Friday, September 23, 2011

I have returned! with early computer generated art

I've been organizing the studio and came across a trove of computer art which I created in the early 1980s, when computer art was at a very early stage. The Mac had not yet introduced all the graphics that are now common, and what was available to students of the medium at that time was a complex system.

I was progressing through a self directed program of art studies,with the guidance of a number of exhibiting artists who thought I should definitely go on and exhibit work. So this was a way of, among all the printmaking and drawing and papermaking and other studio arts, finding a very new medium and seeing what I could do with it.

At that time there was no scanning. What we had to do was a whole series of delicate steps culminating in an image grab. This would take an entire 5.25 size disk, the only type in existence then, and took all kinds of acrobatics on the part of the artist.

Great fun, it involved a setup like a theater organ, with two fullsize PCs, no Macs available, one with a keypad for entering commands, one with a stylus and pad for drawing what would appear like magic on the screen. Huge adventure, and I spent a lot of a year doing this in the intervals of having to go to work to earn a living to enable me to do this. And it did entail computer knowledge and the ability to make string commands, as well as working with all the other requirements of art.

But several of the pieces you see here won awards of various kinds. And seeing them on a screen is their true medium. At that time the only way to exhibit them was to set up a 35 mm film roll inside the works of the computer, scary stuff, and shoot what was on the screen, except that you had to make all kinds of adjustments to allow for the difference between a backlit screen and a film image.

The technicians at the photo place where I used to take my work each week to get it developed were very intrigued and just couldn't grasp that these images only existed in a disk, that they weren't a photograph of a thing. I spent a lot of time talking about this with them, because they were fascinated at this new thing going on. There were only two printers in the US which could actually print out this output, one at CalTech, and I forget where the other was. But for most of the world, it was make a film shot and get it developed.

Anyway, here are some of my works. the ones that look like sculpture are in fact virtual sculpture -- the program enabled me to turn the image exactly like a physical sculpture and work on all sides. But there wasn't enough memory in the system to image more than one side, so I had to choose which would be the "front".

Some of the best fun I had was in forcing the program to get all upset and confused by deliberating putting in commands too fast, so as to create a kind of tumbling effect as all the colors and shapes collided with one another and made amazing new effects. Unfortunately the manufacturers caught these loopholes and "fixed" them, dangit.

Then the college donated all its pcs and cards to the prison system (couldn't sell them, federal money, so they had to find a good new home) and short of committing some major crime and getting into the Clinton Women's Correctional Facility, my computer adventures on the PC came to an end. The college replaced the PCs with Macs, which I found so boring and predictable and programmed, not much room for new thought, that I moved on into other areas of art, on to new adventures.


Anonymous said...

Some of those are most interesting, and I enjoyed the commentary too.

annie (google-less again)

dianesowo said...

Love that bird! Actually, all of them are beautiful, but that bird is awesome!!!

Minimiss said...

Woo-hoo, they are amazing.