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History of the Digital Arts

Obsolete version. see new version's index.

- A state of the Digital Arts on the beginning of 2014.

The grand narration and its main threads

In this history, our reader will perhaps feel some scattering if not incoherence between the reported facts. That is not surprising : if we consider digital art as a big tree, history starts from the many roots, all around scattered around the trunk. Viewed from decades if not millenia later, a lot of facts may be seen as roots of a future convergenge, and so express a coherence which was fully ignored on that time. For instance, around 1500, technologies are nearly at the same level in China and in Europe. But neither the Chinese nor the Europeans know it. It's only progresively than the small roots form larger ones : theories, technologies and arti practices converge, but you cannot see that when you are at their first start.

From the 20th century on, the number of diital artists grows exponentially : sensibly a doubling every decade, excluding the war decades. But the arrival of micro-computers marks a more important jump in 1990. For the 2010's, we have listed only some 100 artists. That would let expect a form of stabilization... and induces to read our figures with prudence/

To make it simple, digital art was borne with the computer, at the end of the 1940's. But the computer concretizes the convergence of three evolutions : fragmentation/assembly, - dematerialization, autonomy (with complexity).


Something is digital if (and as far as) it has been born out of fragmentation/assembly process ; it is properly digital if the fragmentation has been drilled down to bits. Up to the computers, this fragmentation was not so radical : some cuttings, some systems of oppositions or decomposition into (spare) parts.

Historically, fragmentation/assembly bears on art through:
- language, which is a system of oppositions, according to Saussurre,
- materials, obtained by fragmentation of natural bodies, in such manner that they can more easily used, or afford larger or more complex works,
- social space and time (metrics, clocks, but also decision processes).


Dematerialization is the reduction of matter, time and energy to operate a given function. It goes along with fragmentation/assembly. A beautiful example (not properly artistic, but not so far from it) is the silicon cutting, from the basic pebbles to the mini-chips of silicon crimped into the wood frame of the neolithic sickle. In more recent times, mechanics, electricity and electronics play the major role in dematerialization. But, reciprocally, digitization helps dematerialization, as has been seen from Von Neumann.


Made of many parts, natural then artificial beings grow in complexity. Dematerialization lets them do it within sustainable weigh and energy dissipation limits.

Complexity is a tricky concept. We have tried to make a survey in our tentative ontology of the digital.


Autonomy and motricity

In most of the cases, digitization goes along with acquisition of some autonomy, due to an internal motor ; the fundamental digital motor is the clock, which at regular time intervals, changes from one state (0 or 1, typically, or on/off) to the alternate one. Autonomy is made easier by dematerialization : a paleolithic hunter could extend its domain if he used silicon as points of his arrows and no longer as an improved hammer.

Historically, artists, in each period are afforded new kinds of works by new motors : animals for performance, mills and clocks, then steam and electricity for motors, then electronics to carry the motion into the mere logical and informational components.

The growth, in number of digital artists, is exponential, as shows the curve, drawn from But the computers emergence marked a major step. Today, creations based on artificial life give the most advanced demonstrations, with the building of virtual worlds, true artificial beings, more or less autonomous. And, yet begun todayn the convergence between artificial life research and biology proper [Johnston, 2006].

Prehistory and antiquity

This stone, found in Blomberg, could be the first digital (and generative) work of art. It dates back to 75 000 yers B.C.

Stable and complex structures emerge progressively from the Big Bang chaos, enough to bear anticipated forms or art. Life, digital in its mere principle (DNA), makes sophisticated art with two aims :
- fight, for attacck and defense (prey camouflage, visual exaggerations of predators),
- mating, from floral blossoming of vegetals to courtship display).

In Greece appear two important words from a digital standpoint : organon and logos.

Organon has several meanings (according to our edtion of M.A. Bailly, Dictrionnaire grec-français, Hachette 1929) : an instrument (generally speaking, or war machines or, more important for us, the music instrument in the modern sense) or a part of the body, or a quantity of matter you work on. It also the global title of the Aristotle's works on logics.

Philsophically, that shows that very early, the same terms are used for artefacts and natural (biological) objects. From an art standpoint, the organon as music instrument is a forerunner on several points, as we shall see below.

Logos is both word and logics.

In Rome appears ratio, which it seems has no equivalent in Greek. Here also we get several different meanings (here according to Dictionnaire illustré Latin Français, by Félix Gaffiot, Hachette 1934) : computation (by extension, method), intelligence (as faculty of reasoning) and cause. But not, it seems, in the frequent acception of the term, as a proportion, where Latin uses proportio (and Greek analogia).


Can the evolution from the big bang to mankind analyzed along our lines of digitization ? The first chapter of the Bible tells it that way : "God divided the light from the darkness... and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were over the firmament... ". God, the first digital artist !

One thing is certain, even if it was discovered only in the mid-20th century : some 4 billiions of years ago, it is a digital coded device, the DNA, which allowed life to be borne on Earth.

