Materials and Techniques (Digital Reproduction) 1-3-2004

Materials and Techniques (Digital Reproduction) 1-3-2004

Charlie Gere (Chairman Computers and the History of Art), Birkbeck College

Runs postgraduate Digital course

Feedback Art






Multi / intermedia



Video and TV (not film and photo)






In early 20 technology was used in film. For example, the Futurist Marrinetti, Bunuel, Dada file by Haussman.

First artist was Marcel Duchamp (the most important artist of the 20th century), picture of kinetic art and rotor art (put on a turntable). Also Moholy-Nagy.

L'szlo Moholy-Nagy

Light-Space Modulator, 1930

Space Like Modulator

In 1922, I ordered by telephone from a sign factory 5 paintings in porcelain enamel. I had the factory ‘s color chart before me and I sketched my paintings on graph paper. At the other end of the telephone, the factory supervisor had the same kind of paper, divided into squares. He took down the dictated shapes in the correct position. (It was like playing chess by correspondence.)… Thus, these pictures did not have the virtue of the individual touch, but my action was directed exactly against this overemphasis. I often hear the criticism that because of this want of the individual touch, my pictures are intellectual

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A piece designed on paper and ordered from an enamel factory. The first work to be made electronically (as a phone was used), it is sometimes called the M Painting or the Telephone Painting.

Arp and Calder, Duchamp suggested the name mobile. Took place before the second world war. WWII produced computers, radar, and cybernetics (Organisms and their Environment) – Wiener. Maintaining stability through adjusting themselves. Very influencial.

John Cage

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John Cage was one of the first to put these ideas into practice — he was a composer, artist and mushroom expert. 4’33, first played at Woodstock (upstate New York). It was inspired by Cage ‘s visit to an anechoic chamber. He heard his own body so realised that silence is not possible. The idea of art being interactive, and partly created by the audience.

The same year Entitled Event, the first event at Black Mountain College. Created space for technologies.

Allan Kaprow, Chicken, 1962

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Allan Kaprow was inspired by Cage and Pollock to produce happenings. In the 1950 s anti – artists called Fluxus emerged included happenings, cheap art involving printers, involving audience. Joseph Boyce, Yoko Ono, Dick Higgins. Anticipated new technologies.

Cage was influenced by Futurists. But Futurists were anti – tradition, Fluxus anti – art. Often called the New-Dadas in a deliberate revival. Often humorous like Dada and unlike Surrealism.

Tingleuy produced works that destroyed themselves.

1950 s also saw the beginnings of electronic music. Music Concrete was tape stuck on a wall and the viewer found the sound with a tape head and headphones. Karl Stockhausen. Boulez, Cage. Max Matthews was the first people to make music using a computer.

Ben Laposky, Oscillon No. 4 1950

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First electronic works of art. The first was Ben Laposky Oscillon series, an electronic work

of art. Photographs of oscilloscope patterns. Still made by analog computer.

Schoffer, Light Wall 1962

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Cybernetic art, Schoffer in Paris. Machines that react to the outside environment. The neon lights on the Hayward Gallery change colour depending on the environment.

Takis shown at Force Field show. Worked with magnets. Immaterial forces.

1960 ‘s

Otto Piene (Pina) movement of light and Julio Le Parc.

Tzi Yen Wing pieces that delicately move (can be seen in the Tate). Len Lye, The Loop and Fountain 1963.

Hans Haacke, Sphere in Oblique Air-Jet, 1967

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GRAV Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel in France involved with technology. Made up of made up of Garcia Rossi, Le Parc, Morellet, Sobrino, Stein, and Yvaral. Abraham Moles wrote books.

In the UK the Independent Group (IG) were involved with the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Herbert Read. IG were interested in Pop Culture.

The Independent Group was a loose affiliation of young members of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, that emerged in the early 1950 s. They shared ‘an eagerness to explore a new cultural climate ‘. As well as the artists represented here, the group ‘s key protagonists included the architects Alison and Peter Smithson and the design historian Reyner Banham. The group replaced a rarefied conception of fine art with a celebration of a broader culture. As the critic Lawrence Alloway recalled: ‘we assumed an anthropological definition of culture in which all types of human activity were the subject of aesthetic judgement and attention ‘.

In contrast to post – war Britain ‘s obsession with the past, they celebrated the artefacts of modern life, especially the glamorous technology and popular culture of the USA. Films, cars, advertising, science fiction and pop music.

Richard Hamilton

Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Home So Different, So Appealing ?

1956, Collage (Kunsthalle Museum, T'bingen, Germany)

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Edward Hamilton. What Makes Today’s Home So Perfect by Hamilton is seen as the first work of UK Pop Art.

This is Tomorrow Whitechapel 1966 IG.

Developments in computing. Iver Sutherland, Sketchpad. Early Nuclear Warning defence system was a driving force for interactive symbolic computing. Douglas Englebart invented the mouse, ARPANET (the Internet) originally consisted of just eight nodes (including a PDP 10 and an IBM 360).

