From 1961 to 1973, a loosely organized group of artists and scientists coalesced around the radical idea that the emerging technology of the computer could be used to make a different kind of art. Known simply as the New Tendencies, this heterogeneous movement included dozens of men and women from the far reaches of the industrialized world. Often working under collective monikers such as Equipo 57 or Grupo Anonima, most of them were as ambivalent about individual fame as they were about the artistic status of their activities, which they preferred to call “research.”
However they saw their own work, their visual innovations were quickly recognized as cutting-edge art, and in a matter of years began appearing in landmark exhibitions at venues such as the Louvre and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Almost as quickly, however, these early experiments were overtaken by what they made possible, and the idealistic foundations of computer art got hidden beneath the more elaborate operations that followed...
Curiously, the first worldwide movement of computer art focused many of its forward-thinking activities in a city not particularly known for technology, in a country that no longer exists. Beginning with the 1961 New Tendency exhibition mounted by Matko Mestrovic at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, hundreds of artists, critics, and curators started gathering regularly in what was then Yugoslavia, united in the belief that you could generate visual art using this strange, almost philosophical new machine. Like-minded experimenters flocked from all over Europe, and from as far away as the Americas and even ...
Barricelli experiment recreated with Processing by Galloway. Barricelli’s visualization technique has been altered—color has been added to show the gene groups more clearly, and the vertical axis has been compressed to increase the amount of evolutionary time that is visible. Each swatch of textured color within the image indicates a different organism. Borders between color fields mean that an organism has perished, been born, mutated, or otherwise evolved into something new
The latest issue of Cabinet inclues an essay by Alexander R. Galloway on mathematician Nils Aall Barricelli, who created artificial evolution experiments in the 50s, with a striking visualization technique:
How did it work? Barricelli established a “universe” consisting of a horizontal row of 512 genes. Genes were represented using integers from negative 18 to positive 18. According to “norms” he established governing mutation and reproduction, each number reproduced into the row below it. in this way, the norms translated rows of “parent” genes into subsequent rows of “child” genes, which in turn were reproduced again using the same norms into subsequent generations over and over. if and when gene-numbers reappeared in a sustained group, Barricelli would designate each group an “organism.” proceeding in lines from top to bottom, Barricelli’s algorithm produced a rectangular image consisting of a grid of genes appearing as individual pixels. When finished, the image yielded a snapshot of evolutionary time, with the oldest generations of organisms at the top and the youngest at the bottom. the output of Barricelli’s experiments was highly visual. he was essentially drawing directly in binary numbers, converting 1s and 0s into pixels in either on or off positions. Because he represented each gene as pixels, organisms were identified visually based on how the pixel patterns self-organized into texture fields, which were identified as shapes or ...
Frieze has a massive new issue out celebrating its 20th anniversary with contributions from Bruce Sterling, Lynne Tillman, Kazys Varnelis, Simon Critchley, and Nina Power. Rhizome executive director Lauren Cornell also has an essay in the new issue:
Since 2005, I’ve been the director of the online organization Rhizome, and have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about why ‘Internet’ is such a gauche word in contemporary art. Here are a few simple reasons I’ve come up with. First, medium-specificity is out of style and the word ‘Internet’ suggests a medium – something separate, something cyber – even though the term can really be used now to describe the experiences that come with an expanded culture and communications system, not just its underlying network protocols. However, this perception of the Internet as a separate artistic territory persists, with its roots planted firmly in the 1990s. In step with Clinton-era rhetoric around globalization, and excitement for new information technologies, the first Internet bubble swelled in the ’90s and burst in the early 2000s, as did patience with ambitious but under-resourced ‘net art’ exhibitions (read: faulty browsers and error signs). Quickly, it was all but abandoned by the art world save for a few ambitious museum media lounges. It’s important to note that much of this ’90s-era ‘net art’ was preoccupied with the technology itself, not with celebrating it, but considering and subverting it. This focus made it somewhat impenetrable for the non-technologically inclined and challenging to exhibit off-line. In the last few years, however, the field of art engaged with the Internet has expanded to being both about new tools and simply how we live our lives – the humanity on top, so to speak.
A second reason for the slow response is that, unlike other industries, such as music ...
