““MacArt”: Revolution on a Desktop 1984-1990” presented by Brodsky


Session Title:

  • Histories of Media Arts

Presentation Title:

  • “MacArt”: Revolution on a Desktop 1984-1990




  • Throughout the 1970’s and much of the 1980’s most artists had little use for the computer. The arcane language of programming and the results on a computer screen bore little apparent relationship to the camera’s lens or the painter’s brush.

    This would change in 1984 with the development, marketing, and release of the Macintosh computer whose conception was heavily influenced by the local San Francisco Bay Area political and social events. These seminal events included the Free Speech Movement and People’s Park demonstrations in Berkeley, and the protests against the Stanford Research Institute involvement with the military-industrial complex, the War in Vietnam as well as the rise of the counterculture, environmentalism, the women’s movement and the use of appropriate technologies of the 60’s and 70’s which gave rise of the personal computer.

    Nevertheless, it took a computer that was uniquely suited to artists before many would consider touching this technology for the first time. That computer was the Macintosh, whose very DNA seems to speak (most literally) to artists whose main interests centered more on a critique of technology and its effects on society then in an exploration of the underlying technologies.

    This new crop of digital artists working between 1984 and 1990 had little connection to the earlier explorations in computer art but instead had a strong affinity to the goals and cultural ideals that would rise in the 60’s and 70’s.

    These artists that were mostly working outside of the gallery system and supported by newly emerging alternative artist spaces, publishers and curators would gravitate towards this computer that was both engaging and transparent is such a way – as to allow them to leap beyond the technology (and the empty aestheticism of the earlier generation of previous computer graphics practitioners). It would allow them to introduce a new content charged body of work, that would both document and critically explore the rise of consumerism and consumer technology and it’s growing impact on society.

    This paper will highlight the works of these very influential first generation “non computer” computer artists.

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