The question was posed by a teacher in a recent IBDP Visual Arts Workshop.


The “Lens based, electronic and screen-based forms” column in the Visual Arts Guide “Art-making Forms table” has provoked some heated discussion among art teachers, some of it from extreme ends of the spectrum – e.g. those who have serious doubt about the value of spending even more of your life just tapping at a keyboard and staring at a screen as opposed to those who claim that the only way forward is digital.

Some of those heated discussions occur in my visual arts workshops – which are always quite lively affairs – but which are now frequently even more lively!

It all looks the same!” he said, “it’s always on a screen! A sculpture does not look like a painting, and a video doesn’t look like a carving – but a screen is always a screen and is exactly like any other screen!”

He was getting quite excited. I think there were financial as well as philosophical issues. His school is not wealthy, their art resources are limited, and he was concerned about the cost of investing in new technology.

It matters, but its not required…

In terms of DP art, and in particular the Process Portfolio, it’s got its own (LBESB) column, so there is a healthy equivalence with 2D and 3D. But it does not even HAVE to be explored. The requirements for both SL and HL only refer to work from two columns, so a successful PP could still only involve 2D and 3D art-making forms.

If your school is not well resourced in terms of cutting edge technology, this does not have to be a problem. (Although you could use the column as leverage with your administration when asking for funds).

I tried to get the teacher in question to focus on the IDEA rather than the format/process through which the idea is manifested. If the idea ‘matters’ then hopefully – whether it’s a painting, a sculpture or a digital image/video – it will still matter when translated into art.

And if the idea has been explored in depth, and possibly through a number of media processes, then it is likely to be successful.

Without wishing to state the obvious, “digital” and Lens-based etc is just another tool for the student in the whole media/processes tool kit.

Also, yes, it matters – but that’s not to say that new-media art is necessarily or automatically successful.

It has huge potential and given the rapid growth of technology, ‘new media’ likely to change and evolve exponentially, involving art forms not yet available.

  • When coming up with what should be the headings of the art-making columns, (when planning the current course) “Digital Media” was an early consideration.
  • It became LBESB and those involved all agreed that it was probably impossible to predict what LBESB art might look like in 2022, when the next version of the visual arts course will be upon us*Reminder: in general terms, New Media Art can include acoustic elements. For IBDP Visual Arts, any sound that is part of an artwork submitted for the exhibition will NOT be assessed.

In terms of technology. things have certainly changed since this century started…

“The digital culture we now live in was hard to imagine twenty years ago, when the Internet was hardly used outside science departments, interactive multimedia was just becoming possible, CDs were a novelty, mobile phones unwieldy luxuries and the World Wide Web did not exist. The social and cultural transformations made possible by these technologies are immense. During the last twenty years, these technological developments have begun to touch on almost every aspect of our lives”. 

New Media Art and the Gallery in the Digital Age (Charlie Gere)


Do you have opinions about any of this?

Do those opinions relate to the DP Visual Arts programme?

The IB have launched two DP Visual Arts REVIEWS:



New Media Art and the Gallery in the Digital Age



“Media art” refers to artworks that depend on a technological component to function. The term “media” applies to any communication device used to transmit and store information. By incorporating emerging technologies into their artworks, artists using new media are constantly redefining the traditional categories of art.

Over the years, numerous artistic disciplines have fallen under the umbrella of “media art”, including:

  • Biotech Art
  • Computer Art
  • Digital Art
  • Electronic Art
  • Interactive Art
  • Kinetic Art
  • Multimedia Art
  • Network Art
  • Robotic Art
  • Sound Art
  • Space Art
  • Technological Art
  • Video Art
  • Web Art



 “New media art refers to artworks created with new media technologies, including digital artcomputer graphicscomputer animationvirtual artInternet artinteractive artvideo gamescomputer robotics3D printingcyborg art and art as biotechnology. The term differentiates itself by its resulting cultural objects and social events, which can be seen in opposition to those deriving from old visual arts (i.e. traditional painting, sculpture, etc.).”

 “Is digital art really art? I see some very clever and fancy things being done in digital art, but I wouldn’t compare anything I’ve seen to anything I’ve seen in the National Gallery, Tate, El Prado or the Louvre. I’ve seen some lovely patterns and some interestingly proportioned woman, but I certainly haven’t seen anything that I’d be willing to frame and hang on my wall”.


Marius Watz, Artist, curator, educator

Written Oct 5, 2012

“Why should something be disqualified from being art purely based on its origin via a given process or medium?
For the record, “digital” is not a medium. Digital information provide virtual representations of any number of analog media (as well as some that have no analog equivalent), from pictures to moving images to sound to 3D objects etc etc., all of which have distinct properties and methods for creation and editing.
Most of the examples given here are of digital still images, which is one the most conventional uses of digital tools. If you are looking for artistic expressions that exploit the unique qualities of digital processes, you’d be better off looking at the recent history of media art – i.e. works that integrate technology into the artwork itself. Examples would include net art, interactive art, generative art, audiovisual performance and installation, digitally fabricated objects and so on”.