Rediscovering Hiroshi Kawano: Japan’s Pioneer of Computer Art


Session Title:

  • Media Histories: Japan

Presentation Title:

  • Rediscovering Hiroshi Kawano: Japan’s Pioneer of Computer Art




  • It is well known that the 1960s was a pioneering decade in the history of computer art, particularly in the West. However, little attention has so far been paid to equally important work being undertaken in Japan. This paper aims to introduce the innovative work that was taking place in Japan at this time, and its origins and activities. With the aim of highlighting the importance of this little known history, particular attention will be paid to the work of Hiroshi Kawano. Kawano is a philosopher and aesthetician who was interested in both visual art and music, with the first publication of his visual art as early as 1964 in the IBM Review, making him one of the earliest pioneers experimenting with computing technologies in art. The paper will discuss how he first became interested in using computers as a way to apply his theory inspired by Max Bense and Claude Shannon, to visual art. His early theories, influences and experiments in the 1960s will be considered as well as his participation in the First Computer Art Contest Exhibition in Tokyo in 1968 and his first solo exhibition that took place in Tokyo in 1970.

    Through research undertaken in Japan as well as in the Hiroshi Kawano archive that was acquired by ZKM|Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie in 2010, this paper will bring to light the impressive contribution to computer arts history that has been made by Japanese pioneers such as Kawano, and how his work did not go unrecognised then, and should be remembered today.

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