Then appear the humans. In spite of their small number (around 50 000 in France in palaeolithic times ) and life conditions inshort lives, some humans succeed in creating paintind and sculpting works of high quality. These works are not digital, but foretell it with repetitive shapes and abstract symbols

An important feature of mankind, is the use of tools. And the firts ones are both fragmented (cut flints) and cutting tools (choppers, for instance). Some of them, in the late palaeolithics, were even works of art more than tools (Solutrean laurel leaf points). And, in silicon cutting, for example, a sort of anticipated Moore's law is observed [Leroi-Gourhan], from the most ancient palaeolithic to the end of neolithic, using as scale the length of cutting edge per raw silicon pounds.

Weaving, back to neolithic, shows a form of image pixelization. It is also a typical fragmentation/assemblu process : animal hides or vegetal twigs are reduced to threads then assembled in fabrics.

Much more important, a basic characteristic of humans (shared partly by some big monkey), is the articulated langauge. In other words, to follow Saussure, a system of oppositions, then somehow of (hidden, if you wnat) bits. (Here also, a christian oriented mind will recall the beginninf of Joh's Gospel : "In the beginning was the Word").

The digital nature of language contributed to the emergence of writing. Texts appear in various places and with different aims [Vernus, 2011]. In Occident, after the rather analog characters of Aegypt (hieroglyphs) ant the more strongly binary cuneiforms, an efficient balance between bits and iconic symbols was reached by the Phenicians and their phonetic alphabet of around 25 letters, a model which is dominant today (outside Asia).

At a higher level, fragmentation/assembly procedures appear in a a limited set of words and syntax rules. These can be reinforced, for effectiveness or beauty, on different ways :

- Verse adds to prose a due proportion between security and surprise has to be reached, as explains for instance [Dorchain, 1933] aboute French verse. Verse consrainnts go along with poetic licence, by itself an efficient expression mean. Commenting on English verse [Leech] shows how rule transgression is a major way reaching artistic power.

- Mathematics also use the structuring affordances of writing. These are fed back to plastic arts throug aesthetical canons. Firsty in Aegypt (graphical grids to be reproduced) then in Greece, with the proportional canons [Panofsky, 1969]]In this opposiion between Aegypt and Greece we have a first start of the raster/sampling opposition.

- Philosophy and logics investigate the issue. Plato is rather holistic, but Aristotle is definitevly interested by analysis, for instance in his On the parts of animals.

- The first dictionaries appear in in Sumer (2300 BCE) and the first systematic (Wikipedia), grammars originate in India (sixth century BCE).

A hydraulic organ, 2d or 3d century AD. The organ is digital both ways : the keyboard (fragmentation/assembly) and the motor (hydgraulic in these times). From the website Pianola.

- Music digitizes the pitches, to please our ears are built to sort sounds in series of harmonics. Pythagoras takes it as a model even for the whole universe (the music of the spheres). And the first keyboards are born for the organ. Music also digitizes time structures, with rythms answering to those of breath, heart, walking and dancing. But music instruments are also digital in the aetymological sense ot the term : you use your fingers to play them. The process is partly engaged with string instuments. It goes to a radical limit more present today than ever : the keyboard, created for the organ.

- Architecture formalizes its basic processes of fragmentiation/assembliy : stone cutting (high level digitization, should we say) and powder/paste making (concrete, clay) in order to mold or cast new forms (a deep level of digitization). On a higher level, first for the Greek temples then on wider range of builidings, forms are elementarized (see, later, mainly in the industrial era, for a definition) into orders (doric, ionian, corinthian, mainly), and the assembly rules formalized by by Vitruvius.


The most clear path of dematerialization is the flint tools evolution mentioned above. For the rest, progress is more related toan augmentation of material using and handling. The hunters-gatherers of palaeolithic era, nomadic, could not invest in heavy products. The want of a more secure, stable, comfortable and socially elaborated was probably one of the reasons of the transition towards the cities of the neolithic era. And after that to the growh of larger and larger cities with heavier and heavier public and private estates. But that could be the way to some forms of dematerialization :
- lighter clothes
- lighter communication means, from the carved stone to the papyrus, parchment and wax tablets (to be checked).


Tools, architecture, society structures grow more and more complex. Language then writing allow statis as well operational levels which were out of limits for the first men.


The aeolipile, it remained a toy, or a sort of work of art.

Autonomy and complexity

Antiquity did not go far on this line. Using animals and the wheel, humans reduce their dependance on body strenght to move, then widen their possibility of aesthetic contact. But yet this transfer from human capacities to external objects raises concents : Plato fears that writing leads to the loss of the memorization capacity of the aedes. Grecians and Romans are contemptuous of the "mechanics". They use slaves instead.

Some machines are used to raise heavy stones, and Romans develop war machinery and small mills to grind corn. All that stays out of the fine arts. The Aeolipile could have led Romans to steam energy use, for industry or cineticart. It bremained a sort of toy. Nevertheless we must cite some advances. Industrial processes appear in pottery in pottery (Graufesencque) or small figures (Tanagra), or even models and molds for architecture.

