Peter Walsh , Commonwealth of Massachusetts Art Commission, USA
Session: Keynote Speech 3
The root of the English word "technology," etymologists remind us, is the Greek word for "art." In fact, since Paleolithic times, technology--- or the "practical arts"--- and the visual arts have been closely intertwined, especially in the diffusion of taste and ideas about art.
This talk will take Francis Haskell's discussion of the painters on the Albert Memorial in London as a starting point and will trace some of the paths art and technology have taken together. It looks first at the Asian invention and export of porcelain, whose mysterious nature and painted decoration inspired Europeans with images of strange, exotic lands. European interpretations of these images filtered back to Asia, creating a complex, world-embracing loop of taste, imagery, and fantasy. The invention of the print was quickly adapted to popular imagery, religious and political propaganda, and fine art alike and created new definitions of the "familiar" and the "exotic." Later, photography and chromolithography had major impacts, both the development of art history and new kinds of art in the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries. These new technologies both vastly widened the possibilities of art history and set hidden, poorly understood limits on its ultimate expansion. In conclusion, the talk will consider the introduction of digitization and the Internet, and speculate on how these latest technological inventions will change the art and taste of the future.