering just what you couldn’t do on all those old programs that you can on these new ones.

The point for me is that in the rush of marketing and digital speak that surrounds all these applications, certain things get overlooked and forgotten. Since I spend a lot of time working with paint, I always think about how it has been around for years and is a really old material. Yet, there are still new things being done with paint all the time. There are still new things being explored, tried, experimented with, and discovered. In all the hundreds of years that paint has been around, it hasn’t been exhausted at all.

You can even say the same things about pencils and a bit of charcoal.

I like this idea a lot. That really simple materials and tools can continually be re-discovered and re-imagined as new materials and new tools. It is for me, one of the joys of making art.

It is also something that runs counter to the marketing of the digital world. What was past is always worse than what is to come. What was is to be forgotten, and what will be is to be longed for. But, where I always get hung up is on the idea that if paint and pencils still have so much going for them, what might still be going for all these old programs?

Is it really possible that someone actually explored all of what Illustrator 10 could do? Is it really possible that Photoshop 6 has nothing new to offer, or a direction that it leads that Adobe’s Creative Cloud could never take you. I tend to think it’s not only possible, but rather likely. There might only be certain things that could be thought and made in Illustrator 10 that couldn’t be thought in a newer version. In the same way that one can create certain things with paint, can think a certain way with paint, that you couldn’t possibly think or create with a pencil.

So, I will be spending a bit of time trying to find out over the next few weeks and months. I will of course report back when I come to a conclusion.

I do though also have another little quest in mind with these machines. It was on machines like these that I first spent hours and hours putting together some digital video art at my school’s computer labs. I loved working on those machines, and then when I left school I lost access to them, and through traveling, living abroad, and then traveling all the way back, I lost touch with a lot of those programs. So I will also be spending a lot of time digging back into those programs– a little bit of a refresher course.

The plan is for it to lead to some new video art as well. We shall see.