Edward A. Shanken’s new book Art and Electronic Media (Themes & Movements), published by Phaidon Press, presents a rich and comprehensive overview of the history of electronic media art practices in the twentieth century, focusing mostly on work produced in the United States, Canada, and Europe. The book balances the historical and the contemporary, the analytic and the particular, with style and critical rigor.
The text is organized thematically in order to cover major topics in the field: Motion, Duration, Illumination; Coded Form and Electronic Production; Charged Environments; Networks, Surveillance, Culture Jamming; Bodies, Surrogates, Emergent Systems; Simulations and Simulacra; and Exhibitions, Institutions, Communities, Collaborations. Given the extensive breath, in historical accounts and details, this organization system presents the reader with a convenient way to access a historical period, artist, or practice of their particular interest. Each theme reappears three times throughout the book, in each of the three main sections: Survey, Works, and Documents (a division that is consistent with previous volumes published in this Phaidon series).
Quality research into the history of electronic media art production, exhibition, and conception is consistent throughout. The section on "Networks," for instance, includes an insightful contextualization of new internet-based art with pre-network art, such as Hans Haache’s 1969 News, an installation that involves a series of Teletype machines set to receive and print local, national, and international news in real time. Shanken’s placement of current genres in these historical frameworks not only enhances our appreciation of the newer practices but also develops an understanding of the historical origins of net, systems, or environmental art.
Over 200 colorful images accompany the text, many of them projects that have not been exhibited widely. One example is the photograph of Christa Sommere and Laurent Mignonneau’s A-Volve (1994-95 ...!--more-->