In many cases, contemporary art must turn to shock value to challenge and engage the audience in the modern world. It has become apparent that the impact made by art has lessened dramatically in recent times, as audiences become used to the traditional forms and features of art. The audience that the artist strives to challenge and engage in modern times, art critics, have become the media and the general population; this shift in audience from the traditional role of the critic, is caused by increased education levels, and the more widespread use of art in the media. The use of contrasting imagery, and of graphic depictions, as well as photographic techniques and the application of digital imaging or other special effects, are often used in creating shocking contemporary art. Some artists which use these techniques within their works include: Julie Rrap, as is seen in the work Overstepping (photograph mounted on lexcen, 2001), or in her Camouflage Series, in particular, Camouflage # 1 (Ursula) (Photograph mounted on lexcen, 2000). Another artist who also uses these techniques to shock her audience is the installation artist Patricia Piccinini, as seen in her works Still Life with Stem Cells (silicone, polyurethane, clothing, human hair, 2002), and Part I: Laboratory Procedures (Digital C type print, 2001). These techniques create an emotional response within the audience; with connotations of horror, sex, or violence raised in the work. Through these techniques the artist forces the respondent to consider the issues that are shown in the work.
The social and cultural contexts of both artists and their artworks are important, as is the history and development of all artists, art and art practice as a whole. The artists are reacting to traditional art movements with the aim to create something to engage with the audience. When art is created the issues relevant to society are often reflected in the works; for example, Piccinini uses the current debates over genetic manipulation as source material for her work.