In music, the organ is here also a forerunner, with external (hydraulic) energy. Theater plays use machines.

In sculpture, a kind of motricity and automation is apparent in pottery (Graufesencque) or small figures (Tanagra). But, somehow, architecture also gets some industrial mood, with systematic use of general models (the Doric temple) or the repetitive constructions of civil engineering.

Greece is the triumph of reason (latin ratio) , along two lines
- logic (reasoning reason, ratio ratiocinans) brings a form of autonomy, if not of automatism, at the language level,
- ratios (and rational numbers), which will play an important part in architecture and sculpture, as well as in the music formalisms.

The Middle Ages

Mills, a powerful source of energy, are important to digitization (from the website Medievalists

Three periods

Early Middle Ages

The fall of Rome (408) marks the entrance of Occident (widely speaking) in chaos and structure dissolution, which will be augmented by successive invasions, up to the Norman one. Libraries are burnt, monuments destroyed. In spite of great efforts or restauration (Justinian, Charles the Great, Mahomet), the powerful structures of Antiquity fall in ruins. In Europe, the treaty of Verdun (843) rings the knell of the Roman linguistic unity.

Nevertheles, some great architectural works remain to us, like St Sophia in Istanbul and some Arab palaces and mosques. As a mircale, enclosed in abbeys and castels, small elitic teams, hardly controlled by authoritarian religious systems, preserve part of the antique manuscripts. They even continue the research, mainly on the philosophical field [Libera 1993] and mathematics. The algorists (not in the modern meaning) win over the abacists and, around Gerbert for instance, elaborate a numbering and computation system which goes beyond the Antiques and the Arabs, and prepare the future advances [Ifrah 1998].

High Middle Ages

From the 11th century on, and specially in France, better conditions afford an important growth of ppulations and standards of living. Hence an expansionism which translates itself in the crusates and, culturally, a new supply to Europe of the treasures preserved and developed by the Middle-East.

At the same time, the "pax mongolica", brutal be it, opens during several decades exploratory contacts with the Far East (Marco Polo and several others).

Central powers, kingdom and papacy get new structures. Abbeys flourish, then the towns. Politics becomes mor formal, due to the authority of greak kings who develop their Justice and Exchequers. All the arts take part in the construction and decorations of the cathedrals, who host the sumptuous performances of liturgy and the theatrical representations (mysteries) whic complete them.

These large structures are digital from many standpoints. The kings do a more and more precise accountancy. The cathedral builderes have not the mathematics of today strenght of materials, but they pay great respect to numbers and ratios. Even the theologians sort by numbers their hierarchies of parts, articles and questions. Logic, binary by definition, takes there a large part, as well as a breakdown of issues through series of "distinguo" fully binary.

Late Middle Ages

This explosion of digitization will at last subside :
- rationalism without practical experience leads to absurdity [Huizinga, 1924, 1955]), as the classical cas of the Buridan's donkey : placed between two equivalent troughs, it dies from hunger, unable to choose one of the the two, lacking a logical reason;
- political and religious authorities reassert their control;
- global economy and society are ruined by the Great Plague and worsening climatic conditions.

The great pest and the 100 years war put down economy and politics. Some cathedrals fall down. Anyway, they are two large and too dark, and it is on the smaller human level of local parishes that the flamboyant gothic will flourish (for example in Paris, in Saint Merry, some hundre meters from the Notre Dame cathedral. As for thought, the splendic unity of St Thomas theology and philosophy is quartered between mystics and rationalism. The middle ages die of an overdose of codification an, if I may say, of augmented reality.


Graphical representations progress also, for example with the schemes of Villard de Honnecourt. (See online comments on them by Viollet-le-Duc).

Hierarchical organizations express themselves as well in political structures as in intellectual contraptions (theological "summae"). They manage and crown the intense activity of universities, dealing with all the "arts". And the arts themselves find their synthesical order in the large city cathedrals. ( [Panofsky, 2004], [Duby, 1983] or even, on a fiction form, The Pillars of the Earth [Follet, 2007]).  But, in spite of this strong polarization, universities emerge as large and free generative spaces. In some measure, they remain independent of feudal and religious authorities.

These summits were perhaps a liitle too high for these times.But these take-off and their fall nevertheless will let to the following centuries several semi-auomatic machines which will bring powerful motors to the new generations : mills for corn, iron and drape, gear clocks, logical deductive machines. These machines, in that time, evoke more admiration than fear, as is expressed by the splendid motto in the Conciergerie clock in Paris,

Musical notation. Music ad made some progress in the Middle Ages (neumatic scoring, Gregorian chant).

A page from Thomae Aquinatis Summma (Wikipedia.


Besides, an it's not totally a game of words, Middle Ages see also a rise in monetary practices (money can be calles "numéraire" in French). We are not so far from the fragmentation (value divided in monetary units) and motorization since, as we know even more today, capital is prone to reproduce by itself, which, since antiquity, troubles the moralists (with today expression in islamic banking rules).
Money is digital.



