Early Electronic Art:
For many people in the visual arts -the
computer represents the
development in an image making history that progresses through
photography, film, video and ends with the computer. This time-line
underly most of both the practical pedagogy and the theoretical
conceptual background which determines current cultural and economic
theories and policies.
However, I have long argued against this belief -because in my experience the Computer Art Time-line
pre-dates the Video Art Time-line
. So I decided to try and check this via the Internet (see the links for the result).
To my surprise -Video Art history does seem to go back to (at least)
the 1960's -although this does depend to a certain extent on one's
definition. Nam june Paik was experimenting with the technology of the
live (unrecorded) Video process -by using electromagnets to distort the
signal as early as 1963. It seems that video (recording) tape
publically available when the "portapak" was introduced in New York in
1965 -although it took a few more years for this technology to reach
The early history of Computer Art is equally plagued by
problems of definitions and available technology (raising the
question of available to whom?) -but is generally (and perhaps
arbitrally) placed in the 1950's.
My own involvement started around 1967 when a friendly mathematician
(who's name I have shamefully forgotten) programmed a "Random Walk on
25 point Grid" for me in algol. This work was part of my final
exhibiton for my diploma in Sculpture and Printmaking from the Exeter
College of Art.
As an early pioneer, I cannot help the feeling that more has been lost
over the years than has been gained. So can the damage be repaired? Or
was it just a "growing up" phase?
The early phase involved:
-The experimental nature of the work
and the difficulties of gaining access to few computers available
forced the artist/programmer into being aware of the technical
processes involved, and the development of a theortetical framework
which justifed the use of expensive and therefore scarse equipment.
-A convergence around the "syntactic"
-an interest in how things work
opposed to a focus on the "semantic" (how good, how clever, how
-Unresolved arguments about the the value of computational Models in developing creative Cognitive systems.....
Some old Themes:
-AI and Conciousness
-Subjective and Objective (Pragmatism and Idealism)
-Linier and non-Linier Systems
-Western Social Schitzophrenaa:
-Art and Science
-programmers and users
-conceptualism: reflecting the mind/body split
-representation or abstraction
-content and form
Basically, "programming" involves implmenenting the Turing
(which is the basic conceptual model invented by Allen
Turing and featured in the British aatempts to decode German messages
in WWII). Turing's theoretical model can (in theory) simulate any
provided that it can be described..... This puts the emphasis on
clearly on "description"
-the analysis and understanding required to decribe the (real or
imaginary processes which are to be simulated. In my view, programming
is not primarily a sport for "techies" -it is a form of (practical)
philosophical investigation which explores basic questions of how we
percieve and understand the world. The popular view that the
computer involved "dematerialisation" is completely misleading and is
the result of the fact that most users seem to have no real experience
of computer programming. In fact, because programming involves the
manipulation of physical processes which are manifestations of the
programmer's intentions -one could say that programming involves
the materialisation of human thought (as indeed do most forms of
Programming requires "definitions" and an understanding of the processes neing simulated.
Programming resolves the dialectic between "analytical" and "Synthetic" ways of thinking
Programming develops cognitive skills -and might also provide
clues or even models for solving unsolved philosophical problems
Programming gives freedom and emancipation -while being a "user" can create passivity and dependancy
<trevor at tebatt.net>