<< preface

this blog is nina wenhart's collection of resources on the various histories of new media art. it consists mainly of non or very little edited material i found flaneuring on the net, sometimes with my own annotations and comments, sometimes it's also textparts i retyped from books that are out of print.

it is also meant to be an additional resource of information and recommended reading for my students of the prehystories of new media class that i teach at the school of the art institute of chicago in fall 2008.

the focus is on the time period from the beginning of the 20th century up to today.

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>> Charles Csuri, "Random War", "Humming Bird", mid 1960ies

Charles Csuri on http://www.siggraph.org/artdesign/profile/csuri/artworks/plot/plot.html:
"I was fascinated by the idea of being able to do transformations on a drawing. The work of Sir D'Arcy Thompson the noted biologist and mathematician was of great interest to me. His book Growth and Form was first published in 1917 and another edition in 1961. He illustrated the use of a 2D grid system to make transformations on a drawing.

His work had an influence upon the analogue computer art I created in 1963. Beginning in 1964 I began creating my first digital images. These images were generated with fortran programs which ran on an IBM 7094 computer. This computer was much slower than today's personal computers and one had to submit a job for processing.

For computer graphics the 7094 had as output cards about 4 x 7 inches with holes in them which contained information to drive a drum plotter. Boxes of cards could represent a single image. The cards were entered into a card reader on an IBM 1130 computer with a plotter device. These punch cards had the information to move the pen and pick the pen up or down as well as programmed instructions for end of line, etc."

You might also want to read th ehistory of the Computer Graphics Research Group (CGRG) at the Ohio State University, the university, where Charles Csuri taught:

--> early animation
--> morphing

Jasia Reichardt, "The Computer in Art", 1971
"Unlike so many artists involved in the development of a relationship between art and technology who have to rely entirely on help from engineers and technicians in order to realize their ideas, Csuri is a competent programmer and is capable of designing systems to suit his own purposes. His centennial project was the first of this kind in a university, involving fourteen departments contributing their skills and equipment. The exhibition involved decision-making on the part of the audience in the form of evaluation and participation. Csuri has gone beyond that area of computer graphics which is limited to transformations from one image to another, or indeed transformations of a single image, according to a set of predetermined principles. As we sshall see later, it is no longer possible to talk about computer-generated graphics as an art medium without mentioning environmental art, cybernetic systems and spectator participation - events which have grown out of and around the idea of converting images into their equivalents either in sound or movement. Typical of the sort of possibility that computer technology offers beyond the two-dimensional works on paper, Csuri's venture, like other exhibitions dealing with the computer and the arts, was open-ended - there was nothing absolutely finite either about the results produced or the possibilities encountered. Apart from the on-line drawing controls, there were television sets on which one could alter colour, movement or shape, screen projection of pictures controlled by signals from the spectator's body, as well as an electronic sound laboratory where visitors could make their own sound sequences. The other important and significant aspect of this sort of venture is that it is a do-it-yourself platform where those involved are not strictly divided into two categories of those admiring and those admired. This has a far more sociological implication than one might immediately realize judging by the results, most of which have no significant aesthetic value.
Charles Csuri's own work has also undergone some changes since he first made computer graphics in 1967. He became increasingly involved in the development of a real-time interactive environment for computer film animation. Csuri writes:
'Basically this is what I can do now, I sit in front of a cathode ray tube display and draw images upon the screen with a light pen. The drawing routine has been designed with an artist in mind rather than an engineer. These cathode ray tube drawings can be background images and abstract structures as well as representational images. A computer program stores the data which represents drawings on a disc, and I can, through program control, read them into animation programs also stored on the disc. With the light pen I draw the path I wish a drawing to follow, in fact I can draw several paths for several drawings on the same screen. Then I type the parameters which control speed, rotation and transformation changes (permutations) of each drawing on the screen. The computer reacts so quickly that once I depress the last key of my message, the images move like a motion picture display on a television set. All the calculations representing the hundreds of individual frames for moving pictures are done so rapidly that it happens like a film. If I don't like the result I can change it within a few seconds and see the new result again to judge time, speed, shape and position. For a zoom effect I draw the path which can be any path and press a function key to witness the effect. I can try out several dozen combinations withon one hour. Throug a switch on the control panel of the computer I can have the images generated for a stop action filming. We have built some electronic circuitry to automatically control the camera. The computer keeps track of my frame count which is very useful if I want to back up the film on the motion picture camera and overlay one moving image upon another one. It also calculates the number of frames required, say 2 per second, 10 per second, 31 per second, and so forth for smooth real-time motion. Recently we also developed a three-dimensional computer animation program for rotation, projection and translation. I can take a three-dimensional drawing (x,y,z, coordinates) and move it along a path in three dimensions and change its shape and size as it is in motion. From my point of view a program to control three-dimensional moving images (a real-time environment) is a significant one. This program represents quite an achievement fo rthe project. In another program I can animate any part of a drawing independent of the other parts. For example, if I use a line drawing representing a face, I can move an eye, eyebrow, nose, ear, mouth, and so forth in real-time. There are several other things we can do in computer animation but it would take considerable detail to explain them.
My computer-animated film Hummingbird cost about $12.000 in compuet time to make and that was in 1967. By comparison that is, assuming 10 minutes of animation, I am now making more complex films in a spontaneous manner in living color for $120, and that includes costs of computer time, film and film processing.'

