A Bit of Computer Art and Design History

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From 1961–1973, five international exhibitions were organized under the title New Tendencies in Zagreb, Croatia/Yugoslavia. This brought to light new approaches to art that included the early introduction of the computer. Monoskop, a Wiki for collaborative studies of the arts, media and humanities, chronicles aspects of this heretofore lost techno-art movement, which is further explored in depth in A Little-Known Story About a Movement, a Magazine, and the Computer’s Arrival in Art: New Tendencies and Bit International 1961–1973 (MIT Press and KZM: Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany, 2011). Edited by Margit Rosen, it’s a brick of a volume.

New Tendencies poster

From the New Tendencies site:

The 1961 exhibition of concrete and constructive art Nove tendencije in Zagreb launched into a dynamic movement dedicated to visual research. Around the mid-1960s, the New Tendencies triggered an international Op-Art-boom, which was endorsed by participation in an exhibition entitled The Responsive Eye, at the New York MoMA, in 1965. However, success brought the New Tendencies no closer to its aims: the assertion of ‘art as research’ and the establishment of new forms of distribution beyond the art market, which should be accessible to everyman.

The organizers of the New Tendencies decided to bring their strategy up-to-date and, in the summer of 1968, initiated in the context of the fourth exhibition, Tendencije 4, the program [on the] Computer and Visual Research. In 1968 the movement decided to incorporate into its program the computer as a medium of artistic work so as to thereby assert its Avant Garde claim and to contribute to the definition of a technology which, as one quite rightly presumed, would define the future of civilization. Until 1973 the supporting institution of the New Tendencies, the former Gallery of Contemporary Art Zagreb—today the Museum of Contemporary Art—had dedicated itself to artistic research by computer with a series of international exhibitions and symposia. At the peak of the Cold War, artists and scientists throughout the world presented their work in Zagreb. The New Tendencies thus established a unique platform for the exchange of ideas and experiences from the area of art, the natural sciences and engineering.

New Tendencies 4 by Ivan Picelj

With the nine issues of the multi-lingual journal Bit International (1968–73), Zagreb became a point of initiation for aesthetics and media-theoretical thought.

The organizers of New Tendencies initially sought to consciously accompany and form the historical transition in which the computer was perceived as medium of artistic creation. They set computer-generated works in relation to Constructive and Kinetic art (1968/69) and to Conceptual art (1973). The arts of the electronic media were not considered as an isolated phenomenon but rather incorporated into the history and discourse of fine- and performing arts.

journal Bit International 1
journal Bit International 2
journal Bit International 3
journal Bit International 4
journal Bit International 5+6
journal Bit International 7

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