The mere dimensions of summae as well as cathedrals. is impressive. They aim to represent the whole universe.
Money goes with complexity (computation), Fibonacci/

Motorization and autonomy

External energies progress with multiple types of mills [Gimpel, 1975). This time sees also forerunners of the future photography : Camera Obscura (known in Antiquity, transmitted by the Arabs),  optics (Bacon), perhaps even a chemical production of images (it has been supposed about Turin's shroud).

The Conciergerie clock in Paris

The clock is one of the most beautiful machines of this time. Its figures also as a work of art, admirable for its complexity as well as for its precision. The Paris visiors can see a testimony of it in the motto below the Conciergerie clock :
"Machina quae bis sex tam juste dividit hora, justitiam servare monet legesque tueri"
(This machine that, two times six, divides so justly the hours, teaches us to serve justice and protect the law.)

 Dante also celebrates the clock in his Divina Commedia : "Then as a clock which calls us, at the time when the God's spouse arises to make matins to her man to love, whereas a part draws and pushes anorthe one, ringing and tinking in tones so suave that the prepared mind swells with love; so saw I the glorious wheel move and tune its voices in a softness that you cannot know but where joy plays for ever".

Autonomy is also reproductibility. Unversity and its thousands of students demand texts. That leads to textual copy more productive that the "meditative" copy of the abbeys. [Panofsky, 2004].

Islamic ornament : generativity

Logic : the Aristotlean syllogism and logic in general offer a proposition generative system. And the algorithms (Gerverb) give "automatically" computed results. Arts take profit of this line of thought, as prove for example the "alicatados" in Grenada's Alhambra or the Seljukid mosaics.

We see even a first attempt go algorithmic music generation : in 1026, Guido D’Arezzo, besides inventor of bar in musical scoring, has the idea of a composition associating a pitch to each wovel. inventeur de la notation musicale par barres, a l'idée d'une composition algorithmique associant une note à chaque voyelle [Edwards, 2011].



Index of Renaissance artists quoted by diccan.

The context

Renaissance is both
- a continuation of Middle-Ages progress in science, technology and trts
- a break, voluntarily explicit as such by its authors.

The Italian artists lead the way. Petrarca the poet. Then Rome, Firenze, Venice. Within two centuries, the world changes dramatically. Important scientific discoveries, colonial expantion through the Atlantic, decline of the Middle East (The Far East falls asleep, by Emperor's decision).



Gutenberg movable types.

Gutenberg movable characters
The printing process by itself is a step in fragmentation inside the creation process. The direct relation betwen the author (writer, painter) and the work is now cut, and replaced by a series of steps, with an intermediary "original" (lead types, metal etching), used by an ulterior reproduction process (the press).


Optics ?




Autonomy and motricity

The concept of machine emerges in its full power. It appeals to thinkers like. Francis Bacon, who writes in 1630 [Bacon, 1630, 1960] : « We shall get out sound and safe only if we take again from its basis all the work of spirit, and so that spirit be not left to itself, but be constantly guided, that the thing be done as like a machine".

Opposition are not absent. In political matters, for example, the pre-scientific laws developped by Machiavel are seen as "machinatiosn". But, at their highest level, arts and sciences cooperate, supported by exceptional minds, of which Leonardo da Vinci remains the emblem, artist and "machinist" at the same time.

Music : computation of melodical combines and harmonies (counterpoint).

Autonomy of the language. And Viete, a mathematician, starts a fundamental revolution in mathematics, which bear its fruits with Descartes an Leibniz. Text is digital from start. But, until then, whad counted was mainly speech, told by a person. Now it takes value for itself. For the traditional religions, sacred texts had to be heard or read only under authority of a sacred person, or at least surrounded by authorized comments (Talmud for judaism, hadith for Islam). For the Reformed churches, the Bible becomes direct relation of the faithful to God ; the "free examination" frees them from any ecclesiastical auhority, they can appropriate the sacred text and draw out of it their own convictions.

Alberti, lhe perspective of "construzione leggitima"

The "Motorisation" goes along with a progress in fragmentation/assembly, with the movable types of Gutenberg (Wikipedia).

Reproduction comes at the same time for images with the developments given by Dürer (among many texts, Albert Durer by Pierre Du Colombier. Albin Michel 1927).

As for the generation of text itself, a first example of random process is given in 1461, by Jean Meschinot and his Litanies de la vierge, a combinatory poem, subtitled "A prayer that can ge said by eighp or sixteen lines, as well on reverse order than anyway else [Bootz, 2006].

Dürer : the portillon

With Dürer, painting enters int the domain of "technical reproductibiliy". Some mathematical modelling is used (see mathematics). But perspective is one of the major conquests ot the time. A kind of generating machine.

Antiquity did know some perspective systems, without using the word [Panofskky, 1975]. But Renaissance, eager to give objective representations of the World, gives rigorous formalisms to get there : :
- a conceptual processus, with a geometric modelling of space ; Alberti and his « construzione leggitima » is the most famous contributor ;
- a technologiqcal physical process, with for instance the « portillon » of Albert Dürer.

