But Is It Art? An essay on the impact of computers in art.

by: lewis sykes (2005/07/25)
tags: software
journal contents


In researching the history, influences and early development of the current avant-garde net.art movement, I uncovered a significant amount of material about the development of its precursor, Computer Art, as a distinct and significant movement in its own right.

This pre-history of art on the web presaged much of the contemporary debate and turned out to be an interesting place to explore in its own right, spanning as it does, both a period of time symbolic of social change, transition and transformation - the 1960s - and new discoveries in technology that created a radically different way to view and produce art.

This essay is an overview and exploration of the Computer Art movement and the impact of the computer in the production, creation and delivery of art prior to the popularisation of the Net.

My motivations

I've always been interested in the place where art and science meet - music technology, computer aided graphic design, animation, film and video have been active interests since my teenage years. I find the apparent tension between the creative and the technical, the intuitive and the logical fascinating.

More recently I've become increasingly involved with computers in my own creative endeavours. I find this 'meta-tool' - a tool that makes tools - simultaneously liberating and restrictive. I am a cyborg - enmeshed with the machine - and I've become totally dependent on it. Yet if I were to describe computers using the 'compressed conflict' of semiotics they would be 'infuriatingly helpful'. This ambivalent mixture of dependency and frustration raises questions for me that I've tried to explore a little through this essay.

Computer Art, like my primary interest, music technology, seems to me to be a 'new frontier' in the ongoing development of human-computer interaction. It's a place where the varied and multifaceted nature of that relationship is contemplated, stretched and tested. And in many more ways than just the technical - Computer Art explores issues of aesthetics, creative process and authorship amongst many others.

The focus of this essay

Jasia Reichardt's book, The Computer In Art, (1971) provides an insight into early experimentation in this area. Barely in its infancy the Computer Art movement was already diverse and multifaceted. Her summation, review and critique of the work and the artists and programmers who produced it is not only sometimes amusingly anecdotal or occasionally comically na?ve but frequently disarmingly prophetic.

This essay attempts to pick up some of the stands explored in The Computer In Art and follow through on the motivations, methodologies and experiences of these early pioneers by looking at the development of Computer Art in the 30 years since Reichhardt wrote her book.

Computer Art is a now a significant movement with many artists working in distinct sectors. In an attempt to limit the scope of this essay the focus is on those significant developments in computing and the exploitation of these developments by selected computer artists. What is described here is not the work itself, but rather the artists' expressed motivations coupled with an overview of the methodologies they employ in using computers in their work.

This essay then, is a summary of the developments and motivations of the artists working at the forefront of this radical art scene and information, thoughts and reflections on its significance.

Cybernetic Serendipity

A notable landmark in this process occurred in 1968 with the Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition that was held initially at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London and later toured Canada and the US ending at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Jasia Reichardt, then assistant director of the ICA, curated the show.
The exhibition included work by Charles A. Csuri, an artist and computer graphics pioneer and now Professor at The Ohio State University; the successful Fluxus artist Nam June Paik; and artist and writer Paul Brown who reflects:
"For me the Cybernetic Serendipity was a singular point of transition. Previously I had seen artworks as objects. Now they became processes. Cybernetic Serendipity had a profound effect on a number of young artists and we gradually began to discover each other. Together we began to learn the skills of using computers. In those days it meant programming in FORTRAN and Assembler, punch cards, paper tape and experiments with building digital circuitry. This was long before "user friendly" appeared." 1
Cybernetic Serendipity was not an isolated event, however, but part of a nexus of exhibitions, meetings, publications, groupings of artists who in this fast changing world were bringing different approaches to art, science, technology and society.
A sign of the times
1968, the year of the Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition, is also the year most emblematic of the 1960s clash between State and the anti-modernist revolution of the political vanguard of the Sixties, the New Left. As Lisa Haskel in her essay, Time Machine (1998) (presented at the symposium Dialogues with the Machine held at the ICA in 1998, marking 30 years since the exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity) writes, "These events [May 1968] showed the irreconcilability between the 'traditional values' of centuries-old ruling elites, the politically-driven, 1950's discourses of post-war optimism and reconstruction with the new social values they embodied, and the fragile groupings working toward a non-capitalist alternative." 2

