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115 Years: Frame to Mainframe

Nam June Paik, Li Tai Po,1987.


In the postwar era, the art world’s interest in technology has ebbed and flowed. ARTnews kept abreast of art-and-tech developments, from early experiments with robotics to video, computers, television, and the rise of net art.

February 1965

[Enrique] Castro-Cid built a series of anthropomorphic machines and set them on raised white platforms where they perform various mysterious activities. One waves its arms steadily while his (?) open back allows us to watch the motor that is inside operating. . . . They are fun and a little scary.
—“Reviews and previews,” by T. Berrigan


1966 ARTnews Annual

It is not strange that the idea of art as a means of alerting people to the confining and distorting powers of their culture and environment should have a vogue in the electronic age.
—“Art as Anti-Environment,” by Marshall McLuhan


September 1968

[“Cybernetic Serendipity” at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London] offered a general grounding in the theory and practice of computerdom, together with some illustrations of the ways in which computers can run parallel, at a certain level, with creativity in the arts. Tacked on to this were some adventures, most of them facetious and peripheral, in the adaptation of the computer to the already-existing human activities. Walking a tight-rope between pedagogy and entertainment, the show was genuinely awesome in its didactic phases: elsewhere it suggested that not much genuine progress has been made since the heyday of pianola-roll.
—“London,” by John Russell


September 1971

The idea of using a human being as a power source and/or switch, which is about all that [Robert] Rauschenberg is doing [in a project at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s “Art and Technology” show], is if considered seriously possibly humiliating. But the part of the art world from which Rauschenberg comes hardly considers anything seriously anymore. . . . The ideas are too potent and too equivocal in their consequences. In this context it is interesting to observe that interactive art is not inherently or necessarily technological.
—“Art and the Corporations,” by David Antin


Summer 1977

Would there be a call for computer art critics, their insightful, critical printouts reading something like, “The works of Computer 352911 operated effectively on the emotional subsystem of this observer, exercising my ability to understand new and complex structures and setting my compiler whirling”?
—“Can computers be programmed to appreciate art?”


The cover of the February 1993 issue of ARTnews.

May 1982

Surveying [Nam June] Paik’s work, avant-garde patriarch John Cage once asked, “What is this thing called art?” And then he answered simply, “TV.” With Paik, the first artist effectively to test the tube, the medium conveyed a message about its potential. Today, museums and colleges have video departments, quite separate from film, and video art—a lot of it without Paik’s wit and imagination—can be seen in galleries, lofts, workshops and on public television. Paik looks upon the video art movement as being as inevitable as the space shuttle. He is very quick with the provocative statement, such as “The cathode ray tube [TV screen] will replace the canvas.”
—“Tuning in to Nam June Paik,” by Paul Gardner


April 2001

Internet art, or Net art, constitutes a set of digital art, generally defined as art created with computer code or digitized information. . . . And despite uncertainty surrounding what it means to own, exhibit, create or simply view works, computer-aided art is gaining credibility from collectors and institutions, who are not only buying it but commissioning it too.
—“The New New-Media Blitz,” by Carly Berwick


December 2002

Today, online works are being produced in versions suitable to hang in a gallery or home, and the source code is kept private. . . . [Artists’] ability to profit from their work, however marginally, has ignited a debate framed in terms of community (shared, freely available work) versus capitalism (for sale).
—“Net Gains,” by Carly Berwick


June 2013

[A]s the Web has evolved, so too has the notion of what might be considered Internet art. . . . For [Ed] Fornieles, who divides his time between London and Los Angeles, going from the virtual to the physical is simply representative of the way he thinks. “I studied sculpture, but I like moving from one medium to another. Why shouldn’t the work I make reflect a bit of that ADD mentality?”
—“The New World of Net Art,”
by Carolina A. Miranda


Petra Cortright, VVEBCAM (still), 2007.


September 1, 2016

Ironically for a field so young, net art, new media art, post-internet art, born-digital art—or whatever you’d like to call artwork that is dependent on, engages with, or is influenced by digital technologies, networks, and the social and cultural practices that surround these infrastructures—has a legacy problem. . . . [Art and technology nonprofit] Rhizome turned 20 this year, but there is a saying among its inner circle that it’s older than the Metropolitan Museum of Art in internet years. There’s a certain logic to this. Because the web runs on novelty, Web 1.0—the term used to describe the early days of the internet when it was closer to a document-delivery system made up of static web pages—can sometimes seem more distant than the 19th century. Last December, on the eve of Rhizome’s anniversary, it received one hell of a present in the form of a $600,000, two-year Mellon grant—the largest grant it had ever received—to continue developing a tool called Webrecorder that could revolutionize the way online artworks are preserved for future audiences.
—“A Net Art Pioneer Evolves with the Digital Age: Rhizome Turns 20,” by Maximilíano Durón


Spring 2017

“The idea of using technology as it’s being invented in your own time—people think it’s the future, but it’s not the future. You’re living in it.”
—Lynn Hershman Leeson, from “A New Future from the Passed,” by Alex Greenberger


A version of this story originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of ARTnews on page 74.

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