4. The Development of Computer Art

The computer was adopted into visual art occurred because it entered the practice of several existing artforms & movements that could accommodate it. These artforms included: mathematical art; Abstract Animation; Constructivism and the Bauhaus; and Kinetic Art and Art & Technology. Each of these incorporated a technological or systematic aesthetic that lent itself to development on early computers; even their vector graphics displays were suggestive of linear abstract art. Partly because “Computer Art” originated in a variety of preceding artforms, it carried with it a body of expectation inherited from the artistic culture of the 1960s and before.

The theorists of that period believed that a Computer Art “movement” would appear, similar to Art & Technology, but their hopes faded as interest in Computer Art waned in the early 1970s. Reasons for this included the difficulties of programming, the problems encountered by artist/engineer collaborations, the lack of progress in computer graphics hardware, and the rise of the Graphical User Interface allowing for other ways of working with digital images. The Computer Art that appeared from the mid-1980s was heavily based around GUI machines and marked the start of a new approach to the visual computer. Ultimately, the very fact that Computer Art now flourishes whilst other technological artforms from the 1960s failed is due to the open-ended nature of the computer itself. It bears reinvention and reinterpretation.