“Agents of Social Change in 1960s and 1970s Digital Art” by Darko Fritz

the talk will take place on 20th of December 2014 at 14:30 at Akbank Sanat

Dutch art scene of the 1960s and 1970s was impregnated with rebellion, anarchistic and other leftist positions and social activism. Such positions are marked by hybrid of art and activism conducted by Provo (1965 – 1967). From almost opposite discourse, the majority of early digital arts of 1960s and 1970s propelled the fascination with machines, science, rationality and values of emerging information society, proposing different methodologies of social changes. There were only a few practitioners that involved critical thought in early digital arts in general. This talk aims to map out an important but little known branch of politically and socially engaged early digital arts as it developed in the Netherlands before 1980. Examples are drawn from the work of several artists, and activities of the networks STEIM (1969) and Computer Art Society Holland (1970). 
Luis Andriessen participated in composing collaborative opera dedicated to Che Guevara and later composed ‘Volkslied’, where Dutch national anthem with the help of computers morphed into the socialist hymn ‘The International’. Victor Wentnik developed notions of decentralized ‘horizontal computing’ as opposition to power structures and embodied it in several artworks. Michael Fahres’ ‘Mobilodrom’ is an electric car that drove through the cities of Zagreb, Amsterdam and Monchengladbach, collected and processed environmental information in real time and digitally manipulated sounds of the both alarm and wails (as extinct spices). Because of its environmental activist program, this work promoted the very first public appearance of newly founded Dutch department of the Greenpeace. In Remko Scha’s ‘nixmur (automatisering)’ gallery installation, computer prints out the text of anti-Vietnam war slogan ‘Nixon murderer’ endlessly. As the slogan was officially banned in Netherlands and therefore protesters were shouting it rather than writing it on their banners, the machine here took ‘responsibility’ for the action performed in public space. All mentioned artworks made use of originally programmed computer software, and mostly custom-designed circuit bending alongside unexpected ways of using commercial digital hardware.
Such a range of political and social subjects and practices appear at the general scene of digital arts only later – in the 1990s, and become dominant discourse in contemporary media arts practices until today.

Darko Fritz is artist and independent curator. He studied architecture in Zagreb and fine art at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam.

His research on histories of international media art resulted in several publications and exhibitions that went public since 2000, when he curated the first retrospective exhibition of historic international digital art, “I am Still Alive” (early computer-generated art and recent low-tech and internet art) in Zagreb. He has curated “CLUB.NL – contemporary art and art networks from the Netherlands”, Dubrovnik, 2000; “Bit International – Computers and Visual Research, [New] Tendencies, Zagreb 1961—1973”, Neue Galerie, Graz, 2007 and ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2008 and co-edited with M. Gattin, M. Rosen and P. Weibel related catalogue/book “A Little-Known Story about a Movement, a Magazine, and the Computer’s Arrival in Art: New Tendencies and Bit International, 1961-1973”, ZKM, Karlsruhe / MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2011; Reconstruction: private=public=private=public=, Belgrade, 2009 and “Angles and Intersections” (co-curated with Nina Czegledy, Ellena Rosi and Peter Dobrila, artisitc director Christiane Paul), Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rijeka, 2009.

2002, he published “A Brief Overview of Media Art in Croatia (Since the 1960s)” and edited related database at the portal Culturenet. In 2010 he start the research “The beginning of digital arts in the Netherlands (1955 – 1980)”, awarded by grants by Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam.

Fritz is founder and programmer of the grey) (area – space for contemporary and media art since 2006

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