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Art & Theory
Panorama from the Bridge (A Little Historical Background) - Part 1 of 3
by Rodrigo Alonso

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Paloma 72


If we were to characterize the century that is ending, most people would agree that change and transformation have been its two most salient aspects. In contrast to what happened in other historic eras, the twentieth century world in which we live is unstable, in a constant state of flux. A world which our ancestors never imagined and which our descendants will soon classify as obsolete. The legitimacy and social diffusion of the rapid changes in material conditions and styles of thought during the past hundred years is due, in large part, to developments in the fields of science and technology. Although post-modern thought has questioned its value and achievements, the fact is that technological-scientific growth has left its mark on our society and culture. As products of that technology, video and digital art have penetrated the field of artistic endeavor very rapidly. In Argentina, after the pioneering experiments of the '60s and '70s, video achieved legitimacy as an artistic discipline midway through the decade of the '80s, followed by digital art during the next decade.

The history of digital art in Argentina, as in most countries of the world, reflects both aesthetic-cultural as well as socio-economic factors. The lack of access to technology has meant that computer art had to wait until very recently to achieve the full impetus that has established it among the aesthetic options of contemporary Argentine art. Of course there are prior events, pioneers, and predecessors. As early as 1967, Marta Minujin , who was invited to take part in Expo '67 in Montreal, used a late-model computer to select participants for her work Circuit/Super-Heterodyne . They were arranged in groups by a showcase IBM according to common characteristic traits. At the Di Tella Institute in Buenos Aires, a sound laboratory equipped with digital technology produced works of notable importance in the field of audio experimentation.

In Argentina, we can date the origins of the relationship between art and the digital image to 1969, when Jorge Glusberg organized the show Arte y Cibernética (Art and Cybernetics) at the Bonino Gallery in Buenos Aires. On that occasion, six Argentine artists exhibited works created at the Centro de Cálculo of the ORT School, together with North American, English, and Japanese artists. The exhibition proposal demonstrated a specific desire to experiment in the new field of digital imaging, to try out the aesthetic possibilities of a tool that, until that moment, had been considered merely a sophisticated storage system.

The inconvenience of making use of digital technology during the following years, together with the lack of interest in the images proposed by the artists at the end of the '60s, discouraged national production for some years. The phenomenon resulted from developments in information theory and the linguistic proposals of aesthetic conceptualism, which emphasized the communicative and informational aspects of artistic activity, and relegated the production of images to a secondary place in creative activity. To all this we should add (if the discussion were not geared to Argentine art) to the always prickly relationship between the unique and the reproducible in art. The limited opportunities in the artistic market for art that is easily reproduced is a situation that dates from the beginning of this century, and that, even today, presents a problem of acceptance in relation to photography. This has been and continues to be discouraging to producers of digital art.

Computer imaging is again in the battlefield between design and publicity. From these two arenas it has been extended to video art and, to a lesser degree, the plastic arts mainly because of support. While video, even in its analog days, allowed for the use of digital imaging, it was only recently that systems became available to transfer computer images to physical form. With the incorporation of digital support, computer networks, increased memory capacity, and software specifically designed to handle images, the panorama changed radically. Today, digitally produced art has become increasingly well known and many artists are beginning to feel more and more at ease in their universe of virtual creations.

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