“Rewriting Contemporary Art History” presented by Wands


Session Title:

  • Histories of Media Arts

Presentation Title:

  • Rewriting Contemporary Art History




  • The history of digital art goes back over forty years with the creative experimentation of artists at research centers, such as Bell Labs and MIT, and Billy Kluver and Robert Rauschenberg’s “Experiments in Art and Technology” and “9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering” in 1966. While there were a few seminal exhibitions, “Cybernetic Serendipity: the Computer and the Arts” at the ICA in London and “Machine As Seen At the End of the Mechanical Age” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, both in 1968, digital art has largely gone unnoticed by the established art community until relatively recently. The emergence of the World Wide Web in the mid-1990’s allowed artists and their audience to communicate globally, as well as enabling an international group of digital artists to develop. Net Art was heralded as uniquely digital, continually redefining itself as technology progressed. International organizations, such as ISEA, SIGGRAPH, Ars Electronica, V2 and ZKM provided venues and support for digital art. The journal “Leonardo”, started in 1968 by Frank J. Malina, has provided an ongoing forum for digital art theory, history and practice. Recently, publishers, such as the MIT Press and Thames & Hudson, have begun to produce several books on digital art. There are now websites that focus on developing archives of digital art, as well as its theory, criticism and history. While these recent developments are welcome, there exists a vacuum of documentation and information about digital art in contemporary art history since 1960. We now have a generation of contemporary artists who have grown up in the digital age and do not see making art with technology as unusual. Digital Art is becoming Contemporary Art, and we now have an obligation to document its history and early practitioners, the people who built the foundation for making art with technology. This presentation will trace the history of digital art, and provide an overview of how it is taking its rightful place in contemporary international art history.

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