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About

History

The three founder members of the Society – Alan Sutcliffe, George Mallen and John Lansdown – had been involved with computing and its related concepts for some time. They knew Jasia Reichardt, the curator of Cybernetic Serendipity (1968) and had participated, in or advised, on aspects of the exhibition. Sutcliffe was involved with the Cybernetic Serendipity through his collaboration with composer Peter Zinovieff and Electronic Music Studios (EMS). Mallen was working with the English cybernetician Gordon Pask at Systems Research and assisted on the production of the interactive robotic work Colloquy of Mobiles shown at the exhibition. Although not mentioned in the catalogue credits, Reichardt knew and respected Lansdown, who from 1963, had used computing techniques in architectural design and planning.

The original idea for a society dedicated to the computer arts (which was to become the Computer Arts Society) was instigated by Sutcliffe at the IFIP (International Federation for Information Processing) Congress in August 1968 in Edinburgh. Sutcliffe and Zinovieff had won second prize with ZASP, their piece of computer-composed music. Members of the Congress suggested to Sutcliffe that he might like to convene a meeting of people working in a similar field whilst they were all together at the Congress, as most had not had a chance to meet like-minded persons outside their own team before. Sutcliffe collated the names of interested individuals and the group formed out of this, with the first meetings in London held in a room belonging to University College London, in or near Gower Street in September 1968. Subsequent meetings were often held at the offices of Lansdown's architectural practice (he became the Secretary with Sutcliffe the Chairman and Mallen, Treasurer).

The Computer Arts Society was founded to encourage the creative use of computers and to allow the exchange of information in this area. It was recognised that this was an area where there had been increasing activity, but with little formal publication of methods and results and little communication between artists in different fields (music, visual, performing arts, and so on).

Recent Activities

The Computer Arts Society originally ran from 1968 until 1985. In 2002 the CACHe project at the Vasari Lab in the School of History of Art and Visual Media, Birkbeck, University of London began to digitise and catalogue the image holdings of the Society and related archives. This resulted in a re-establishment of the Computer Arts Society in 2004. The core archive was then acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum and now forms part of their Computer Art Collections.

Two books, A Computer in the Art Room: The Origins of British Computer Arts 1950-1980 (2008) by Catherine Mason and White Heat Cold Logic: British Computer Art 1960-1980 (2009) by Paul Brown, Catherine Mason, Charlie Gere and Nicholas Lambert, have been published that detail the early history of computer art, including the early CAS period.

A follow-up project entitled Computer Art and Technocultures, based jointly at Birkbeck and the Victoria and Albert Museum ran from December 2009 until April 2010. This project ran a symposium, Ideas Before Their Time, at the British Computer Society, and a two-day conference, Decoding the Digital, at the V&A on 4th-5th February 2010.

Since re-forming in 2004, the Computer Arts Society has run an extensive speaker programme from its base at the British Computer Society in London, as well as from other London venues, and more recently in Leicester.

The Society also runs the annual Electronic Visualisation & the Arts (EVA) conference in London. Through its status as a Specialist Group of the British Computer Society it is regularly able to support exhibitions and other computer art activities throughout the year.

The Computer Arts Society is currently creating an Online Archive of its activities over the past 50 years.

Overview

Aims

The Computer Arts Society (CAS) promotes the creative uses of computers in the arts and culture generally. It is a community of interest for all involved in doing, managing, interpreting and understanding information technology's cultural potential.

Events

Regular meetings are held in London and elsewhere in the UK. See the Events Guide for details.

BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT

The CAS is a Specialist Group of the BCS.

Membership

The Computer Arts Society is free to join. If you are a BCS member you can manage your specialist group memberships via the BCS website. You may then want to join the CAS email list. Non BCS members can simply join the email list.

Archiving Computer Arts

The original CAS was active from 1968 until the mid 1980s. There were significant archives of material from this era, mainly stored in homes and offices of people then active in the group. The CAS has worked closely with CACHe, a project in the Department of History of Art, Film and Visual media at Birkbeck, University of London, documenting UK computer arts in the years to 1980.

This lead to a wider interest in the archiving, study and presentation of computer arts from earlier years. We now maintain an Online Archive.

Present & Future Computer Arts

With so many novel and exciting developments in the creative uses of computers in the arts the society has resumed its original aims of bringing together those active in this area.

Collaboration

The society holds joint events with other BCS Specialist Groups and other professional groups and associations.

Education

The CAS plans to have an educational role in making students more aware of early work in computer arts and in helping artists to use computers creatively. CAS recently merged with CADE - Computers in Art and Design Education.