Novelty and the digital

This essay will be evaluating and researching with the purpose on answering the question, ‘What is the relationship between novelty and/or the new and the digital?’

Many critics and audiences have stated alternative definitions of the so-called ‘digital age’, however, the American anthropologist Faye Ginsburg, defines ‘the digital age’ as, ‘initially had the shock of the new, it now has become as naturalized for many of us – Western cultural workers and intellectuals – as a temporal marking of the dominance of a certain kind of technological regime, ‘the digital.’

My individual approach to this question will be by analysing how particular types of ‘novelty’ have affected art and photography, as they have seemingly been heavily correlated with this so-called ‘digital age’, appearing obsolete with the public. I will also be considering the potential future of the ‘digital age’ as part of Ginsburg’s ‘technological regime.’ As a result of the ‘digital age,’ contemporary art and art studies are continuing to become more digital but has the risk of becoming ‘the norm’ of self-expression, thus born into the main flow of the technological regime.

This approach follows on from a range of concepts I covered in my honours degree dissertation, which I relevantly completed in Fine Art. I analysed how, and in which ways reportage and journalistic photography is currently viewed by more contemporary audiences, or whom use high levels of digital media; and how the use of digital mediums are fundamentally used to convey a wide range of stories, subsequently becoming a trend.

David Campany is one particular critic and artist who views and explains how art has become a huge element of the digital phenomena. He describes that artistic movements are frequently correlated with film, media and theatre. I find his ideas highly relevant to this essay. Campany says, ‘Over the last three decades or so, art has become increasingly photographic. Why phrase it this way around? Why not say photography has become art? Because that would suggest a kind of unity in the medium when in fact photography has ended up in art in diverse ways, for diverse reasons.’ – David Campany, Art and Photography, Page 14

When Campany writes, ‘(Photography is) Unity in the medium’, this guided me back to a particular passage from Ginsburg’s quote, where she writes, ‘a temporal marking of the dominance of a certain kind of technological regime.’ I feel this idea of ‘technological dominance’ as a ‘regime’ has, in a way, been transformed, even misinterpreted, in contemporary culture.

In regard to the history of the image, the earliest photograph was captured between 1824-1826c, by French inventor, Nicéphore Niépce1

The process heavily involved chemical processes and large amounts of experimentation and is less common in contemporary societal terms.

However, considering the climate of digital and analogue cameras, as well as the digital media that accompanies this, the digitalised version of this process is currently sought after, with the creation of the ‘Diana F Digital’ camera first established in Hong Kong in the 1960’s. The ‘Diana F Digital,’ is described by many as a ‘toy’ or more relevantly to the context of this essay, as a ‘novelty.’ However, this is highly dependent on by whom and for how it is used. Whether this is socially, professionally or academically.

Moreover, regarding the essay’s question where I am analysing the relationship between the novelty and ‘digital media’. It can be understood that there are essences of unpredictability in the digital media, or even unreliability as companies in the midst of the revolution of ‘the digital age’ deem to manufacture evermore digital software. The ‘Diana F Digital’ for example is an entirely modern version of the 35mm analogue camera, mostly used by the younger generations, essentially because of the multi-functions the camera possesses, such as filters and the double-take effects. However, this would then beg the question, has the concept of ‘the digital’ ever changed, or merely, advanced?

The power of the advancements in digital technology and the relationship between the digital and novelty, Benjamin Peter writes ‘Ever since we evolved extensor digitorum muscles, ours has literally been what media theorist Teil Heilmann calls a “digital condition”: digital media do what fingers do.’ (Benjamin Peters, Page 94) We can gather from Heilmann’s phrase ‘digital condition,’ that the concept of digital is understood as being obsolete and frequently translatable, which makes sense if we consider that many photographs, news publications and books that covered many shops and houses within the past two decades are now situated predominantly online.

The concept of a printed book, photograph or even film (DVD) is rapidly becoming more and more unheard of to some. Many young people feel more comfortable by having these items on their phones or laptops, so they can access them indefinitely. This is considered as a novelty to many as this encourages a continuous circulation of digital media, with the empowerment of the internet being the main reason why people regularly use social media as a daily tool.

Furthermore, with the ‘aesthetical’ and ‘metaphorical’ image being such a critical element of contemporary society, being used for advertisements, film posters and stills, book illustrations and a plethora further, it is often a challenge to differentiate between art and commercialism, and the average lifestyle shots by the amateur photographer. It often comes down to how the photographer captures, engages and interprets the object.

In relation to the meaning of photography, the Photographer and critic David Bate spoke to Elina Ruka in a 2011 interview, and one quote which I found thought-provoking was, ‘I don’t need to take the pictures of them because I see them every day!” It characterizes the attitude, which is still widespread, but as the life has mediated for photography, it’s harder to see the world without thinking through photographs or movies. But I’m sure that people still think that photography is just Mickey Mouse’s habit.’ (Ruke, 2018)

Bate says that ‘pictures are widespread’ and ‘it is harder to see the world without thinking photography,’ There passage is key in the interview because the likelihood of becoming a full-time photographer in society today is descending, unless you are a creative freelancer. Images are circulated online sometimes the same location or time although captured from a different vantage point. These digital images may then be printed as posters, t-shirts or even shared indefinitely via social media, becoming an instant trend, thus a ‘novelty.’

Photography, as a digital medium is nonetheless highly contentious as a documenting process. It is a naturalised and everyday process embedding us with a tool to give us a certain power, as goes the saying ‘the world at your feet.’ Although it is then our choice for how this tool is used. It can be demanding to persistently be in possession of a camera. However, this can lead to a photographic obsession to follow the digital era leading to the world of artistic fascination.

