Paint.exe: A History of Computer Paint Tools

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2011 - Art and society - 144 pages
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This thesis is a multifaceted investigation into the process of image making and image reception that digital paint programs present us with. The project is broadly concerned with how digital imaging programs relate to analogue painting methods, in terms of continuity and change of processes available and forms produced. Each facet of the investigation will make up a prism through which to consider these contemporary phenomena. In a broader sense, the aim of this project is to work through an understanding of how ideas from a pre-digital era exert an influence in digital image making. Theoretical writing that takes up software as a cultural object perhaps shows a simultaneous dynamic of continuity and change as the software itself does. By this I mean that the questions regarding image making in the digital era. The first facet addresses contemporary writing of "software studies", criticizing various standpoints within the contemporary realm of software studies, particularly in relation to computer interaction - via interfacing or via hacking. The second section comprises ongoing chronological research related to the development of computer paint tools. It is, in some ways, a digital visual bibliography, including a virtual 3D timeline charting significant developments in paint software and a slide show of various paint effects in past and present programs which also includes images that I myself have made using various paint software for the VCS 2011 show Symptoms Variable at Roxaboxen, Chicago. (See http://www.visualandcritical.net/symposia/2011 for details). The third section of the thesis assays a critique of Frederic Jameson's essay 'The Transformations of the Image in Postmodernity' in terms of issues regarding the continuity and change in the experience of time when making images using computer paint tools, using close readings of David Hockney's pictures on a Quantel Paintbox (Painting with Light, BBC, 1985) and the PaintFX blog (HYPERLINK "http://paintfx.biz/" http://paintfx.biz/ Accessed 05/09/2011. While sympathizing with the broad argument that Jameson is attempting to make about the totalization of commodification of images in the present, I aim, through looking at these concrete examples to problematize Jameson's characterization of our experience of images in the postmodern era. It is revealed that new paint software provides a qualitative change in our temporal experience of images and image making, rather than the total emptying out of the experience of the temporal, which Jameson appears to assert.

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