This period saw the end of Modernism and the transition to the emotional emptiness of Post-modernism. Despite the New Lefts' beliefs that their socialist agenda and experimental art would radicalise the consciousness of the people their efforts at community art initiatives such as the radical 'free radio' movement failed. They were unable to translate their essentially elitist brand of anarcho-communism into a truly democratic cultural revolution. The lost utopia of May '68 and the ultimate defeat of the New Left were subsequently superseded by the insuperable rise to domination of the conservative neo-liberalism of the Californian Ideology.

But after years of post-modern apathy, Nineties intellectuals are rediscovering the joy of aestheticising the revolution. By separating Sixties anarcho-communism from its specific historical moment, New Left vanguard politics can re-emerge as the hip avant-garde style for the Nineties. And though its language is idiosyncratic the theory-art and anarcho-communism of Deleuze and Guattari has emerged as 'holy texts' of this cultural avant-garde. 3

As Barbrook says, "The avant-garde tradition of cultural experimentation is now at the centre of socio-economic development in the advanced countries. A minority of dedicated and talented artists can benefit the majority of the population by inventing new aesthetic forms, especially using digital technologies. Within an information society, 'all power to the imagination' becomes more than just a utopian slogan from May '68." 4

Lisa Haskel, with a focus on art and technology, concurs, "..looking through the admittedly distorting lens of archive research has revealed surprising similarities and subtle differences in the polemics, practices and pre-occupations of artists working with technology in the 1960's and the 1990's. For me, these parallels - and perhaps it is the slippages that are more interesting than the similarities - speak about context; they form a dialogue across time on the topic of technology as a transformative force in society, the role of the artist in social change, and the constant conversation between artistic production and the discourses and images of popular culture, mass media and world events" 5

Developing technology

From its inception in 1956 through to the early 1990s and beyond Computer Art represented a truly new development in art - the exploration of human-computer interaction. And its impact has been widely felt if little acknowledged.

Computer Art forged the development and refinement of both the computer hardware and software that we take for granted today - from graphic plotters and printers to contemporary drawing and painting packages. It pioneered the application of mathematics and programming as tools to describe, generate, animate and manipulate images - helping to develop and refine vector graphics, the digitisation and manipulation of photographs and three-dimensional modelling and ray-tracing. But its most profound and prophetic advancements are surely its use of the computer as a real-time medium via cybernetics and the development of interactive systems.

Much of what was learnt through these artistic explorations has now become everyday reality for hundreds of millions of PC users. What was once revolutionary has become banal. That is the significance of these developments. They have created the tools with which everyday people can express themselves. They have advanced the democratisation of art and design in a similar and parallel fashion to the music technology of contemporary music production.

What's more, the development of these tools in parallel with the growth of the Net has created a phenomenon of worldwide significance. The rapid growth of the Net is the most dramatic manifestation of the increasing importance of cultural innovation. Far from being the 'holy idea' of avant-garde intellectuals, anarcho-communism is now the mundane activity of ordinary people within cyberspace. As Barbrook says, "As access to the Net spreads, the majority of the population are beginning to participate within cultural production. Everyone now has the opportunity to express themselves in all sorts of ways, including aesthetically." 6

The influences on Computer Art

According to Frank Popper who published Art of the Electronic Age in 1993, there are at least seven different sources from which contemporary Computer Art has drawn its inspiration. The interplay between technical and aesthetic factors of photography and cinematography; the intellectual and informational aspects of Conceptual Art as well as its environmental dimension; the electrical and later electronic characteristics of Light Art; the physical mechanistic movement of Kinetic Art; the significant programming of early Cybernetic Art; and the participatory nature of environments or installations - those both optical and conceptual; and those more or less about creative participation leading to interactivity. 7

This included the work of the early Modernists movements of Futurism, Dadaism and Constructivism as well as other work of the pre- and post-World War II period. A number of artists in East and West Europe maintained an interest in Kineticism as a practice that implied the unification of art, science and society. Light and movement were the key 'materials'; changing and developing mechanical and electrical systems were the underlying means.