Susan Sontag, who has the power to explain the meaning and rise of photography, profoundly writes, ‘Painting never had so imperial scope. The subsequent industrialisation of camera technology only carried out a promise inherent in photography from its very beginning: to democratize all experiences by translating them into images.’ (On Photography, Page 5)

Sontag’s quote led me to consider how the role of art museums use ‘the digital,’ as a method of displaying or even advertising their collection has become an elitist trend. A new light has come above art museums as a great deal of the public would naturally expect to be greeted by either a high-definition cinematic experience or in further curatorial terms, a digital lightbox curated as a contemporary-style frame, such as the framing styles used by the Natural History Museums annual exhibition, ‘Wildlife photographer of the year’.

In addition, the ‘Modigliani’ exhibition at the Tate Modern included an entirely new feature, a Virtual Reality room, which gives viewers the experience of viewing Modigliani’s studio and house where he produced his stunning artworks all in 3D titled. This room is ‘The Ochre Atelier.’ This is a highly enhanced feature and provoked a few emotional, humorous reactions from the museum visitors because of the swift transition between viewing the paintings and this IMAX effect.

Virtual Reality was initially used for video games in arcades, giving young people more entertainment value with realistic sound and imagery. Moreover, VR has completely culturized, similar to the revolution of 3D television, used extensively for sport, but also for many cinemas. In this instance, the culture of virtual reality and other similar enhanced viewing software, it appears to be the ‘norm’ for art and film institutions to convey their content through digital software. Therefore, it will be interesting as to what digital platforms are in contention for the future.

Sontag writes further, ‘(Photography is) A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it; by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir.’ (On Photography, Page 6)

It is clear that this notion of experience is crucial and how photography has formatted into industrialisation. However, digital media has the power to fundamentally portray the highly-regarded saying, ‘a picture is an essay of 1,000 words.’

There is sometimes the desire as a photographer or as voyeur to photography, to search for the perfect image and leading people to photograph everything to share your experience with others. Audiences enter prestigious art museums with the pre-conceived belief that they will witness a blockbuster exhibition. However, there is lesser thought for the time and thought-processes about the culture in the artworks but more desire to view a high-quality JPEG exhibited high on the wall ready to be captured by their mobile phone and continuously edited.

The relationship between novelty and digital media is based around how we approach the settings and functions of digital media, however it can be perceived that there is a vast volume of commercialist and humorous content on the World Wide Web lots being in response to the world of art, for example the creation of digital meme’s. The use of editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop and LightRoom has a heavy position in the discussion of the ‘novelty,’ merely because many people use this software to create, or edit, what they see as ‘the perfect image,’ or a satirical image.

From a personal perspective, I strongly object to the so-called ‘perfect image,’ because I believe art should be about persistent experimentation and research to express an idea about artistic concepts or movements.

Considering photography as an art in the past years, but also this idea of the ‘perfect image,’ one of the most influential and highly credited documentary photographers and photojournalists, Martin Parr, who is most famous for capturing real-life, intimate shots around Great Britain, writes, ‘In the 1970’s, if you were going to do serious photography, you were obliged to work in Black and White. Colour was the palette of commercial photography and snapshot photography.’ (Martin Parr, Page 75)

When Parr writes, ‘Serious photography is obliged to be in Black and White’, this goes back the analysis of the ‘Diana F Digital’ camera, as the Diana F camera famously captures contrasting tones and brightness in the images, much like the old cameras which were used in the early days of photography. However, photography in the 19th and 20th Centuries was used primarily for formal use, such as family portraits or photo-series’ portraying work life.

As some elements of Martin Parr’s documentary photography bears resemblance to the images produced by the Diana F, this is vital evidence that it depends on how digital medias are used, but even portrayed by the public and also media.

Parr’s photography has been exhibited in hundreds of exhibitions worldwide, but his notable work has been displayed in the Tate Modern’s permanent collection. For this project, he used a 35mm Nikon camera to portray his perception of working-class life in Britain. There appeared to be a connotation of mocking involved, because of the 1986 social class wars.

This mocking or humorous gesture can be witnessed within the style of photography that is produced by the ‘Diana F Digital’ and other similar contemporary film cameras. They function in the exact same manner essentially, except their physical aesthete has been updated to be in line with the fashionable marketplace of art and photography.

Also, the applications, Instagram, KudakPro and Hispstamatic are available to nearly every mobile phone user, available as a free download. Instagram and KudakPro have an online portfolio feature too and allowing users to network their images in the form of a website. This has deemed to be a highly popular platform for photographers as they can add hashtags to their posts for wider, global audiences. This is a popular element for businesses, although some people question how professional this is as oppose to the seemingly traditional action of curating their images in an art gallery.

Whilst considering online presences, Instagram is now one of the most popular photographic, social media platforms ever, with almost 1 billion users worldwide. It was only two years ago that Argentinian artist Amalia Ulman captured selfies in hotel bathrooms, boutique shops and her own bedroom, as part of a project titled, Excellences and Perfections. Ulman said, ‘I am conveying the fine line between artistic performance and photographic performance, and how young girls acquire security about their appearance via social media to feel more popular.’ (Amalia Ulman, ‘This is the first Instagram masterpiece’)

This project was initially frowned upon because of the sexual connotations involved, however, a number of Ulman’s selfies were exhibited in the Whitechapel Galleries ‘Electronic Superhighway,’ as the images were professionally titled and Ulman purposefully created the images to form a photo-story of a fictional young woman whom experiences real-life situations.