More recently, Csuri has turned to computer sculpture, of which by the end of 1969 there were only a few examples. Csuri describes a technique for creating a computer sculpture:

'This approach to computer sculpture involves two basic procedures. One procedure is mathematical and involves a computer technique to generate x,y,z, coordinates which represent a three-dimensional form. The second requires a comprehensive set of computer programs which analyze the form for a continuous path, 3 axis milling machine.

Procedure 1:
A unit cube was used in the mathematical technique to develop a three-dimensional surface, which with values between 0 and 1 has certain computational advantages and is a convenient module that permits the development of complicated forms. A modular concept permits the juxtaposition of many unit cubes to achieve a desired aesthetic result. The artist has the option to define the boundary curves on each of the four faces of the unit cube. Once the boundary curves are eestablished they are approximated by equations. These equations generate 100 points along each boundary curve, and the computer program takes an average from all four sides of a cube. An alternative approach is to define the boundary curves on graph paper and then 'read in' their coordinates into the computer program. In figure 36, the two opposite faces with boundary curves, the simple case of how a surface can be defined is demonstrated. As one views figure 35 it is difficult to visualize the interior of the unit cube based on the four boundary curves indicated in the illustration. In thoe instances where lines from opposite curves intersect in the x-y plane but do not meet in the z plane, a mathematical technique was used averaging out the two zs to establish a three-dimensional coordinates of the surface, at the same time preserving the artist's original boundary curves.
In the next step a computer program takes the coordinates, which represent the surface, and makes the necessary calculations for computer drawings. It is a three-dimensinal perspective routine that eliminates hidden lines from a specified viewing angle. The artist can indicate his viewing angle and the computer program with a graphic plotter will give him a representation of the form. Figures 37 to 40 are an example in which a viewing angle of 45° was specified and the form was rotated in four steps through 360°. The hidden line routine also permits the representation of stereo pairs based on the data-set, so that the artist can have some feeling for the three-dimensional experience (fig. 41). There are other inetersting options available to the artist which permit further experimentation. At an operational level, peaks and valleys can be used to manipulate the surface which was developed through the technique of the unit cube. Figure 42 shows an x-y plane,while figure 43 is a representation of several peaks which have been added to the x-y plane. The artist needs only to specify an x,y,z, coordinate (a location on the plane plus a height or depth) for each peak and a computer program handles the problem. There are options in the program to specify the angle of the slope of a peak with variation on each side of the peak. It is also possible to establish a relationship betweeneach of the peaks to give smotth continuity. Valleys or depressions can be made in the same way as peaks, as shown in figure 44. Figure 45 illustrates a combiantion of peaks and valleys.
[...] - to be continued --- i just dont liek to continue typing for the moment

--> key fram animation
-_> compare to the logics of after effects, flash or other animation software now

Charles Csuri:
"In 1963, I used an analog computer to make transformations on my line drawings. It could represent directly mea-surable quantities, and the results could be replicated. I discovered digital computer graphics in 1964, and my world was changed, forever.

Thirty-four years later, I find the problem of art is still the same, which is to create a meaningful structure to reveal aesthetic content. However, I have been affected by computer processes and procedures. I came from a traditional background as an artist, with a relatively simplistic viewpoint about structure and nature. My conception of nature and an object has been expanded by science and computer graphics. I better understand how computer procedures can affect one¹s definition of an object. An object is not simply a geometry. My object has built-in procedures that affect its behavior. Also, when I touch it, my object can make sounds or change its form. It can send messages to other objects.

I see and feel a single object from many points of view. When I make copies of an object, they become captured instances of time representing inner agents and different psychological states. Symbolically, it represents past, pre-sent, and future states and becomes a character within a virtual space. The surrounding atmosphere is symbolic of distance and a time past. Shadows are like an echo of what was once another reality. I try to define a mythological space to express a range of feelings, inner problems, and mysteries."

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... is a Media Art historian and independent researcher. She is currently writing on "speculative archiving && experimental preservation of Media Art" and graduated from Prof. Oliver Grau's Media Art Histories program at the Danube University in Krems, Austria with a Master Thesis on Descriptive Metadata for Media Arts. For many years, she has been working in the field of archiving/documenting Media Art, recently at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Media.Art.Research and before as the head of the Ars Electronica Futurelab's videostudio, where she created their archives and primarily worked with the archival material. She was teaching the Prehystories of New Media Class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and in the Media Art Histories program at the Danube University Krems.