The auto-destructive art of Gustav Metzger was notable in its approach to technology that was profoundly critical while still engaging with its processes. "Auto-destructive art is primarily a form of public art for industrial societies. Self-destructive painting, sculpture and construction is a total unity of idea, site, form, colour, method and timing of the disintegrative process." 8

The sense that science and technology was having a profound effect on society and the environment was affecting the practice of many 1960's artists and activists associated with the "underground" - cultural practitioners more directly identified and related to the political activism of the time. From the experiments in form and material "Event-Structure Research" to the regular happenings, light shows, performances and concerts in the basement of "Better Books", the activities of the London Arts Lab, new materials, the social value of art and the divisions between "high" and "low" culture were constantly explored.
Paul Brown compares Computer Art with previous 'revolutions' in art history. "As a historical model for this revolution we need look no further than the small group of artists who constituted the Salon Des Refuses in 1863. Though the work was scorned by the cognoscente these artists, the Impressionists and Post Impressionists, effectively wrote the agenda for Modernism. An agenda that would mature and emerge 40 years later in the opening decade of the 20th century and which defined that arts for that century. Meanwhile on the fringes, an international celebration of new media arts has emerged and over the past 30 years grown in strength. It's my opinion that it constitutes a global Salon des Refuses. Furthermore I believe that it's likely that it is this often marginalised group that is writing the agenda for the creative arts for the 21st century and the new millennium." 9
Computer Art is now accepted as a definitive art form, with distinct origins and a well documented range of work that covers the wide range computer-assisted pieces still on traditional supports, the great variety of animated paintings and digital images in general, as well as the expanding areas of sculptures and installations in which the computer plays a decisive role.

The origins of Computer Art

The origins of Computer Art, or analogue design as it was then called, can be traced back to 1952 when Ben F. Laposky, in the U.S.A., used an analogic computer and a cathode tube oscillograph for the composition of his Electronic Abstractions. The same year, Herbert W. Franke created his oscillograms in Vienna.

The first 'computer graphics' were realised in 1960 by K. Alsleben and W. Fetter in Germany and in 1963 by the Boeing Company in the U.S.A. who first coined the term in creating animations for simulating landings and testing cockpit design.

In 1965 the first works produced on a digital computer appeared - executed independently but almost simultaneously by several artists: Frieder Nake and George Nees in Germany and A. Michael Knoll, Leon D. Harmon and Kenneth C. Knowlton of the Bell Telephone Laboratory, New Jersey. Harmon and Knowlton produced their first computer graphics in 1967 - a 12ft long nude made up of alphanumeric characters.

In an issue of Art Journal devoted to the subject of art and the computer, Margot Lovejoy makes a powerful plea for the importance of photography as the basis of Computer Art and argues that photography's role in the development of both Modernism and Post-modernism has provided a paradigm for gauging the function of electronic media in relation to art. She reiterates the viewpoint of Walter Benjamin, which places photography in a pivotal position in the collapse of the aura of the original and unique art object.

The advent of new electronic technologies - first video and then digital imaging - accelerated the changes initiated by photography so that now much of the history of photography is being replayed with greater speed and fewer detours. The photographic paradigm, in conjunction with the further dissolution of rigid distinctions between art and non-art communication systems, "has dumped computers right on the artist's doorstep" 10

The significance of Computer Art

Reichardt contends that most art movements are remembered for the relatively few great works that are associated with them and the exceptional individuals who brought them about. Those trends or movements that show a current preoccupation but fail to produce works of great quality leave an incomparably lesser trail. But she also argues that Computer Art is an exception. "The fact that Computer Art has produced nothing so far that can be called a great work of art does not detract from its importance as the means of reformulating the boundaries and definitions of creative activity as a whole." 11

Cybernetic Serendipity validated and recognized the combination of binary technology and art. Computer artists, in seeking a way of reconciling technological, aesthetic and artistic factors, have progressively placed increased emphasis on such global problems as the relationship between the artist and the art work, on the one hand, and technology, the environment and the general public and culture of mass society on the other.