In modern society, thousands of young people post selfies, with the awareness that merely tapping the ‘like’ or ‘share’ button can achieve an outrageously high-level of followers, leading to a popular profile. Furthermore, Ulman explains, ‘The idea was to experiment with fiction online using the language of the internet.’ A vast volume of the internet’s language it could be argued is images, political news stories and satire. People use the search engine excessively and solely to enquire about an issue, whether photographically or using text.

This essay has concluded that the ‘digital age’ can be perceived as creating a ‘dialect for the internet and social media,’ as there appears to be too much internet, embracing an entirely new post-digital culture and new generation. Nowadays, the internet is everywhere, and everyone has access to the digital. This develops into a challenge for young people, photographers, cultural institutions and intellectuals whom publish their work. However, previous photographers have taken inspiration from painting and more traditional art practices, therefore photography and visual graphic has the opportunity to ascend the pedestal of the digital revolution.


Campany. D, Art and Photography, Phaidon, Great Britain, 2003 – 1

Peters. B, Digital Keywords: A vocabulary of information, society and culture, Princeton University Press, Great Britain

Sontag. S, On Photography, Phaidon Press, Great Britain, 1971

Parr. M, Martin Parr (55s), Phaidon Press, Great Britain, 2013


Her Fashion Story: Princess Diana

How does Kensington Palace portray and explain Princess Diana’s fashion innovation in the exhibition, ‘Her Fashion Story?’

To introduce this essay, I will be analyzing how curator Eleri Lynn and Kensington Palace curated ‘Diana: Her Fashion Story’ in terms of production, display, and discourse. This exhibition masterly selects a range of iconic dresses, described by fashion designer Elizabeth Emanuel as ‘a humble catwalk of dresses’ from Diana’s short, but very public life. The exhibition was very much designed as a twenty-year anniversary commemoration of Diana’s death in 1997. I will also be discussing whether and how Kensington Palace is an appropriate location for this exhibition.

In terms of research sources, I will be analyzing contemporary and traditional debates regarding exhibition standards, curatorial methods, design as an artistic practice, the roles of gender in art and the way Susan Sontag explores ‘the other.’

The exhibition, unlike other fashion exhibitions, which is situated on the Kensington Palace walking tour, acts as a clothing biography, with each dress marking an iconic event. There are several passages of unique communications within each room, with one room titled ‘design studio’ offering exclusive access to the sketches which were an integral aspect of the detail required for creating the style and personality of Diana’s fashion. There was a ‘real language of clothes, Diana would love to give out a message with each dress she wore,’ tells fashion designer Jasper Conran. The language of Diana’s fashion is represented in a contemporary manner with the high-level ambient lighting enhancing the beauty of each dress’ unique attributes. Some bearing a truly British theme, yet others a more exotic Arabic influence, with some dresses being loaned from three international collections. These collections are from countries which Diana visited and the public can connect with her humanitarian work, for example.


When compared with exhibitions at galleries such as the V&A, which often have the tendency to display a broad range of fashion designers who work with diverse concepts.; however, ‘Her Fashion Story’ is a collection of dresses displayed in the ‘house of the royals,’ so the exhibition is both focused and contextualized.

A passage from the introductory text on the wall states, ‘Diana combined the allure of royalty with the fascination of international celebrity.’ (Text from the exhibition)

Diana’s transition from Royal to fashion icon is exhibited astoundingly, with the minimalist white walls acting as a backdrop in the first few rooms displaying a collection of photographs of her with her family and portraying her life as a royal. Similar to independent galleries, the nature of the collection adopts a modern, fashionable tone, giving the exhibition a less aristocratic ambiance but a more intimate portrayal, attracting a broader audience who may hold interests in fashion and the life and times of Diana, or perhaps both.

Moreover, Diana set her own trend in fashion, whilst also undertaking charity work thus being able to connect with millions of people worldwide. Connecting to people and being this inspirational international figure is epitomized in ‘Her Fashion Story’ as the exhibition depicting her as a fashion icon may also be considered to be housed in ‘her studio.’ The dresses represent far more than mere garments, they are inextricably a part of Diana and her story.

We could then consider Daniel Buren’s text, ‘The function of the studio.’ In this, Burens describes how the studio is the area of where an artwork is produced, but it is also the artist’s ‘haven’, a place where they can innovate beyond the perimeter of an art gallery or picture frame. Or to quote Burens, the studio, ‘Is the place where the work originates’ and ‘it is generally a private place, or an ivory tower perhaps.’ – Daniel Burens, The Function of the Studio

 Furthermore, in response to Burens theory of the function of the studio, walking through ‘Her Fashion Story’ gives the audience the feeling of walking through her wardrobe, even more so as the production and execution of the exhibition is only a staircase away from the apartment where she once resided. According to Diana’s friends, Diana only possessed a minimal selection of her own clothes, with the remainder borrowed from friends and her wider family. As Diana gained more confidence she appeared to entertain the concept of experimentation with her clothing style, and this is evident as the exhibition progresses. Her dresses are curated in chronological order, with her earliest dresses being designed and worn as more casual evening dresses. However, these develop into dresses of a more prestigious, star, celebrity quality, which Diana was increasingly becoming recognized as.