The classical period. 1610- 1789

Index of 17th century quoted in diccan.


In spite of national and religion wars, the national powers confirm their power, their administration, their accounting... in short the machinery of State. Louis XVI ist a great "machinist", would it be only to feed water into the fountains of Versailles or increase its naval forces.

In depth, grows the conviction that words by themselves are digital constructs. Occam and the nominalists had raised this issue in the Middle Ages. Lacan and Wittgenstein will set it in center stage. But yet Descartes uses the latin word "concept", explicity generative. From Viete to Laplace, we can see the classical period as a time of integral digitisation of mathematical and physical sciences (often together), if not philosophical. Descartes, Leibniz, Pascal, Newton... computation not only becomes the basis of every science, but its mere language becomes a source of innovation, somehow autonomous, at least independent from its meanings [Serfati 2005]

Literary text surrounds the formal expression in order to foster scientific progress and its knowledge by cultivated audience : in 1610, Kepler writes Somnium in order to show the importance of copernician revolution [Aït-Touati, 2011].

Considerable developments are seen in archtecture, literature, theater and music. Indeed, this period is ideologically and politically repressive, but The Enlightment makes giant strides.


As for music, the well tempered clavier harspichord of Bach is emblematic of a mathematization of musical composition. It will also kit onself with theoretical insturments, developped with Rameau, for instance. Here also, the score, written by he author, overrides the personal ornaments by the divas. Organs reach monumental dimensions, demanding important man-machine interfaces... and virtuosi able to control so complex systems.

The first punched cards.

Punched cards for elaborate fabrics : the Jacquard loom.




Autonomy, motricity


Automata expansion may be seen as a first period of "cinetic art", with the works of Vaucanson and Jacquet-Droz. More properly digital is the Jacquard loom (Wikipedia), applying punched cards to fabric art.


In contrast, theatre pushes its structures far beyond those of the Italian comedians. Shakespeare leads the way here : the text he writes becomes the spinal column of the show. Its no longer a simple guide for the mainly improvised paly of actors and specially of the jester. (1599. A year on the life of William Shakespeare. by James Shapiro. Faber & Faber, London, 2005). Unfair copies of his works open the issue of intellectual property.


Machines begin to play on stage. On this topic, see L'invention de la pièce à machine au milieu du XVIIe siècle. by Bertrand Munin. 12 pages in [Garbagnati] and L'envers du décor, edited by Catherine Join-Dieterle. Co-published by Gourcuff-Gradenigo/CNCS, 2012.


Random techniques supplement the algorithmic set of rules. In 1787, Mozart creates music with dice throws. An anonymous text of this period describes his method, where minuets written by Mozart are found. We are not sure, today, that Mozart be the author of this method. See the website Mathforum.

The compositing "machine" of Athanasius Kircher

Athanasius Kircher builds an automatic device to compose music, by drawing some themara and parameters written on slides grouped in a box (see figure). Jim Bumgardner  has implemented simulation in Perl. It is only one of the many machines he designed. But these inventions were mainly done to entertain the princes and to magnify the scientific reputation of Jesuits.

The Industrial Period : chemistry, electricity, theories

Index of artists in industrial period, quoted in diccan.

The context

Economical expansion frees important budgets for the arts.

New resources, technological and theoretical

Mechanics and optics keep progresssing with regularity, but chemisry and electricity open the way to fundamental innovations, important for digital arts :
- chemistry affords photography ; it is not digital at that time, but for the principle of duplication
- electricity brings three key elements to autonomy : the motor, the incandescent lamp and the communication laine (this one digital at start, with the Morse code).

Autonomy and motorization

The motor is basic for the pair of automata necessary to recording and reading. Up to the 1950's, , the cheap models make do with cranks and springs. But electiciy brings easiness and regularity :
- for the sound chain : microphone with amplification, motorized engraving of discs, copy and remote transmission, then reading on another electric machine;
- for the cinema chain, combinaion of chemical processes and motors : shooging, reproducing, projecting.

Albert Robida : les émeutes de Pékin transmises à Paris

Artists make use of light and motor in first forms of cinetic art (the term will be forged in the 1950's).Popper writes, in Ecrire sur l'art [Popper 2007] writes (our translation) : " I have tried to retrace the uses of virtual movemnet as plastic element by generations of artists from around 1860, which corresponds to the impressionists up to the birth of cinetic art, around 1930, that is when artists as Tatlin, Gabo, Rodchenco and even Duchamp and Man Ray, have used the real movement as creative principle. It was at first made possible by optical processes which afforded the spectator to fell this "virtual" movemnet, then by the introduction of an actual or "real" movement in the work".

Some writers and drawers, well infored of scientific progress, foresee the width or opening perspectives. Albert Robida for telecommunications (included television) and Jules Verne for video (3D included, in the Chateau des Carpathes) and for the whole digital world, in his unrecognized (in Europe) work The Day of an American Journalist in 2889

On the theoretical level, arts enter a new digitization phase, where computation plays a more and more important role. Estelle Thibault [Thibault 2010] calls it "elementarization". Charles Blanc, in his Grammaire des arts du dessin (1863) starts a motion whose momentum will stay up to the 1950's.