Many computer artists are trying to come to grips with the opposition between mind and the machine and are seeking means of transcending it by an artistic act combining reason with imagination.

Timothy Blinkly contends that the computer in art should not be treated principally as a new medium, but rather for its 'conceptual' content. "From a historical point of view, if Modernism was mainly concerned with new media and the idea of progress, and Conceptual Art can be regarded as acting as a kind of watershed between that and Postmodernist pluralism, Computer Art can be understood as continuing all three strands, retaining an aloof concern with media, a conceptual orientation and a preoccupation with interactivity." 12

Computer Art has been revolutionary in both the sensorial and intellectual spheres. A new appeal has been made not only to the visual but also to the other senses, developing the research begun by Optical, Kinetic and Participatory Art. On the other hand, calculated and programmed art combined with the achievements in Conceptual Art have opened up the enormous possibilities of Computer Art in the area of full interactivity, by using the computer not only as a tool or medium but as purveyor of abstract information and as a generator of virtual realities in cybernetic space.

It is in this area; the interactive category that many new combined technical and aesthetic developments can be expected. The artistic and functional autonomy of the image and its instantaneous transmission in real time opens up new avenues that confirm the specifity of Computer Art and its claim to being an entirely new medium or genre establishing an interface between the real and the virtual.

But understanding its unique cultural role requires an appreciation of its fundamental differences from traditional media like painting, sculpture, photography and video. As Popper postulates, "Functioning more like characters of an incorporeal meta-medium, computers breed what have been come to be called 'hypermedia', which reside in a paradoxical virtual reality where all properties exist as numbers. Hypermedia only purports to be what we know as media; they transcend their forebears in ways that give them an almost preternatural pliability involving magical metamorphoses and effortless interconnectivity, and making them capable of introducing radically new art forms." 13

For artists such as Michael Bret the computer gave artists a 'meta-tool', a tool which is used to manufacture tools. With such apparatus, visual artists no longer need to focus on the production of a work, but on the process, which generates it. And they no longer need to be interested in the physical characteristics of the object, but in the laws that enable the object to appear and exist.

This represents a paradigm shift in approach to art, hinted at through the Futurist, Dadaist, Constructivist and Surrealist Art movements of the early twentieth century, explored more fully through experimental Kinetic & Light Art, but not fully realised until the advent of the computer. As Paul Brown surmises "All this distraught and defensive rhetoric emerging from the cultural mainstream in regard to new media serves to inform us that something very interesting is going on. Something worth cultivating and which may well be the seed of an emergent culture." 14

The aesthetics of Computer Art

Although the range of aesthetic intentions in Computer Art is vast, it's possible to group the multifarious manifestations of the work into two principal categories - the visual and the interactive. This covers a variety of computer works, ranging from single images to installations.

Herbert W. Franke was one on the first to be interested in Computer Art. According to Franke, the evolution of Computer Art illustrates the fact that electronic systems have their own principles which can be explored, understood and elaborated on through aesthetic programmes that enable the discovery of new avenues of creation and visual technical means comparable to that available for music.

According to Franke two trends led directly to Computer Art: that mathematics allowed the description of projects and results, which include a number of artistic styles from Constructivism to Op Art; and what he calls 'Apparative Kunst' (Complex Machine Art) - leading from the kaleidoscope to works based on photomechanical transformation and picture processing. For Franke, drawings generated by computer make the study of the creative process, its principles and its laws, indirectly possible, but they also encourage interactivity between the work and the spectator.

George Legrady feels the influence of computers on art could be much more subtle. He observes that in digital processing, as in other forms of communication, the technological components of hardware and software are structures that shape and impose a form on the information they process, even though these mediating structures are usually understood as transparent or 'value-free'. 15

Using the computer in art

Leslie Mezei, professor of Computer Science at Toronto University felt the computer would never replace the traditional media of pen and brushes, but could transcend them by offering the convenient introduction of modification. While Katherine Nash, Professor of Art at the University of New Mexico believed the computer would inevitably become the artists' tool in the future.