Overall, the exhibition is delivered in emphatic style, mimicking Diana’s style, with cogently placed quotes utilizing alternative letter sizes and archival videos representing Diana’s occurrences with famous celebrities, and how she was viewed in the increasing glare of publicity. If we view the exhibition from this technical standpoint, it becomes an exhibition highlighting Diana’s personal voyage; demonstrating her astounding human spirit as well as individual style. With this notion in mind, the Italian designer and inventor Bruno Munari, explains how he views design as a bridge between art and life, ‘The designer of today re-establishes the long-lost contact between art and the public, between living and art as a living thing.’(

There is much discourse involved in how Diana is currently recognised in history as promoting living an inspired life through the contact with the public, and the artistic innovations involved in designing her dresses is very much part and parcel of this.

Murani mentions, ‘Art as a living thing,’ which in the realm of this exhibition, and as opposed to the standard art museum whom would normally curate paintings arranged horizontally on a wall, the dresses and accompanying photographs recreate her life as a more living exhibition of her personality. However, it is not only her dresses that are due credit for this, but also the design and layout of each room. There is a fireplace situated at the entrance, in the very first room which gives even the neutral audience a sense of it belonging to Diana’s own home. This is a quirky feature, similar to the abstract wall designs, leading the audience through to the collection of the outdoor dresses she wore at, for example, Balmoral.

There is a warm feel as one walks across the red carpet leading to the doors of the main entrance. Kensington and Chelsea designer, Bruce Oldfield describes Diana’s aura as ‘in the end it was all about her presence.’ (Bruce Oldfield, Bruce Oldfield’s Season)

Diana, it could be argued, became something of an exhibitionist who simply wanted to adjust the way in which fashion, as almost performance, was recognised. She certainly enjoyed and took great inspiration from experimenting with alternative, strong clothing styles, and colors, as well as hats and belts of an eccentric nature. All of these may have been to enhance her image as a quirky outsider; someone determined not to adhere to a signature style. This is certainly one strong message that the exhibition brings out.

Her Fashion Story’ strongly brings out the notion of Diana’s experimentalism as it is a relatively small exhibition, yet it powerfully and movingly embraces a portrait of Diana’s personality and role in society. This can clearly be associated with the theory of ‘the other’. ‘The other’ is the theory about the contrast, even differences, in society between ‘them’ and ‘us’, between the ‘mass’ and ‘niche’ of society, but essentially how particular social groups are perceived and of which Susan Sontag describes as ‘the outsiders of society,’ (Susan Sontag, On Photography) in her 1977 critique on photography, ‘On Photography.’ However, in this instance, an outsider within the fashion world.

Furthermore, in the context of this essay and within the discourse of ‘Her Fashion Story’, there is an ‘otherness’ in the ways the dresses are displayed in the form of a public catwalk. An audience walking through an exhibition of stunning dresses might assume an arrogant or flamboyant personality once wore or designed the dresses. In response to the theory of the ‘otherness’ in society, the French writer and philosopher Simone De Beauvoir states in her book ‘The Second Sex,’, ‘She is not regarded as an autonomous being. She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential. He is the subject, he is the ‘absolute’, she is the ‘other.’ – Simone De Beauvoir, The Second Sex.

Beauvoir’s quote about the adjudged difference in society between men and women can be related to Diana’s well documented and troubled relationship with Prince Charles, but also to her fashionable personality. Princess Diana may be seen as escaping from her seemingly jaded marriage to Prince Charles and being seen as the outsider, by developing her personal, innovative style in fashion. She was subsequently viewed as distinct from the marriage and was regularly noticed wearing a new item, no matter where she was, whilst in the public eye. Therefore, this contemporary exhibition could be viewed as a moving tribute to a cultural legend who aimed to simply make a difference to society. The photographs taken of her together with child victims of war depict her wearing memorable garments, and these now appear to the audience as works of art, revealing her as truly herself, and not as a bourgeois royal. She is simply, ‘the other.’

Moreover, there is an air of less formality with the production of the exhibition, as it portrays expensive, royal garments and accessories which are often a feature of a historical museum such as The British Museum, which usually displays clothing and jewellery worn by historical figures at landmark events. However, in the case of this exhibition, the dresses are not displayed for solely commercial reasons, but equally as an education as to how Diana lived her life and utilised the dresses. According to charities, which also had an input in the selection of items for the exhibition, Princess Diana is believed to have requested that her dresses be auctioned after being worn, with the raised funds to be donated to the charities for which she worked in close alliance with. Each one of the dresses on display, are in a highly thought out order and in tasteful, ambient light setting.

If we were to consider exhibition styles and the role of the exhibition curator in this instance, it is clear that a subjective knowledge of Diana’s dresses was needed in order to display each item in the appropriate manner. In this instance, the dresses almost curate themselves, allowing them to embark upon a narrative journey of their own. Furthermore, an art critic I found particularly relevant to this essay, is Paul O’Neill, who discusses issues in contemporary curating and performance in his article ‘The Curatorial Turn,’ where he writes, ‘The presentation of an exhibition is now a form of curatorial self-presentation, a courting of a gaze where an exhibition’s meaning is derived from the relationship among artistic practices. This, he argues, is represented by the co-dependent idea that the curator and artist now closely imitate each other’s position.’ – Paul O’Neill, The Curatorial Turn

Acknowledging O’Neill’s theory about the relationship between curatorial and artistic practices, it takes a fine skill to innovatively curate an exhibition solely about a figure who famously wore these dresses in such a bold and alternative fashion sense, particularly when he states, ‘exhibition’s meaning is derived from the relationship among artistic practices.’

Meaning, is key at this point, as in contemporary art debates Diana will be viewed as something of an artist purely because of her inspiration and pioneering within fashion, and how she presented herself to the public, but also to famous fashion designers, who took great influence from her.

