Digital information is invisible, confounding the notion of the “objet d’art”.  What is visible is the thing the information is stored on and, more importantly, the artwork as displayed on a screen.  At the time of sale, however, what changes hands is a digital file, containing video imagery or computer code.  Digital files can be stored just one way: on a physical media.  These can take many forms: memory card, flash/thumb drive, DVD, hard drives, or some new miniaturized storage device that was released after this sentence was written.  These devices are portable.    Others are not.   A computer contains a number of devices which can hold digital media, mainly hard drives.  Playback devices, such as media boxes and DVD players can also house digital media.  Cloud-based media storage is also on a computer, located somewhere else and accessible via the internet.  

Even when the idea of digital data as objet d’art is accepted, there is still the question of how to package, buy, and sell digital art.   Digital files can be transferred for sale in two ways: by the changing hands of physical media or by download.  Download is the moving of a digital file from one physical media to another using the Internet. 

I am interested in video that is an object.” – Kurt Ralske 


As consumers, digital media has changed the way we think of “possession”.  The frequent use, download, and purchase of digital media has familiarized us with the buying of and using of things where we never need to see the actual thing.  What we use is how the thing works on a device.  At least when we bought a tape, CD, or DVD, there was a physical object to possess.  Those days are coming swiftly to an end and downloadable digital media is becoming the norm.  The time has come for this to impact our age-old concept of objet d’art. 

Kurt Ralske explains: “The big problem is: art objects are expensive because they’re exclusive and unique.  The painting by a dead artist is the most exclusive object and the most expensive one.  A digital file, which can be duplicated indefinitely, will be worth way less. A screen isn’t really an object, a screen is just a device.  For some artists, the way around this practical problem of “How do I sell screen-based work?” is to make the screen into an unique art object. By some unusual framing, or by its role as a part of an installation, the video becomes unique. Also, there are ways of presenting the image that are more creative than the stereotypical screen presentation. The video might be a funny size: it’s very big, or very small, or requires some special setup.  Though they are harder to distribute, these objects and installations more likely to attract critical interest, and command a higher price in an art gallery.” 

Of course, as art displayed on a screen is made to be an objet d’art, the line is blurred  between the object and the technology.   

Fluid Studies, Camille Utterback, 2013 

Fluid Studies (closeup), Camille Utterback, 2013 

Fluid Studies (closeup), Camille Utterback, 2013 

With traditional mediums, such as oil painting, sculpture, even photography, the medium is the object.  The material which causes the image to be transferred to the eye is an integral part of the artwork. With the use of screens in artwork, this issue becomes complicated.  The artwork is primarily the digital information which contains the artwork, but the visual manifestation is a device manufactured in Asia.  On a properly installed moving painting, the device goes unnoticed and only the artwork is perceived.  This is part of the art and the illusion of the moving painting. 

The objet d’art intersects with the world of digital art creating a portal through which the medium of electricity, code, and pixels can be experienced by the viewer as a complete and unified work of art. There is no device, only medium. There is no code, only experience. There is no electricity, only the transcendence of artistic message. This is what digital artists strive for in the creation of objects d’art and this is the promise of the moving painting.