Nak June Paik, the Korean artist living in New York concurs enthusiastically. "The cathode ray tube will replace the canvas. Some day artists will work with capacitors, resistors and semiconductors as they work today with brushes, violins and junk. There are 4,000,000 dots per second on one television screen, just think of the variety of images you can get. It's so cool. It's like going to the moon." 16

But not all early computer artists were so convinced. Frieder Nake, who during the 1960s produced in Stuggart some of the best and most intelligently conceived computer graphics to have been done anywhere had deep reservations and concluded that much work done with the aid of computers didn't justify, by the results produced, the use of a tool so complex.

Twenty or so years after these early experiments, contemporary artists are still using the computer only as a tool, as a canvas or a very elaborate palette with which to 'paint' using a variety of methods. At most the computer is regarded as an assistant.

Jack Youngerman used computers as a design tool and discovered that many of the time-consuming studies he did by hand before beginning a composition could easily be carried out using a computer. Youngerman puts a simple theme through many variations and the computer acts as a sketchpad that can electronically alter colours and compositions.

David Em uses the computer as a design tool to produce illusory three-dimensional imagery. Yet as fantastic as his visions may appear, and as high tech as his artistic implements may be, Em thinks of his work as paintings in the traditional sense.

As early as the mid 1960s, Michael Noll of The Bell Laboratories pointed out that the computer could be used to great advantage for producing the sort of art which like Op Art, has a mathematical component, or like permutation or serial art, depends on the making of versions based on set parameters - and contemporary computer artists have explored this area.

Amongst them Manfred Mohr, who has developed a computer programme based on his research in fractured symmetry. His work begins with an algorithm, not with visual ideas. The computer transforms the programme into signs which Mohr samples, checks, improves and changes until he is satisfied with the final result. When the development of the algorithm is finished a plotter draws the realisation of the programme onto paper or canvas. Mohr sees himself as an artist who uses mathematics only as a vehicle to realise a vital philosophy.

Vera Molner, a pioneer of Computer Art and others such as Dominic Boreham and Beck and Jung, developed a computer graphics method where the artist looks for creative inspiration from the computer - the image is conceived and treated for the computer that almost creates it. Their works are objects to be contemplated and reflect the artists' view that technology is only a means and cannot replace the content of their work. For these artists science acts like a creative tool.

Molner holds that at least for her, the computer can serve four purposes. The first is its technical promise - it widens the area of the possible with its infinite array of forms and colours, and particularly with the development of virtual space. Secondly, the computer can satisfy the desire for artistic innovation and thus lighten the burden of traditional cultural forms. It can make the accidental or random subversive in order to create an aesthetic shock and to rupture the systematic and symmetrical. Thirdly the computer can encourage the mind to work in new ways. Molner considers that artists often pass too quickly from the idea to the realisation of the work. The computer can create images that can be stored for longer, not only in its memory but also in the artist's imagination. Finally, Molnar thinks that the computer can help the artist by measuring the physiological reactions of the audience, their eye movements for example, thus bringing the creative process into closer accordance with its products and their effects.

Tom De Witt can be considered a pioneer in 'virtual space'. His Pantomation technique involves computer analysis of photographically recorded images, capturing surface co-ordinates of three dimensional objects and drawings that can then be manipulated.

For De Witt an important feature of Computer Art is its non-materiality since its 'works' are abstract algorithms or databases. He regards it above all as 'Dataism' - a term and an art opposed to the iconoclasm of Modernism in general and Dadaism in particular. Dataist works are not singular art objects but algorithmic procedures and digital databases that have a symbolic description. Dataist artworks can appear to exist in three dimensions and move in the time dimension, but they may be entirely synthesised.

Artists like Harold Cohen go a step further and develop programmes to be followed by the computer, without themselves necessarily having any idea of what the final result will be. Such a use of the computer changes the strategy of image making and opens up questions of the extent to which the computer actually creates art itself. The computer is no longer simply a tool but becomes a creator.

The creative potential of computers

Reichardt contends that Computer Art is the last stand of Abstract Art and has brought about the possibility of unidentifiable and impersonal abstraction - even to the extent that those who have programmed the computer have on occasion failed to recognise their own output.