In terms of curating, the presentation is a key factor in this exhibition, as it sometimes feels as though you are walking through an art shop or a bourgeois fashion line, without realising it is an exhibition based upon a member of the Royal family and a creator of future fashion curating. This gives a positive effect as there was no great volume of academicism involved, simply because Diana was non-conformist and enjoyed being involved with the ‘ordinary public’ as the media dubbed her “Queen of Hearts.”

Analysing ‘Her Fashion Story’ in terms of both display and discourse simultaneously, exhibition curator Eleri Lynn has curated the unique dresses in such a way that the viewer can receive a photographic interpretation of the moment in which Diana wore these works of art. If we compared this exhibition to the discourse of other exhibitions, many would use one, or many A0 size photographs displayed at a great height on a wall, or possibly have them aligned on an extended wall similar to ‘The Curve’ of the Barbican. If we go back to Murani’s theory about design as art, Murani talks about how artists, or designers, have to stay humble by responding to the biting culture of art, in a calm, yet mindful manner:

‘Today, it has become necessary to demolish the myth of the ‘star’ artist who only produces masterpieces for a small group of ultra-intelligent people. It must be that art will only interest a very few people. Culture today is becoming a mass affair, and the artist must step down from his pedestal. The artist must cast off the last rags of romanticism and become active as, be well up in present-day techniques, materials and working methods. Without losing his innate aesthetic sense he must be able to respond with humility and competence to the demands his neighbours may make of him.’ – Bruce Murani, Design as Art

If we evaluate the concepts and beliefs surrounding pomposity, and ‘standing on the pedestal of art’, this is far from the case with ‘Her Fashion Story’, as each dress is displayed just above head height, and with a large mirror aligned immaculately behind some, enabling the audience to view the intricate details and the carefully stitched garments of each dress. They are given their own perimeters of space, displayed inside each glass cabinet; ranging between three and eight dresses, with such precision, you can almost hear the audience asking, ‘What do you think about this one?’

There is, without doubt, a star quality to the atmosphere of this exhibition, with credit due to the technical details. The mannequins for each dress have been designed in a way as to emphasize the sheer quality and uniqueness each dress bears. The vast majority are hung from the neck or torso and down, allowing the bottom half to emphatically flow freely, particularly because most dresses possess a large variety of bold colours, most notably the British flag, whether on an accessory or the dress itself.

Whether the viewer is neutral or knowledgeably aware of Diana’s lifetime, there is a specially crafted photograph portraying her in the dress being displayed. This multimedia effect is carefully constructed to emphasise the enormity of the privilege of witnessing each dress in the context in which it had been worn.

Drawing this essay to its conclusion, I return to the initial question asked, where I analysed how the production, display and discourse affects ‘Her Fashion Story.’ I argued that Kensington Palace is the quintessential venue for the production of this exhibition, as it not only represents how Diana sculpted an ongoing new identity for herself, and how this can be seen within the context of British art, but also Kensington Palace was her family home.

Eleri Lynn has accomplished this by demonstrating very clearly how Diana captured the global audience in the past and is continuing to do this through the legacy encapsulated in the exhibition for the present-day audience. ‘Her Fashion Story’ narrates her journey as British icon and legend in sequential form, as the dresses are displayed in chronological order, which then forces a focus on the intricate details of her life. I have also outlined ‘The other,’ and how this relates to how Diana was viewed as a royal, as a design pioneer, and most notably, as a humanitarian; as one of us, as opposed to another distant, pompous Royal.

Bibliography:, Bruce Murani, 30/04/2018

Burens. D, Function of the studio, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, 1973, Page 51

Murani. B, Design as art, Penguin Classics, Great Britain, 2008, Page 25

O’Neill. P, The Curatorial Turn, Intellect, Great Britain, 2007, Page 22

Sontag, S. On Photography, Penguin Classics, Great Britain, 1979, Page 27

De Beavoir, S. The Second Sex, Vintage Classics (New Edition), France (translated into English), 1949, Page 756

Oldfield. B, Bruce Oldfield’s Season, Pan Books (1st Edition), Great Britain, 1987, Page 114


Images: – Cover page photograph – Image of Diana’s dresses in an illuminated glass cabinet


The affect of digital mediums in museums

Many art galleries have had significant digital additions and improvements over the past ten years, as a result of the expansion of the technology era. These changes have also affected jobs behind the scenes, for example, the curators, registrars and collection management teams, who have needed to be aware of modern software advancements. Digitalisation has inspired not only the gallery teams or artists but also visitors who approach galleries with a digital mindset.

Not only galleries, but even artists themselves have adapted to this transition in digitalised communication. The ubiquitous use of digital software has been included in recent exhibitions, notably in ‘David Hockney: 82 Portraits and 1 Still-Life‘ which had four iPads all showing Hockney’s digital artwork. The use of an iPad in the gallery is similar to the Smartify application as a digital component, which can be universally utilised.

David Hockney’s iPad Art

Hockney talks about his iPad art, “I just happen to be an artist who uses the iPad, I’m not an iPad artist. It’s just a medium. But I am aware of the revolutionary aspects of it, and it’s implications.” – David Hockney, 2016

Hockney mentions, ‘It’s just a medium, therefore, digital technologies increase the accessibility in art galleries and can include unique insights into an artists research methods, bringing the visitor and artist even closer.

Grayson Perry, for example in his 2017 Serpentine exhibition, included two open pages of his sketchbook, but more significantly, an installation video on a standard monitor of his sketchbook, whilst slowly proceeding through each page. This may show that the public relishes a more interactive exhibition.

