Books

Digitizing Art Online With Triple Canopy

by Kyle Chayka on December 22, 2010

Still from Nancy Spero's “Notes in Time” on Triple Canopy

Triple Canopy is an online art publication that funds, produces, and publishes some of the most interesting digital contemporary art projects around. Less journal than showcase, Triple Canopy still doesn’t lack for critical dialogue. Art projects coexist with written text and the whole package is wrapped up in a shiny, scrolling digital interface. Triple Canopy’s Issue 10 just came out, and features a particularly interesting showing of Nancy Spero’s “Notes in Time” (1979) that draws attention to the new possibilities of digital art publishing.

Spero’s “Notes in Time” is a mammoth scroll that recalls bas relief friezes in Greek and Roman temples in its scale and narrative. The work represents the “culmination of the first half of Spero’s career and a summation of her thought — artistic, philosophical, and political — to that point,” writes Christopher Lyon for Triple Canopy. Now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, the scroll is separated into sections and framed individually, exhibited in fragments rather than as a whole as the artist created it.

Still from Nancy Spero's “Notes in Time” on Triple Canopy

Triple Canopy’s exhibition/publishing of the piece, on the other hand, is a scrolling digital window that allows viewers to read the scroll as they might in the original, moving through the continuum of the narrative. Arrows at the bottom indicate controls, but your keyboard arrows will work just as well. Click through to check it out.

Lyon also writes that Spero’s “Notes in Time” is related to the medieval Book of Hours, devotional texts meant to be read at different times of day in religious observation. The frieze and manuscript influences in Spero’s work are particularly interesting to me in that like Spero’s scroll, early medieval manuscripts are slowly becoming digitized, giving viewers a much more intimate, much more authentic viewing experience of the work that relates more clearly to the objects’ original contexts.

Still from Nancy Spero's “Notes in Time” on Triple Canopy

Like the Bayeux Embroidery or the Book of Kells, digital technology is presenting art historians and enthusiasts alike with news ways to see art. As with the Spero, the Bayeux Embroidery has been scanned and ported to a CD, the entire scroll unfurled and available for perusal. The CD also comes with handy footnotes and translations of the scroll’s text, making for a much easier reading of its content and narrative. The intricate Book of Kells has also been scanned, and pages are zoomable and scrollable so that any of the book’s miniature illuminations are clear as day.

I hope that Triple Canopy’s publishing of Nancy Spero’s work signals the beginning of the application of these digital technologies to contemporary artists work. They are invaluable tools for seeing art as it was meant to be seen, rather than how history forces us to see it.

Triple Canopy’s Issue 12 is available for free online.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Lyon/1317783990 Christopher Lyon

    I really appreciate Kyle’s remarks–giving a glimpse of a new way to think about publishing art is exactly what I was hoping for and what triplecanopy did so beautifully. Cheers, Chris Lyon

    • http://twitter.com/chaykak Kyle Chayka

      Thanks for all your work Chris! I’m really hoping more museums will come up with resources like this, maybe as stable web features.

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