Oral History Practices and Undiscovered History of Polish Computer Art of the 1970’s and 1980’s


Session Title:

  • Media Histories: Europe

Presentation Title:

  • Oral History Practices and Undiscovered History of Polish Computer Art of the 1970’s and 1980’s




  • This paper aims at being a contribution to current debates on writing history of media artand is based on a case study of the history of computer art in Poland in 1970’s and 1980’s. Thepoint of view of relationship between art and technology in Polish art practices is hardly takeninto consideration by contemporary art historians, who usually omit this current treating it asirrelevant to the mainstream narrative.

    Currently, in Western Europe as well as in the United States, there is a number ofprojects which are aimed at reconstruction and documentation of computer art history. EasternEuropean computer art however seems to be still a kind of terra incognita. Such status quo isobviously a result of long-lasting geopolitical and intellectual division of Europe.

    In this paper I would like to introduce my research project devoted to the Polish computer art history. I intend to reconstruct the history of this current (its assumptions, goals,artistic strategies, ideological involvement, etc.) by collecting snatches scattered throughout Polish gallery archives. The project’s essential sources, however, are the interviews withartists who are still alive and willing to share with information which have never beenpublished, i.e. with technological details and information regarding the local context.

    As an example, I would like to present works of three Polish artists, i.e. WincentyDunikowski-Duniko, Stanislaw Drózdz and Jan Pamula. Their cases are interesting due to thefact that even though they were well-acquainted with the development of computer art inWestern Europe and the United States, they did not treat the computer as a medium. The interviews with Dunikowski, Pamula, and Michal Bieganowski, Drózdz’s close collaborator prove that that they treated computer as a sort of sign of time, a romantic metaphor of modernity, or, in the best-case scenario, as a tool and point of reference for their works.

    Therefore, by means of collecting the interviews, the history of art in the Soviet bloc can be rewritten from a completely new standpoint.