Grayson Perry Sketchbook

Grayson Perry is an accomplishes illustrative artist. For example, the above instalment is highly relevant to Perry’s narrative because he experiments with different textual mediums for his artworks, such as introductions to his artwork and sketchbook via the use of an iPad. Similar to Hockney, Perry has created digital art to portray his theory of the ‘modern man’. These illustrations have been a critical element within digital art as they portray a satirical aspect to the traditional art of drawing ‘stick figures’, and they are sketchy which adds to the experimental nature of Perry’s artwork.

Grayson Perry’s ‘Do I make myself Claire?’

Nowadays, the presence of digital aspects in museums is crucial, particularly in The Hayward Gallery as they regularly hold fully digital exhibitions.

The Hayward collaborated with the newly opened gallery space ‘The Store’ in 2016 exhibited, ‘The Infinite Mix’. This was a collaboration of ten videos representing different narratives all in their own large studio rooms. This is an example of art in a literal format with very minimal artist statements. There was a digital tour map, including digital arrows and a navigating voice-over, which directed visitors through the interactive experience.

The director of ‘The Store’ explained, ‘The future of all space is both the physical experience of being in that space and broadcasting that experience to the world.’ –  (

This idea of ‘being in that space and broadcasting’ is at the heart of this new view of art. It establishes the digital revolution’s effects on the art world. The audience can connect better when viewing digital images as visitors can feel more engaged and connected to the digital art as nearly every visitor The audience can connect better when viewing digital images as visitors are aware of the internet and its incredible transformative effects thus may feel align to the gallery’s exhibition or collection.

Thus visitors may now feel more able to relate to and understand the gallery’s exhibitions and collections, rather than in the past where art was often more elitist and highbrow and potentially inaccessible to the masses.

As a result of this, and on the topic of audience navigating around galleries, audiences hold high expectations for how they navigate galleries and view the artwork. For example, the application Smartify, allows you to point your phone’s camera at thousands of artworks to receive the artist’s name and their statement, enabling visitors to become self-taught, therefore the gallery encourages visitors into a new level of art education. Furthermore, Smartify creators may also include an audio guide element, allowing the audience to connect and understand more about the painting.

Smartify being used in The National Gallery

In conclusion and interestingly, the creative team for ‘Artitudes Design‘ describe Smartify as ‘intended to complement real-world visits to galleries and not just act as an online image database.‘ The image database in galleries curated by the IS teams is usually held strictly, however, Smartify holds updated versions of the paintings, and is frequently updated with the audience in mind and encouraging them to learn about new and creative ways of viewing art.


Facebook Live

Video streaming has always enabled audiences to feel more connected with their topical interest, with live television and streaming films online incredibly accessible in contemporary society. This has increased further with the creation of Facebook Live. Facebook Live allows Facebook users to stream live footage anywhere, at any time. Users and companies often use Facebook Live to gain followers and allow viewers to comment whilst live on air; Comparable to Skype or Facetime in many ways, except the video is streamed live on Facebook as a public news feed.

Moreover, worldwide galleries and museums have begun using Facebook Live to stream curators and directors giving lectures on their most iconic paintings. However, ‘The National Gallery’ has recently begun using Facebook Live to stream live talks about famous paintings held by the gallery to give Facebook users much more insight into the painting’s history.

Most recently, The National Gallery has been heavily involved with streaming Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ and all his other notable works, to demonstrate his virtual biography. This has included a critical analysis of the curatorial element by the director, Gabriele Finaldi.


The National Gallery used Facebook Live also as a method of advertising which does not involve collecting flyers or posters, but instead to help the gallery network across social media platforms. This is with the intention of being seen by other galleries and even bring the opportunity to connect the public worldwide with The National Gallery’s permanent collection. This is a whole new form of online branding.

The creation and rise of Facebook Live is similar to the transition from theatre and live performance to DVD. The feature captures and collaborates with a more niche audience who would not have the opportunity to experience The National Gallery as the physical institution. It takes into perspective that viewing a painting online is not necessarily comparable to viewing it in a museum, yet viewers can now gain a 360 degree perspective of the paintings, not just to a one-dimensional JPEG on a computer screen.

This image shows how easy it is for users to broadcast live on Facebook.

Furthermore, this transition to technological advancement is described by Henry Jenkins in ‘Convergence Control’ as, ‘The flow of content across multiple media platforms, the communication between multiple media industries, and the media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want.’ Galleries are known for using Facebook Live for research purposes as the virtual tour suffices is regularly used an alternative to the public walking tours. This is evident when Jenkins mentions, ‘Communication between multiple media industries.’ However, if this is correct, the viewer as the public may feel privileged to view the gallery’s curators giving an in-depth analysis of the artwork.

Galleries want to promote their collection to everybody in the public domain, for research and lifestyle opportunities. They regard it as a means to produce a ‘virtual exhibition’, which is a big step in film and media terms. Acting as an advertisement in many ways, construed as being similar to a film trailer, but of the galleries rooms and collection. This is a form of art education and entertainment as users can connect with The Gallery and gain a new or further interest in art. The National Gallery would also want to advocate the galleries talks and events, whilst sharing and promoting just how prestigious the permanent collection is.


Jenkins also mentions how companies did not use media as much in previous years, ‘Companies that published newspapers, magazines, and books did very little else; their involvement with other media was slight; Each media had its own distinctive functions.’ Audiences searching for a more contemporary media resource will find the Live tool more engaging, as with film, television, and music; all of which are possessing more interactive features.

