The History of Multimedia Art

A digital projection of an artwork. This piece is part of a multimedia art exhibit called the "Klimt Experience" which is based on the works of Austrian painter Gustav Klimt.

The “Klimt Experience,” a multimedia art exhibit based on the works of Austrian painter Gustav Klimt.
Photo credit: Paolo Bona / Shutterstock

Multimedia art is a sophisticated art form that combines two or more of the following creative formats: drawing, painting, sculpture, audio, literature, digital, or performance. It has become immensely popular in recent years, as evidenced by the growing amount of multimedia installations being displayed in galleries and museums across the country.

Even colleges are capitalizing on the trend. At Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) in Portland, OR, for example, MFA students exhibited their multimedia projects at a nearby gallery. Similarly, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is hosting an upcoming exhibit titled Undocumented Stories, which uses multimedia art to lend a unique perspective into the topic of immigration.

As popular as it is today, multimedia art is not a modern-day invention. Its origins can be traced back to 1966, when showman, artist, and songwriter Bob Goldstein first used the word “multimedia” to promote one of his upcoming shows. Some say he was inspired by composer Dick Higgins, who coined the term “intermedia” two years earlier to describe art that couldn’t be classified into one specific category.

As time went on, “multimedia art” took on a whole new meaning. Today, it’s most often associated with art that incorporates the use of technology. For example, an audio recording might play alongside a light display. A dancer might perform against the backdrop of a short film. A poem might incorporate the use of animated images.

As technology continues to advance, and new art forms begin to emerge, it’s likely that the term “multimedia art” will take on an entirely new meaning. It’s also possible that a whole new list of terms will be used to describe multimedia work as it relates to the specific era in which it was created. The meaning of multimedia art has changed over time, so it’s quite plausible that it will change again in the near future.

About Alex Holt

I am a local artist from Brooklyn, NY. I love art, design, books, photography, gardening and blogging.
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