Many computer artists concur that the computer can have a far more significant role. In her early 1990s theoretical writings in the area of Computer Art, Christine Tamblyn argues that computers were designed to augment mental processes as opposed to being manual or visual aids. She opposes the traditionalist attitude that ascribes the use of computers to simulate aspects of Modernist painting, drawing, printmaking or photography and supports the Post-modern attitude represented by computer artists who extend the purview of Conceptual Art.

Michael Bret says that while traditional tools enable visual artists to work only on objects, the computer gives them access to the processes and sources of creative activity. Similarly, Roy ascot, maintains that new techniques developing out of the convergence of computing and telecommunications - laserdisc, computer animation etc. - must be regarded as more than new tools since they invite new relationships among people in the creative process and they imply a new visual language.

Popper contends that the computer is not a tool of the familiar sort used in the manipulation of media. It can simulate an extravagant variety of practical, as well as fanciful, tools supporting multi-faceted hypermedia; but it ultimately challenges the tools/media distinction. It is both and neither, because the arena of its activity is abstract information and not concrete materials.

Innovation through Computer Art

A significant amount of the Computer Art work produced, and that described here, has generally dealt with fixed or animated work, including mathematically calculated two and three-dimensional images, produced with the aid of computers on traditional supports such as paper, canvas, textiles or in the more recently developed media of photography, film and video.

While these developments have undoubtedly produced a range of engaging and challenging work, I would contest that the innate potential of computers that ultimately challenges the tools/media distinction, as suggested by Popper, lies in works of Computer Art sculptures and installations.

The Tokyo Computer Technique Group established in 1967, felt that one of the major underlying possibilities of Computer Art was that the 'artist' actually designs a system - a method of producing a given repertoire of forms and generating patterns. The artists' work consists largely of envisioning possibilities rather than producing individual works. It is the program itself that is the work of art.

In his computer animations, William Latham wants to add a new dimension to computer graphics, or 'computer sculpture'. In The Evolution of Form (1990) the key images were created with the 'Evolutionary' interface, developed in collaboration with the scientists Stephen Todd and Peter Quarendon, which combines chance mutations and artistic choices and use three-dimensional textures, ray-tracing, and multiple light sources. According to Latham they "developed a new Art evolution Programme called Mutator. Thanks to this programme artists decide from an aesthetic point of view which forms to retain and which to destroy. It's sort of natural selection controlled by the artist." 17

Michael Bret, of the Paris University Research Laboratory, has created a semi-abstract language in his subtle computerised animations of the one million-pixel surface. Bret's 'Anyflo' system of three-dimensional animation and synthesis uses his own concept of Procedural Art. The computer is more than just a tool for him; it is a 'meta-tool' that is used to manufacture tools. With such apparatus, visual artists no longer produce a work, but the process that generates it. And they are no longer interested in the physical characteristics of the object, but in the laws that enable the object to appear and exist. By simulating the creative act, i.e. manipulating a model, the visual artist can explore all its potentialities and change them at will.

Of this type of work, i.e. sculptures and installations - there is a further sub division - one where the computer is the support of the work itself - no longer only as a representational or interactive intermediary - but the medium handles a collection of images or controls their manipulation.

Edmond Couchot realised The Bird's Feather in collaboration with specialist in flight simulation (SOGITEC), which is a three-dimensional image that can be transformed in real time through the computer by means of the spectator's breath. In the 1990 version, I Sow to the Four Winds, Couchont made an impressive demonstration of subtle interactivity. In the piece a large dandelion head movers very slowly on a screen under the influence of a light 'virtual' breeze. When the spectator breathes on the screen, the pressure of the air detaches clumps of seeds that scatter and softly fall. The spectator can continue to blow nothing remains to dislodge. Then a complete flower appears on the screen and the game, always different, begins again.

Couchant offers the following explanation: "By digital processing the image decomposes itself into its ultimate constituents - pixels? it confers on the properties of the traditional image - photography, cinema, television, painting? the fluidity of numbers and language, the capacity to respond to the slightest demands of viewer to the most unexpected. The digital process of decomposition makes the image unstable, mobile, motile, changeable, penetrable." 18


The potential of these new technologies to engage people in creative endeavour and exchange and to challenge our preconceptions about art and the creative process is enormous. But what are the ways ahead?