Facebook Live also has its weaknesses, the internet connection could be poor or the camera’s lighting settings low meaning that the color of the painting is poorly received. However, The National Gallery’s digital assistant Tamara El Assawi’s main responsibility in this instance is to ensure that comprehensive planning and pre-production is completed within months of the live stream. This includes booking the rooms to be filmed, the positioning of the camera for privacy and safety reasons and other potential technical issues that may occur.

Despite this, Facebook Live has seemed to become a revolutionary feature of digital media, incorporating a new life to recorded video technology and how media is received. Also because Live reaches out to all users who may own a Facebook account for either business or personal use.

Memes and contemporary art galleries

I write this post from an inspiration after I assisted and created a variety of memes at the ‘Tate Exchange’ workshop. During this, I had many insightful discussions with classmates regarding how ‘meme culture’ is highly relevant to digital artistic practices and even contemporary media culture.


Memes workshop at the Tate Modern’s ‘Tate Exchange’

Definition of a meme by Concordia University professor Darren Wershler:

‘100 years of text art boiled down into your feed, and are part of everyday conceptualism. Memes break down high and low culture, disrupting ideas of authenticity and originality. Memes should be understood as the digital descendants of artists such as Man Ray, Walker Evans, and Andy Warhol.’

In artistic terms, the difference between a ‘copy’ and a ‘meme’ is highly debatable and can often approach controversial territory for contemporary artists. This is because ‘memes’ are satirically created as part of a political or social project, aiming to connect the viewer’s perception of the original image and engage with the new image’s context.

In art history terms, Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol were all artists who experimented with pop art and surrealist art, aiming to liberate viewer’s minds in the art world. They continuously added the themes revolving around popular culture and everyday objects into their artwork, creating a sense of uncertainty, ambiguity and confusion.

Nowadays, this trend has re-emerged and transformed by the digital world, being used comprehensively by the ‘hipsters’ and ‘media nerds’ of the internet. Memes are also exhibited in independent galleries but also workshops, such as the 5th Base gallery in Brick Lane, who exhibit young and emerging artists often presenting political statements.


In technical terms, Hito Steyerl talks interestingly about the theory of the ‘poor image’:

‘The poor image is a rag or a rip; an AVI or a JPEG, revealing a lower class appearance, and valued according to its resolution. The poor image has been uploaded, downloaded, shared, reformatted, and re-edited. It transforms quality into accessibility, exhibition value into cult value, films into clips, contemplation into distraction.’

I found the phrase, ‘exhibition value into cult value,’ highly relevant to this topic as I correlated it to the Royal Academy’s ‘Dali/Duchamp’ exhibition in 2017. As part of this exhibition, Dali’s ‘Self-Portrait Mona Lisa’ (seen below) was on display and it can be said to portray an act of vandalism against female idealisation, i.e. the ‘Mona Lisa.’

This is fundamentally an image representing a certain cult value, as again, it may not even be considered art as it is a remix of a famous painting, however, significantly produced by an artist. In digital terms, many internet users have re-edited the ‘Mona-Lisa’ JPEG adding humourous facial features and political backgrounds. In recent history, memes have been used frequently used to satirize consumerism and modern fashion, for example.

The internet has been used as a tool of self-expression with users creating memes for their feelings towards their lifestyle and cultural beliefs. This revisits the theory of cult value, independent films and music often portraying an analysis of certain situations; extending back to the early 20th Century army propaganda adverts for example. Since then images have been continuously been remixed culminating in the most recent trend of memes.


Media journalist Hannah Ballantyne writes about memes, relevantly for the online magazine, Broadly:

‘There is much dispute and criticism around the use of memes in the political arena. Some feel they are overbearingly layered with irony, or prone to re-appropriating theory out of context. In contrast, they make political theory digestible. Memes are also undeniably accessible and democratic. Creators of memes make content on their own terms, and in doing so seize the means of production.’

Ballantyne quotes political theory is digestible (as a result of memes). This can be said for contemporary art galleries, such as the White Cube Bermondsey and Flowers Gallery in Hoxton who exhibit accessible independent artists who regularly focus on issues concerning politics in the USA, and removing natural objects from their natural habitats, bearing resemblance to Andy Warhol’s Pop Art. These, and other galleries exhibit art which may seem aesthetically obvious, yet they portray an artists opinion as a means of discourse.

Overall, the use of memes as a remix of images and text is the result of internet trending, as the internet is an archive and database of quotes, opinions, images.

Digital and the contemporary art world

The ascending presence and digital revolution of new media has shaped and structured the way a great volume of contemporary art is viewed. The circulation of an artist’s and an institution’s brands is the result of continuous networking between artists, cultural institutions and viewer as the public. Contemporary art published and shared online has its own cultural identity, because of online branding. Many artists use online sharing as a method of communicating to online businesses and contemporary galleries who may offer them a digital space.

Online unity is formed together via the theory of ‘the cloud’, which is a network of billions of users worldwide. Once you are part of the cloud, you can communicate with any user at any given time. Manuel Castells, describes ‘the cloud’ as:

‘Networks which constitute the new social morphology our societies and the diffusion of networking logically substantially modifies the operation and outcomes in processes of production, experience, power and culture.’ (Manuel Castells, The rise of the networked society)

The concepts of power and culture are significant at this stage, as networks hold great power to the electronic superhighway of online media presences. Artists and art institutions (Galleries and museums) are primarily based online, as the artwork is continuously showcased and frequently bought online. Galleries and museums hold a ‘virtual self’, thus bringing power to the public whom continuously search for updates. However, galleries face the potential of getting lost or disseminated in the mass of online surfing. Art culture may become

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Furthermore, art, media and contemporary culture have all combined in the mid to late 20th-Century. These concepts are all means of communication, each with abstract, physical mediums available to use them, such as phone applications. Moreover, online art companies have created many photography printing applications, allowing users to print over 500 photographs for an extremely small fee. Receiving an element of art in contemporary media culture has become a Western trend, which Edward Shanken describes as:

‘(Globalization) has brought an influx of non‐Western artists, theorists, investors, and institutions, contributing great cultural contemporary art and new media variation and aesthetic innovation while simultaneously growing the market.’ (E. A. Shanken, Digital Divide or Hybrid Discourse?)

