EARLY EXPERIMENTATIONS WITH TECHNOLOGY
When did the early experimentations with technology happen?
During the 60's and 70's, prior to the arrival of the internet, artists began to experiment with technologies - like TV's and the first personal computers - as tools for art production. These innovative developments opened up a wide range of possibilities to artist's practice. This was the moment when the relationship between art and technology was born and it's been in constant evolution ever since. We've selected three artists whose works occupy a crucial place within the dialogue between art, technology and the internet.
American artist Lillian F. Schwartz is best known for her computer generated artworks and in 1970 she was invited by the AT & T Bell Laboratories to explore the aesthetic-related possibilities involving the use of early computer softwares. Her work "Pixillation" is a 4 minute video where Schwartz coded a few lines of computer-generated black and white texture mixed with hand colored animation. With "Pixillation" , Schwartz developed a technique where the colors were in constant movement creating innovative rhythms and unusual visual patterns. By laboriously manipulating each frame of the film, Schwartz was able to transform the linear and order based technologies of the time, adding a sense of unpredictability to the use of computers. "Pixillation" is an electrifying experience; both jittery and appealing. Watch "Pixillation" here.
Still from "Pixillation"
Lillian F. Schwartz
Another important name in the early days of technology in the arts is Charles Csuri, who created the first artwork ever produced by a computer. Csuri is recognized for introducing visual imagery into the complex language of computer graphics. The work "Hummingbird" is a computer animated film from 1967, consisting of over 30,000 individual images generated by a computer and then drawn directly on 16mm film. Csuri's "Hummingbird" was later purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in 1968, becoming one of the first computer-generated works to enter the museum's collection.
In a pre-internet era there was one person who made a precise prediction: that "technology would enable people to communicate immediately". The youngest of five children, Nam June Paik was born in Seoul, South Korea. He pioneered the use of TV and video art, transforming the way technology was used for artistic purposes.
Nam June Paik by Rene Block
When Paik first came to the United States, he was greeted by flashing outdoors, neon motel signs and the unification that the interstate highways offered Americans in the 1950's. Paik coined the phrase "electronic superhighway" which predicted the deep influence of technology - and eventually the internet - on our lives. The installation called "Electronic Superhighway: Continental US, Alaska, Hawaii" from 1994 consists of 300 TV's into the overall map of the United States outlining the states with neon lights. The TV's screens inside each state display popular video clips from each specific region - Kansas for example, displays scenes from the Wizard of Oz. The idea of an "electronic highway" symbolizes the unification of the world through mass communication and technology, not as much through transportation itself.
Paik's work also predicts the era of information overload we experience today: a never ending stream of images, information and sound. There's a particular tension between focusing one's attention in one part of the map but not being able to absorb any details. Our attention is quickly diverted to the opposing sections of the work, creating a dizzying yet thrilling sensation, similar to one defining act of current times: aimlessly scrolling through the internet.
The computer wasn't merely a tool that could be used for art production, but an imperative symbol of the changing times. As artists were feeling inspired by these technologies, there was also a shift in the way that art was presented and experienced. The internet became this new space where artistic ideas could emerge, transition and be freely exchanged. Different from the traditional museums and galleries spaces, on the internet there were no physical limitations or constraints to the works themselves. It was as if an entire new universe expanded ahead, pulling artists by the hand into the vast and unknown world of the internet.
So what happens next? Stay tuned as we will explore the new internet art movements that emerged in the early 90's.