R. Buckminster Fuller, U.S. Pavilion, Expo 67 in Montreal, 1967

Marshall McLuhlan Understanding Media and Buckminster Fuller (the worst writer of English prose). The Global Village. Spaceship Earth. Influential on Cage. Might have beneficial possibilities for mankind and great a better world – artists, designers and architects got involved.

Roy Ascott, a teacher, taught generations about cybernetics and art and is still alive.

Gordon Pask

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David Medalla, A Stitch in Time, 1997

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David Medalla Learn from Tachai

Csuri After Mondrian

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Csuri Hummingbird, 1967

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Started asking computers to produce images, Csuri Humming Bird, Michael Noll art like images . Using rules he produced a Mondrian-like image and a computer version of Bridget Riley.

Manfred Moore .

Early-mid 60 s looked at TV. Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik were Members of Fluxus.

Nam June Paik, Random Access, 1963

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Audio tape stuck to wall, Random Access

Sony PortaPack in 1968 was the first portable video camera. The first computer art was by Nam June Paik.

Bruce Nauman, No No, 1983

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Bruce Nauman (who will produce the next piece for the turbine hall at Tate Modern).

Les Levine, Still of THE SELF EXPRESS DUNKIN’ DONUTS, 112 x 163 cm, 2003

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Les Levine.

Dan Flavin.

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Use of light Vladimir Bonachee.

Otto Piene, Gelbe Sonne, 1958, oil on canvas

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Otto Piene

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Multimedia environments as works of art. Otto Piene, Lamont Young, Velvet Underground (played at Andy Warhol event).

Robert Rauschenberg

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Bill Kluver (Bell engineer, a true anarchist)

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Robert Rauschenberg, Billy Kluver – Experiments in Art Technology – brought together artists and engineers. Nine performances and a total disaster.

UK 1968, Cybernetic Serendipity at ICA. A highpoint in the use of new technologies. Computer Arts Society. Its archive led to one of the current Birkbeck projects

Jack Burnham Software. A work called Seek. Cubes are arranged by a computer and disarranged by gerbils. This was the last moment of the early heroic phase of art and technology. Technology was discredited by the Vietnam war.

It failed because many exhibits just didn ‘t work, artists were disillusioned, artists distrusted of technology, and technology got to sophisticated for artists to use.


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Edward Ihnatowicz Sound Activated Mobile. 1972 in Eindhoven.

Conceptual Art, Hans Harker used to be a cybernetic artist, Chicken hatchery and Condensation Cube.

Harold Cohen, Aaron

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Harold Cohen – systems painter. Produced and AI machine (Aaron) that paints. April 23 th ere is a talk at Tate Modern.

Stelark prosthetic limbs. Research fellow at Nottingham Trent.

Jeffery Shaw cycling through letters in 1980 ‘s.

Some went on in 1980 ‘s but did not get into galleries.

Late 70 s. Ars Electronica annual exhibition of electronic art. ZKM, a major exhibition space for art and technology.

Barbican 1996, Tosha Resonance 4 (looks like board games).

Early-mid 1990, Netart – only works on the web.

Bitstreams 101

Current works

(Above) Telematic Dreaming (1992) is a work consisting of two double beds in different locations. One bed is within a blue – screen environment; the other, in a darkened space. Both beds have cameras above them and are surrounded by monitors; each bed has one person lying in it. The darkened bed has a digital projector above it that projects onto it a live video image of the person on the blue – screen bed. Thus, the camera above the darkened bed captures the image of both people on one bed, sending the image to the monitors in the blue – screen room. A further surreal twist is added by the addition of pre – recorded video mixed into the live projections, for example, when the bed surface is blended with an image of water in a swimming pool.

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Paul Sermon – Bed

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Char Davies Osmose

Eduardo Kac and Alba, the fluorescent bunny.

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Kac Fluorescent Rabbit

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Make your own feral robodogs.

Natalie Jeremienko is presenting megabyte – an aibo – like robodog that has been hacked to to detect radioactivity and other toxic hazards – it’s reward by finding it… makes this invisble hazard, and it’s allied data visible and accesible by all – especially kids.

Yocum Hendix mapped eye movements on a newspaper.

? sculptor of distorted objects, such as chairs and hammers.

Telesymphony done through the audiences mobile phones.

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Artist:Jennifer Steinkamp

Title: Loom

Date: 2003

Dimensions: 11 x 11 feet, room 45 x 11 feet

Equipment: Toshiba TLP 650, 1100 lumen and Panasonic PT-L 757 1400 lumen projectors, 2 DVD players.

Photo credit:Jennifer Steinkamp, courtesy ACME, Los Angeles and greengrassi, London.

Exhibition History: Warped Space, CCAC Wattis Institute, San Francisco, California, September 17 – November 15, 2003, Curator: Ralph Rugoff.

Description:Loom consisted of two overlapping video projections; one contained a horizontal pattern, while the other vertical. When combined, the two created a weave. Because there were two projections at angles, the viewer created two shadows that disrupted the projection; one shadow revealed the vertical lines while the other was filled with horizontal lines. The image formed a cube that matched the perspective of the space, which was a deep tunnel. The lines warped with a water like pattern.

John Thompson — film of plane landing using real – time web sources from the web, sound and file.

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