A (Not So) New Realm: Digitizing Analog Artwork

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Museum collections in the modern era have grown to feature both digital and analog works. This, in part, is due to the momentous reshaping of how we create, consume and distribute art. 

What happens when an analog object is brought into a digital space? Or when an analog object inspires a digital work? 

Understanding the somewhat blurred functions that stem from digitization of analog artwork allows us to keep up with conversation about distribution, ownership and influence. 

While conceptualizing my piece, reverie recurrent, I drew inspiration from Katsuyo Aoki’s sculpture, Predictive Dream LVII, which is currently on view at the RISD Museum. Incorporating visualization from existing work is a practice that is unfamiliar to me. However, Aoki’s elegant mastery of ceramic elevated grim topics in a way that left me awestruck. In turn, I started to think about the comfort I find in delicate depictions of deceased remains. Using photogrammetry, I 3D scanned Aoki’s skull, and began to experiment and chose to manipulate digital assets that would later emphasize the grandeur of the form. 

By bringing this analog object into a digital space, I was responsible for reinforcing Aoki’s ownership over the initial form, while also celebrating my ideas that spurred from it. Working with a physical object whose essence is amorphous and ebbing led to the warped nature of forms evident in reverie recurrent. Along with that, Predictive Dream LVII is one piece in the Predictive Dream series, so I was able to refer to other iterations, and the breadth of Aoki’s work in general. Further, the digital representation of this work should always echo the crux and authenticity of the original piece, while also emphasizing the ethos of the artist. 

Distributing work digitally is straightforward, since information can be easily shared and distributed online through websites, social media, digital galleries, or other digital platforms. This allows for a wider audience to discuss, experience and be introduced to the original analog object that inspired the digital piece. Following exploration and transformation, digital work can retain the principle of analog inspiration while bringing its motifs to life in a new and dynamic setting.


Cat Ashley was a 2023 Mellon Summer Intern in Creative Production. Cat is an MFA student at RISD studying Digital + Media, working with projection design, short format video, soundscape and performance.