In 866, Mendels publishes his laws of genetics, forerunners of the digital generic code. But nobody minds, lest of all the world of art.

The i ndustrial era impacts deeply some forms art : literature, music and graphics (painting, photography, cinema).

The rotary press (1873) : massive creation of text and images.


Literature, and text in general profits from printing rapid progresses. On the beginning of the 19th century, presses were still the Gutenberg type and the by hand composition from movable lead types. From the 1880's on, that changes :
- presses use electric motors
- composition used sophisticated machines (monotype and linotype, see Seyl, 1926), controlled from a keyboard.

The typewriter is born inthis period. But it will becom e the basic tool of wriers only in the mid 20thcentury (and even then, not for everybody).

In depth, but the consequences for art will show only later, language is analyzed in binary oppositions by the works of Ferdinand de Saussure (Wikipedia).

James Joyce deploys a literary style considered as nearly serialist, pushed at its maximum in Ulysses (1922). But everybody, including himself, agrees to recognize that this work is practically unlegible, whereas it is a must for the beams of any gook library.

The Linotype (1885) : lower the costs and delays of text acquisition.


Music enhances its resources, beginning with new instruments : the today piano, the brass of Adolph Sax. A piano is enough for Chopin to move ou hearts, and wide orchestrations give ampleness to the Romantics. And the organ uses electricity, first for the bellows, later for command.

The century finds its peak, we could say even its cathedral, in the Wagnerian opera. A total art, from the voices to an enormous machinery, in a space specially buit for it. To adapt a formula of Antoine Ficon about post-modern architecture, Wagnerian art extends from tectonices (the large time structures and semantic of the Tetralogy) up to the core of the material. His orchestration, indeed combines different instruments to create new timbers. On this way, Wagner foretells the synthesizer concept, and for our modern ears, sometims evoke it, with global timbers that we cannot link to a traditional string or wind.

We can even see there a true object oriented programming, where each character is endowed with its proper thema, both melody and timbre. Nealry a programming, anyway, since Wagner would have said, some time before finishing the writing of a score : from the point I reached, anybody could finish the work". And the singers must accept precise constraints, demanding the to express in detail the authors will, words as well as music.

Jules Verne evokes (in 2889) evokes the algorithmic music : "... what a charm he found in the works of our greatest masters, based, as everybody knows, on a series of delicious harmonico-algebraic formulae! ". Schönbert will give to it a concrete expression in its docecaphonism (see [Ross 2007 as a reference book on these topics).

Efforts tend to lower the costs of score creation [Beaudoire, 1891], using a fragmentation of musical types à la Gutenberg. As far as we know, the results were limited. But this attempt is typical of the analytical ambitions of the time. w

3D projection in the Château des Carpathes, by Jules Verne

Painting, photography, cinema

Painting, sculpture and even architecture had reached summits of complexity (high definition and image size, would we say today), with the very large canvasses of David or the completion ov Versailles. Then they cannot advance on their traditional ways, and tend to drown in "pompier" academism. Moreover, photography ruins the traditional markets of painting (landscapes and portraits). The "Salon des refusés" (1863) ane later the"Salon des Incohérents" (1882-1896) gives voice to these issues .

I n 1844, the mathematician Hugh Blackburn makes automatically images with his Harmonograph, associating two pendulums to control a pencil which translates their oscillations on paper. On his website, the computer professional Jean-François Bouzereau shows a simulation of it (with real time operation on random parameters). But, by that time, as for the Kircher machines earlier, its more than else an entertainment.

Fragmentation/assembly is experimented by compositing (or matte painting, could we say today) : in 1857, the Swedish Oscar Rejlander combines some thirty negatives to compose a wide scene with multiple characters, The two ways of life, similar to the "grand genre" of historical painting. [Brinkmann, 1999]. By this time, photography is very far from the purims of a Cartier-Bresson (no touching up, no cropping). On the contrary, people pose in front of an (sometimes) elaborated set, and makes ample touch up, without of course the easiness of todays software. And there is even a painter to play on this stage, Ingres with his collages [Goetz, 2006].

"The two ways", an early photographic collage by Rejlander (from the website of Andy Cox.

Fragmentation is the mere basis of cinema, known from the phenakitiscope of Plateau (1832) for drawings and from the snapshots of Marey for photography. Such cutting, technically required, and similar to the human vision, will induce Bergson [Bergson, 1907] to talk about the cinematographic illusion, and hence [Deleuze, 1983] to elaborate on time cutting up and then on the role of random in art constructions.

By the end of the industrial period, painting dives deeper in cutting: after the impressionist touch (1860's), the pointillism of Seurat foretells the pixelization [Kemp, 1960] and the mosaics of Klimt.