Dushko Petrovich Reviews MIT Press Book About New Tendencies and Bit International in the Boston Globe
Bit International (via computerkunst.org)
Dushko Petrovich, editor of Paper Monument, reviews “A Little-Known Story about a Movement, a Magazine, and the Computer’s Arrival in Art: New Tendencies and Bit International, 1961-1973” (MIT Press) for the Boston Globe:
From the New York Times, a look at “Translife,” "a cutting-edge International Triennial of New Media Art that purports to ring the death knell for 'representational' art, questions the very notion of life as we know it, and posits our collective entry into a 'post-human era.'” (More images and a write up by An Xiao on Hyperallergic.)
From the NYT review:
The diverse works on display are connected by their use of digital technology, boundary-crossing nature, collective creation process and the implicit assumption that our world has fundamentally transformed — in ways we are barely beginning to grasp.
“The time-space relationship is changed, or our perception of it,” Mr. Zhang said. “When we talk about time, it is multiple times now. Distance has disappeared because of the network.”
This point is made at the outset by the “Weather Tunnel” installation that stands in the museum’s courtyard. Designed by the architect Ma Yansong, the shimmering white tunnel contains weather-themed works by young artists from universities in China, the United States, Europe and Australia that draw on the same, real-time climatic data from around the globe. (Data is transmitted by custom-made sensors based on those created by Joe Saavedra, an adjunct professor at Parsons, for a project called Citizen Sensor.)
Inside the tunnel, which was uncomfortably hot in Beijing’s blistering summer, a visitor can look through a “Solar Wind Periscope” (Jonas Hansen and Lasse Scherffig) at a visualization of extraterrestrial weather conditions based on information conveyed by radio signals; press a button on the “Weather Inflections” suitcase (Joel Louie, Jan L. Andruszkiewicz, Bryan J. Mather, Kevin Raxworthy, Julian Stadon and Paul Thomas) to hear a sensory-crossing sonification of weather conditions in various global cities; and even listen to an “Electromechanical Solenoid Orchestra & Weather Ensemble” (Benjamin Bacon and Joe Saavedra) that plays ...
Our poets, especially those commonly called mystics, tend to regard the period immediately succeeding the formation of the Earth as a mighty effort on the part of nature to engender computers directly, without the help of any intermediary. They are alluding to the geological processes which crystallized out many of the substances of which a data machine consists. But the task of bringing forth computers from sterile soil proved too difficult. The tectonic forces which created mountains and differentiated minerals could not produce anything as subtle and complex as a computer. For this a lengthy, troublesome detour was required, and the greatest of all tasks had to be completed step by step.
- Excerpt from The Tale of the Big Computer: A Vision by Olof Johannesson (Sagan om den stora Datamaskinen,) 1966
Triple Canopy's new issues includes a wonderful essay by artist Anna Lundh beginning with a look at a rare example of Swedish language science fiction, The Tale of the Big Computer, written by the prominent physicist Hannes Alfvén, (later a Nobel prize winner):
Sagan om den stora Datamaskinen was written at the very cusp of the computer age, but today’s perspective has shifted slightly, to that of a society already immersed in computer technology (a dependence that may obscure some of the technology’s implications). Though Alfvén’s story of humanity’s evolution, his ambivalence about technology, and his suspicion of politicians and bureaucrats are firmly rooted in 1960s Sweden, his tale has grown to encompass our 2011 present, exposing it from two directions. Alfvén’s future vision looks back past us but also stretches far beyond us, into the reaches of possibility. The borders between the past, the present, and the future are blurred and overlapping: a cross-contamination of time.
Researching whether The Tale of the Big Computer had been turned into an opera, as the British edition of the book said, Lundh found documentation of Swedish composer Karl-Birger Blomdahl's 1959 operatic adaptation of Harry Martinson’s epic sci-fi poem Aniara, "in which one of the leading roles was sung by the operator of the ingenious instrument Mima (a sort of mechanical brain and the soul of the spaceship), to an imaginative and energetic score that included musique concrête and even some electronic sounds."
Lundh's essay continues with an antic description of Blomdahl's plans to turn The Tale of the Big Computer into an opera. "It’s a rather idealistic and even paradoxical endeavor: to create an opera about future technology, using technology that inevitably belongs to the present."