Teacher Blogs

Is Coding ... Art?
Posted 02/21/2017 04:25PM

By Alice Shih-Kahn, Upper School Art

February 21, 2017

Coding is not typically considered a traditional art form. In fact, many still debate its place in the world of fine art.

You may have witnessed that more and more art galleries and art museums are exhibiting interactive digital art - which entirely relies on...computers! Think back to your latest visit to the National Gallery of Art. The artwork along the moving walkway between the East and the West buildings is a permanent light installation by artist, Leo Villareal. The work consists of 41,000 computer programmed LED lights. Each light is designed and choreographed by the artist to provide a visual, site-specific, interactive experience!

During the last two months, Visual Arts II students have been exploring an application called Processing. Mr. Stanford, from our Upper School Technology and Engineering department, and I have partnered to share this incredible tool. It all began in September with a simple conversation we had about how to incorporate elements of art (line, shape, color) and principles of design (balance, contrast, emphasis) in his technology courses. Soon we realized I could add a digital art component in one of our Visual Arts II units to address the use of contemporary media.

We combined my visual language for design and composition with his expertise in the software to educate our students with a basic knowledge of of coding. Processing allows beginners to code in the context of visual art. For over 15 years, Processing has had tens of thousands of students, artists and designers from all aspects of the arts use the application. Rather than simply learn how to "draw" and "paint" a composition through code, our students learned how to incorporate interactive components such as webcams and facial recognition in their projects. There have been many challenging moments but all together, the results have been impressive AND exciting!

We recently had a "pop-up" exhibition in the dining room to share our projects with MS and US staff and students. Other students were amazed at the art their friends have been making on their computers during art class!

Now that we are finished with the unit, I have asked students to reflect on their experience:

TOP 5 Challenges with Processing

5. Time consuming
4. Every line of the code has to be exact
3. A lot of trial and error
2. Getting it to look professional

TOP 10 BEST things about Processing

10. Making things move by themselves
9. Process of designing it
8. Customizable to our ideas
7. Finishing a project!
6. Understanding how Snapchat filters work
5. Feeling capable of making something complex on the computer
4. Webcam and facial recognition capabilities
3. Interactive options for the viewer
2. Infinite options for...anything!
1. The achievement you feel once you are done and it's exactly what you wanted

See all of the student art created for this unit.

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