Skip navigation

Reading the Cramer article on the post digital, I was struck by the discussion of old media in arts during the rise of new media.

“no exhibition is complete without some form of bulky, obsolete technology – the gently clunking carousel of a slide projector or the whirring of an 8-mm or 16-mm film reel.”

Having walked up the steps up the Granoff three times a week this semester, this observation stood out as I’m sure many of you saw the set up of the film reel threading film throughout multiple floors of the building and back onto the third floor where the film was projected onto a small screen. I don’t know what the piece was trying to say (it broadcast multiple sexual scenes of black and white footage from old movies), and I’m not sure how the medium was supposed to be interpreted, though it certainly was a focal point considering it was tied throughout the entirety of the building rather than just projected on a wall. Cramer goes on to discus art and artist’s relations to old media which I found quite fascinating (and sort of expected). She said 70% of art students polled would rather design a poster than a website. As an artist, I felt this was pretty obvious but I guess it’s not. Being able to design and create things on a digital platform is amazing and I have the upmost respect for artists who do that sort of thing. Some of the most talented people I know use a digital interface to create works I could only dream of and I am absolutely impressed by everything they do. Still, there is something so much more alluring and comforting about working with something in the “real” world. The thing you’re creating is something you have made with your own hands (or with whatever you use to make it). It is tangible, it is gratifying, every move you make has a permanence to it. You cannot Ctrl+z your mistakes or save your changes in another layer. You have to just trust your instincts and create. I love working with my hands, with paints, three dimensional materials, markers, pastels, anything really. Working in a digital space I find constraining, non-engaging, tedious. This of course is just my own personal experience and opinion, and I really am not that good at using digital media to convey what I have in mind so that too could lend a bias to my interpretation.


Cramer explores the artist and her intentions when it comes to this use of old media, questioning whether it is a choice made out of convenience, out of a simple love of aesthetics, or if there is a political message to their use. She discusses the political messages that could be associated with an artist’s use of physical film rather than digital footage, saying that film gives the artist the opportunity to physically engage in a sensual way with their media and make something tangible for, but also it gives the artist power in a world where a government (like Britain’s) can dominate the televised networks with their digital media. Physical media, like film, in this way are means of taking back power. When I think about this in the context of Citizenfour and Shah’s examination of exposure and regulation, I can see how this non-digital means of production could be alluring, avoiding the unwanted exposure and possibility of leaks and hacks that the digital is all too prone to. At the same time, I wonder if Cramer is over thinking and attempting to generalize something so broad where every artist makes their own decisions based on personal preferences. There is not necessarily one universal reason for the use of old media. Sometimes, it really is just aesthetic.