The Renaissance Man understood the relationship between art and science perfectly. Music is mathematically constructed, but to pull at the heart strings it has to be infused with emotion. Da Vinci developed an unhealthy habit of digging up corpses – but the anatomic knowledge he gathered whilst elbow deep in bones was fundamental to his ability to draw the human form.

Art and Science are interlinked, so why are they so often viewed as conflicting polarities. For simplicity, snobbery, or stupidity’s sake, who knows? What interests me is that technology has always sat slightly outside both art and science; present in both yet embraced by neither.

At school, for example, we would learn about physics in the science lab, we would create electronic games in the carpentry workshop – fusing light and sound with acrylic plastic – in drama classes I learnt how to programme a lighting desk and in music we learned the fundamentals of sound recording. However, technology’s role has always been one of facilitation. It allowed us to see the actors, to balance the levels when recording; it gave my steady-hand game the satisfying buzz that announced a player’s failure.

But it stikes me that this is changing. Just as the digital revolution has seen technology warmly take residence in the sitting room, technology is finally being welcomed into the artist’s studio.

The renowned artist (and geek) David Hockney has recently discovered PhotoShop for his exhibition Drawing in a Printing Machine (read the Indy’s review here). The exhibition of “inkjet-printed computer drawings’, again uses the technology as facilitator. However, here Hockney is also celebrating the nuances of ink-jet, the possibilities of digital drawing; one of contemporary art’s greatest masters is presenting the technology as art itself.

Digital has democratised art, at least to some degree Just look at the explosion in iPhone art. Yes the iPhone is facilitating here, but you can’t ignore the potential for collaborative art if every mobile phone user has the tools in their pocket. That’s some creative commutes.

True – the fine art word will continue to protect and celebrate professional artists, as well it should. However, the tides may well be beginning to turn. In May, Tim Freeman was named Welsh Artist of the Year, which was the first time I’d noticed a digital artist beating traditional work in a competition. (As an aside check out Kozyndan’s work. They’re my favourite – combining pencil skill with epic digitial proportions). It’s probably worth noting that digital photography has facilitated the work of many photographers – both in portrait and reportage – but photoshop is still widely frowned upon in critical circles.

Video games are where perhaps the most obvious fusion of art and technology is played out. Games like Fable II have caused writers to rethink the relationship between film and game; whilst Spielberg has also got in on the act.

The Hide and Seek festival takes the principles of gaming and play and creates events which allow the public to take part in something truly unique. Sometimes theatre, sometimes playground game, sometimes living art – their initiatives are always fun. A recently developed ‘game’ is Playmakers. Again this fuses short-film making, with an element of collaborative fun to create a unique experience. (See the brains behind it, Mr Fleetwood, describing the project more eloquently here). What excites me about the project is that the camera isn’t just facilitating fun, it is bringing strangers together to create art.

So what does this mean for Tech Flacks? Well I suppose it should encourage us to really explore how art can work alongside technology to engage with consumers.

Art has the power to engage with audiences. That’s why consumer tech brands have been pouring money into sponsored events, such as the PlayStation Season programme. But we should move away from this outmoded, facilitator, approach. Gone are the days when a big budget sponsorship of an ‘arts’ event is enough to communicate with an audience. Let’s look (and encourage our clients to see) how technology can become art, let’s put the technology in the hands of artists, curators and consumers and let’s see what they can create with it. In other words let’s play…

Luke Mackay (@LukeMackay)

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