Deeper still, Cubism is unexpectedly born in 1906, with the Picasso's Demoiselles. Now, space itself is deconstructed out of its natural perspective and synthetically rebuilt. But this move will itself reach rapidly its limits, nobably because the cubists (but for Juan Gris) lack scientific education and could not enter in the ways or algorithmic or generative art. ([Assouline, 1998], [Housez, 2006]). As we shall see, after WW1, evolution will follow other tracks.


Viaduct of Garabit, by Eiffel, 1884.

In architecure, concrete and metal chemistry and computation (stength of materials, descriptive geometry) afford a strong expansion of civil engineering. Railways run through Europa, with many works of engineering, of which some have a powerful aesthetic aura (the Garabit viaduct, among a lot).

In parallel, greater attention is paid to historical monuments, their protection and restauration. Elementarization is inspired by language : grammar (Grammaire des arts du dessin, by Charles Blanc, 1983) and dictionary (Dictionnaire de l'architecture, by Viollet-le-Duc, 1854-1858). These generative tools afford Viollet-le-Duc to restaure ancient monuments, sometimes in a manner more conform to his ideas than to their original state, and even to build a somehow synthetic medieval castle, as in Pierrefonds.

But the new technologies bring also radically new forms, simple and functional. Their dryness is compensated by ornaments. See for instance, in Paris, the Grand Palais or the elevated parts of Metro, and in the USA, the skyscrapers ornamentaion.


See for instance L'envers du décor, edited by Catherine Join-Diéterle. Co-publishers Gourcuff Gradenigo and CNRS, Paris, 2012.

The 1930's : electronics and abstration

Index of artists of the 1930's, quoted in diccan.
On this period (and up to the 2000's, see the review A Critical Examination of Computer Art by Nick Lambert (Philosophy thesis, University of Oxford, 2003).


Cadavres exquis (surrealists), collages (Ernst), mountings (Picasso). The digital surge is annouced by the dialectifs of fragmentation/assembluy. .

The forerunners of digital properly speaking

Technologically, the 1930's sees an upgrading of the chemistry and electricity. But a new technology emerges : electronics, based on the triod lamp of Lee de Forest. It dates back to 1906, but its application expand only after WW1, mainly for sound devices.

This period sees all arts change in depth. The computer does not yet exist, then no art is properly digital. But the convergence, which will by typical of the 60's and after is prepared by many forerunners.

Music : radio and synthsizers

Music is the firts of arts to benefit out of electronics, and exploits it all along its production and distribution chain.

Music : ondes Martenot, Trautonium : a monophonic electronic instrument invented about 1929 by Friedrich Trautwein (Wikipedia)

Massive generation

These indefinite possibilities of reproduction by chemical copy and radio (then television at the end of the decade) broadcast let dream an author like Maurice Simart, in visionary sentences, even if they lend to smile to day, nealy a century later.

Painting and architecture

The war does not prevents artistic activities to progress. The post-war years, and the "années folles" will bring fascinating developments. Art becomes modern, as it concretizes the possiblities and hopes of a great synthesis of reason and faith, of material expansion and spiritual development. Science and technologies play here there part as infrastructure.

Painters, from Montparnasse to Montmartre, take pleasure in all the decensions of the term, in a Paris which leads the Worl's art. They frequently engage in political totalitarist regimes, be they fascist (the Futurists in Italy) or communist (socialist realism). Sometimes fascinated by machines (Futurists, Fernand Léger), they are more frequently critical (Dada in Switerland then in France, Grosch in Germany), then search themselves in surrealism.

"Around 1920... artists like Tatlin, Gbo, Rodchenko and even Duchamp et Man Ray use the real (material) movement as a creation principle [Popper].

Birkenhead : the War

Even if he does not writes about art, we must quotethe prospective views of Birkenhead (a consultant for Wihston Churchill) in The World in 2030 A.D. (Hodder and Stoughton,2030), would it be only for its visionary illustrations.

In the early 1920's, a first inclusion of cinema (short) in a theater story, A wise man, by Eisenstein (see [Seton] p. 93).

Curiously, talking movies are not perceived by all as a normal and natural development of this art. Eisenstein sees it as "a transitory and false form" (according to [Seton] ).

The 1950's : Life and machine, a same dynamics

The context

During the 1940's, digital devices are busy with war, and digital arts do not show meaningful advances.

After the war, support to artistic applications come from several computer manufacturers, such as IBM, Bull or Olivetti. Right at that time, imaginations ake off. The idea of a cloud intelligence, for instance, has been presented by Fred Hoyle (a mathematician), in his SF novel The black cloud (Signet Books 1959). Much more famed remains the I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (copyright 1950, publication Signet Books1956).

Henceforth, for those who are willing to see it, the universal extension of digitaization in industry, managemnet, defence... and arts, shines like an obviousness. Until the 1970's, of course, computers are expensive, and it is only on the margin that artists are given access to their capacities. Neverteless, the rise of computing machines, from the mechanical contraptions of the 19th century to the electronic computers will contribute, along with mathematics, to the emergence of the "modern", in general and specially in art, of which Mondrian the painter and Le Corbusier the architect remain emblematic in in 21th century.