Moreover, this digital (or virtual) self, has altered and characterised one’s personality, thus being born into the new culture of contemporary media and digital society. People feel obliged to enter the algorithms of the digital network and become addicted to digital media’s continuous changes. Thus becoming merely an identity on the internet, rather than a human being. This also goes for many artists, who use digital software to curate their business websites and profiles.

On the topic of online artists, the creators of Instagram has enabled a ‘business account’ which allows users to transfer all their the content from their ‘personal profile’ to the view of online businesses whom can subsequently liaise with artists about their artwork. The business profile gains access to business tools, strategies, other artists profiles, give insights into your work, but all, more importantly, using a plethora of hashtags to broaden the scale of the published work so millions of users, often non-business can view your artwork.

The American Entrepreneur and co-creator of Instagram Kevin Systrom describes Instagram as ‘(Instagram) created because there was no single place dedicated to giving your mobile photos a place to live and to be seen.’ Instagram is also free, with no sign-up or uploading fees, like with many other art business websites. This encourages people to post daily and gain followers, often hundreds even thousands a day.

However, artists still need to maintain their creative flair, not only when creating their art but also in the post-production stages, such as curating and selling at art fairs or art galleries. This is why art websites and applications possess alternate themes and layouts for their profiles which artists can explore and change throughout their careers to keep their audience interested. Hence why creative designers, graphic designers and illustrators relish the opportunity to use alternative media platforms such as Tumblr, Artsy and ArtFinder. Or of course, the traditional option of curating a personal website, however, this is usually for a monthly fee and designed predominantly for full-time artists or designers.

What is Digital Culture?


Digital culture, one could argue, has shaped the way we as human beings live our lives in a social context. Almost every person in the world currently owns a mobile phone, television or social media platform. However, the facility for using the applications and functions of new media would be certain for everybody. This begs the question, ‘Has digitalization evolved alongside contemporary culture?’

Digital culture is in a way a whole new category of language, in HMTL. HTML (standing for HyperText Markup Language) is a system for tagging text files to achieve the correct fonts, colors, patterns and hyperlink pages on the internet pages. We can never usually decipher the language used in coding, however, similar to speaking a foreign language, the attention to detail has to be immaculate, otherwise incorrect messages may be manifested and developed into further unreadable languages.

It is increasingly possible to transform or edit an image simply through the use of a computer system, particularly an Apple Mac. This can be completed manually by changing the ‘.jpg’ of a saved image to ‘.txt’, then subsequently adding, removing or duplicating the files coding. The image below is an example of a glitched image, as a result of databending. This new, erroneous ‘Mona Lisa’ reveals a new aesthetic, manifesting the ease of how new technology can interrogate the details of an image.

Databended image:

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Computer scientists use system coding to develop new programmes, software, and websites ready for the newest editions of the latest technology. These systems become part of the ‘Matrix’, which the ‘Oxford Dictionary’ defines as, ‘The cultural, social, or political environment in which something develops.’ In this state of ‘development’, digitalization has become the modern fashion trend, seeming almost essential for every person and company to be up-to-date with the latest digital trend.

Similar to the term ‘art’ and ‘art museum’, there are many definitions of term ‘digital culture’, depending on which context one sees it. The idea of the term ‘digitalization’ combined with ‘culture’, suggests the impact social media has had on the contemporary world. The public frequently feels the need to be continuously updated on world culture. This manifests into becoming voyeuristic and particularly overbearing, as companies become obsessive in being the pioneers of contemporary media.


Art museums face positive and negative repercussions of digital culture. Audiences and public use a wide range of digital media to navigate round art museums, to document and record their time and findings. The social media tools within Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr or Twitter may enhance the publicity levels. Thus becoming part of not only a museum experience but also a traveling experience. In other instances, hundreds of galleries worldwide including The National Gallery and The British Museum’s artworks and artefacts have been added to a recent application, available on Androids and iPhones, called ‘Smartify’. ‘Smartify’ uses the phone’s camera to focus on a painting collecting data, instantly revealing the artist’s name, date of birth and artists statement, along with the history of the painting.


However, this platform encourages frequent mobile phone use all around museums, possessing the likelihood of ruining the traditional museum experience. Museums are institutes of political and academic history. They may portray narratives or innovative artworks. Art should be admired as original pieces on the walls of historic buildings. French Avant-Gard playwright Eugene Ionesco quotes, ‘A work of art above all is an adventure of the mind.’ The theory of artistic practice, curating and auctioneering is above all, an art form in itself.

In comparison with Ionesco, Sarah Thornton author of the 2009 art critique ‘Seven Days in the Art World’ quotes, ‘Great works do not just arise from the artist, but also from dealers, curators, critics and collectors who support their work.’ Thornton here demands that art is to be appreciated because of the physical and bureaucratic transit they develop and proceed via. Art criticism is essential for the history and reputation of an artwork. This is often the reason why art museums employ art historians as tour guides, attracting audiences of any level of art appreciation or interests.