As Lisa Haskel questions, "Is this fascination with the relationship between art and technology a phenomenon that is bound to appear, disappear and resurge with regular pendulum swings, or else perhaps within predictable social and political conditions? Or is science and technology now such an integral part of everyday life that its role within the arts can only now grow exponentially?" 19

Perhaps Paul Brown right when he suggests, "Over the intervening 40 years since Cybernetic Serendipity the field has matured and it's my expectation that in this opening decade of the 21st century that we will see the first blossoming of a new paradigm for the arts emerging from the studio's of our youngest artists. Artists who were not even conceived in 1968. They will show us what the new media can do. This 40-year hiatus from 1962 allows the technology to develop and mature. But far more importantly it enables this new generation to emerge and inform us all. It's also a generation who's minds are not steeped in metaphors for the media paradigms of the past and who will be able to recognise and express the true nature of the media of the future." 20

Or as the Editorial of Wired Magazine, December 1997 asks, "Can we build a new kind of politics? Can we construct a more civil society with our powerful technologies? Are we extending the evolution of freedom among human beings?"
Is the last word with Barbrook, "At the end of the millennium, three centuries of capitalist industrialisation are culminating in the emergence of digital anarcho-communism. The New Left no longer want to change the methods of production. Instead, its philosophers call for the replacement of disciplined labour by spontaneous desire: the 'refusal of work'. The proletarian had been turned into the artist. When working people finally have enough time and resources, they can then concentrate upon '...art, love, play, etc., etc.; in short, everything which makes Man [and Woman] happy. 21" 22

The future's bright, the future is digital.


1. Website: Brown, P 30 Years on - Remembering Cybernetic Serendipity,
2. Website: Haskel, L (1998) Time Machine, "http://mediaartprojects.org.uk/timemachine.html"
3. There are many web sites promoting the teachings of the holy prophets, such as Web Deleuze, Deleuze and Guattari Homepage; How To Make Yourself a Plane of Consistency; The Deleuzeguattarionary; and WWW Resources for Gilles Deleuze and F?lix Guattari.
4. Article: Barbrook, R (2001) The Holy Fools
5. Website: Haskel, L (1998) Time Machine,"http://mediaartprojects.org.uk/timemachine.html"
6. Article: Barbrook, R (2001) The Holy Fools
7. Book: Popper, F (1993) Art Of The Electronic Age, Thames & Hudson Ltd, p. 28
8. Article: Metzger G (1959) from the Auto-destructive art manifesto, published in SIGNALS, Sept 1964.
9. Website: Brown, P. (1998) Emergent Culture "http://www.paul-brown.com/WORDS/EMCULT.HTM"
10. Book: Gips, T Computers In Art, ibid, p. 231
11. Book: Reichardt, J (1971) The Computer In Art, Studio Vista Ltd, p. 8
12. Book: Popper, F (1993) Art Of The Electronic Age, Thames & Hudson Ltd, p. 121


Book: Reichardt, J (1971) The Computer In Art, Studio Vista Ltd

Book: Popper, F (1993) Art Of The Electronic Age, Thames & Hudson Ltd

Website: Haskel, L (1998) Time Machine, < http://mediaartprojects.org.uk/timemachine.html

Website: Csuri, Charles A. HYPERLINK http://www.aec.at/prix/kunstler/Eccsuri.html

Website: Brown, P 30 Years on - Remembering Cybernetic Serendipity, <HYPERLINK http://www-ctiad.adh.bton.ac.uk/ctiad/outline/OUTLINE6/general/brown/brown.html

Website: Brown, P. (1998) Emergent Culture HYPERLINK http://www.paul-brown.com/WORDS/EMCULT.HTM

Website: Brown, P opening address to Constructs and Re-Constructions exhibition of Ernest Edmunds http://creative.lboro.ac.uk/eae/exhibition/paul.html

Website: Cybernetic Serendipity back to Timeline http://www.badmindtime.com/tools/Timeline%20Project/AVM/WebPages/webpage1.htm