Galleries around the world are finally "starting to take digital art seriously"

Movie: in this film produced by Dezeen for the British Council, leading artists and curators discuss the increasing significance of digital art and the new opportunities open to artists working "in a digital age."

Conrad Bodman portrait
Writer and curator Conrad Bodman

"Digital art has been around since the 1950s," claims writer and curator Conrad Bodman. "But not many museums and galleries have focused on it as a serious subject matter."

"In the last ten years that's really changed. Many venues around the world are now having a serious look at this area and the artists that are working in it."

The Treachery of Sanctuary by Chris Milk at Digital Revolution
The Treachery of Sanctuary by Chris Milk, 2012

In 2014, Bodman curated Digital Revolution, an exhibition at the Barbican in London, which explored how digital technology is transforming the arts.

"There have been recent shows [about digital art] at the V&A, the Tate and the big exhibition at the Barbican and I think there will be many more to come," he says.

The Treachery of Sanctuary by Chris Milk at the Digital Revolution exhibition
The Treachery of Sanctuary by Chris Milk, 2012

Bodman picks out two interactive pieces of art as highlights from the Digital Revolution exhibition.

The Treachery of Sanctuary by Chris Milk consists of three 30-foot high screens, which transform visitors' shadows in different ways using a Microsoft Kinect.

Pinokio lamp by Adam Ben-Dror and Shanshan Zhou at Digital Revolution
Pinokio lamp by Adam Ben-Dror and Shanshan Zhou, 2012

At the other end of the scale, Pinokio by Adam Ben-Dror and Shanshan Zhou is a desk lamp, which uses camera and Arduino computer-based technology to interact with people as if it was a living creature.

"On one level it's a design item," Bodman says. "But I think it's indicating that objects can have real character and can engage us in new and exciting ways. For me, that's what makes it art."

Artists Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead
Artists Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead

Other artists, such as duo Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead, are experimenting with digital data as a medium in and of itself.

"We look very much at the materiality of data and what that might mean for us as artists," says Thomson.

Decorative Newsfeeds by Thomson and Craighead
Decorative Newsfeeds by Thomson and Craighead, 2004

One of Thomson and Craighead's early digital works is called Decorative Newsfeeds, which pulls news headlines from RSS feeds on the internet and manipulates them into patterns on screen.

Decorative Newsfeeds by Thomson and Craighead
Decorative Newsfeeds by Thomson and Craighead, 2004

"We thought, if data is our material, can we draw with it?" says Craighead. "This is us trying to draw with a live news headline."

Thomson adds: "News presents itself as a form of truth and if we just cross two or three headlines together perhaps it draws your attention to how what is purported to be fact may actually be manipulated."

Portrait of Tim Berners-Lee by Thompson and Craighead
Each pixel in this 2012 portrait of Tim Berners-Lee by Thompson and Craighead is a live webcam feed

Thomson believes that their choice of medium does not make their work different from any other artist.

"It's very easy to describe us as 'digital artists'," he says. "But we're just artists that work within the contemporary art context [with] all of the kinds of concerns that we share with artists that might be working sculpturally or might be working with paint, or any kind of material."

Sean Frank and Margot Bowman of 15 Folds
Sean Frank and Margot Bowman of 15 Folds

Artist and curator Margot Bowman agrees with this sentiment. "Digital art is just art made in a digital age," she says.

Together with Sean Frank and Jolyon Varley, Bowman is co-founder of 15 Folds, a digital art gallery that specialises in animated GIF art.

"People literally all over the world are making work like this, so it feels amazing to be able to give people's work a home that it's totally deserving of," Bowman says.

Alone Together by Margot Bowman
Alone Together by Margot Bowman, 2014

Each month 15 Folds showcases work by 15 artists based around a particular theme.

"When we first started the project we would go out and approach artists, people who's work we really liked," Bowman explains. "But increasingly we have people approach us."

Get Your Freak On by Sean Frank
Get Your Freak On by Sean Frank, 2014

Other popular websites showcasing digital art include Vice and Intel's The Creators Project and The Space, an online gallery that commissions new work by digital artists.

Sean Frank of 15 Folds believes it is now possible for young artists to make a name for themselves without being dependent on brick-and-mortar galleries.

"You can set up your own blog in seconds and start posting your own work," he says. "You gain followers and people see your work. But it's also about taking an interest in other people's work and building this sense of community, which I think is really important."

Extinction by 15 Folds
Extinction by 15 Folds, 2014

Bodman agrees that this is one of the great advantages of digital art.

"That whole notion of a struggling artist in the studio waiting for the next opportunity in a gallery is no more," he claims. "You can really be out there practising amongst a very wide community and getting an instant response, which is why digital is so exciting I think."

The Treachery of Sanctuary by Chris Milk
The Treachery of Sanctuary by Chris Milk, 2012

This movie was produced by Dezeen for the British Council. The music is by UK producer 800xL.

Additional footage was provided by Barbican, Chris Milk, Tate, Thomson & Craighead, Troika and Adam Ben-Dror. Special thanks to BFI and Chisenhale Gallery.