Mathematics lead the way, with the grand projects of Hilbert, which will be rewoked, under another form, by the Bourbaki community. Elemenarization is explicit in the title of the series : "Eléments de mathétiques". And the text begins gloriously by the sentence : "The signs of a mathematical theory... ", which will be used do to build the set theory. Unfortunately, along an evolution analysed in depth by Pierre Mounier-Kuhn, the Bourbaki school parts itself from this orientation, and choose geometry agains logic.


Hence, the fundamental digital synthesis on its binary basis will be borne in the US. And its causes and depth are clearly worded by [Von Neumann] : “We feel strongly in favor of the binary system”, for three reasons :
- hardware implementation (accuracy, costs),
- “the greater simplicity and speed with which the elementary operations can be performed” (arithmetic part),
- “logic, being a yes-no system, is fundamentally binary, therefore a binary arrangement… contributes very significantly towards producing a more homogeneous machine, which can be better integrated and is more efficient”.

So, are converging during this period :

- the convergence of two intellectual spaces, heretofore sharply distinct : arithmetics and logics, which both are now implemented by the same logical gates (and mostly in what is called, at this time, the ALU (Arithmetical and logical unit) of the computer;
- the possible control of the whole, coherently, through programming languages, with data and programs using the same hardware;
- the direct implementation of recursive functions, and in particular those of formal automata as well as neuronal circuits.

Nearly at the same, Watson and Crick discover the fundamentally digital nature of life.

Radio, at that time, is mainly analog. Morse code remains used for some applications (marine, defense), but analog trammissions are considered more modern. TV, which begins to spread during this decade, is mainly analog also. (In 2010, it was not yet fully digital in France).



Aftier the war, the painting lead is taken from Paris by New York. Buth, here also, it is more in the extension of former ideas that the concepts evovle. But the war horrors take to more contestation and to the post-modernism.

It is also during this perid that photography and cinema extend beyond the space of some laboratories or specialized studios and spread among a large public. Chemical photography, of course, is probably the most analog, and not digital, amont all the arts. Cinema, on the other hand, is basically built on fragmentation of movement into successive still imges (which is probably the first large scale use of signal sampling).

The "transistor" radio.




Sculpture opens itself to new technologies. Here, digital art is preceded by cinetic art (Tinguel for instance), light art (Morellet) and cybernetic art (Schoeffer).

Music, downstream to Wagnerian peak, splits itself progressively into popular and savant music. This last one has been radically digital since Schönberg. Joseph Schillinger pushes very far the theory in his book Mathematical basis of the arts (published posthumously in 1948). He deals explicitly of automatic compositing, and applies it not only to music but also to graphics, forging the word "graphomaton"; But sound is easier to control electronically than images, and a new music develops along two complementary axes (as always when we deal with digitization) :
- the recording of elementary and natural sounds, used as materials by the composers (concrete music);
- ex nihilo creation of new sounds using synthsizers.

1949. Pierre Schaeffer : Journal de la musique concrète. Fragments of natural sounds . Then combination.

In 1951, is founded in Cologne (Germany) the Studio fûr Elektronische Musik. See [Leloup, 2013] p. 50.


Architecture is the most resolutely "modern". Le Corbusier in France, the Bauhaus in Germany combine a functionalist ideology with rigid and right anglies, sometimes even at the cost of structural robustness. Retrospectively, we are surprised to see how this way of thinking combines austerity and cold ness with a rather fuzzy spritualism. Authors like Shuré and Bergson are among the causes.

This orientation of mind implies the concept of integration at all levels. The modernism, and modern art with it, is the "grand narrations" period. Based on science, on history but also on religion, these narrations let hope that, after hars times (the cold war, the christian parusia...), mankind will reach a wide and peaceful unity of thought, politics and economy. Marx or Teilhard de Chardin fight the same war ! You can even find an explicit title in the (largely unknown) book of Didier Lazard : Convergence des civilisations actuelles (Neuchatel et Paris Edtions de la Baconnière. 1963)



The 1960's : from Modernism to post-Modernism

Index of artistes having begun to produce digital works in the des artistes des années 1960 's.

The context

- Public television becommes common It is not considered an art.
- Frank Popper meets "youg artist ... Malina, Schöffet and Agam, who were working with movement and light".

Music : about the transition from the 50's to the 60's, see [Spector] and, more generally, [Moorefield].
- Terry Noel in 1965 and Francis Grasso, in 1969, are the first DJs who use a mixing desk tocreate a new form a music style. [Leloup, 2013], p. 38.

- E. Leipp in his book . Acoustique et musique. (Masson 1971) draws a reviw of the technologies of this time, mainly those of the instruments. He dedicates 16 pages to the "experimental musics". His lines bear irony about new mechanical instrumenrs ("Péridically, someone rediscovers the Franklin's 'harmonica or the glass bars organ of Chladini" (which date more than a century back). He is sceptical also about electronic instruments (like will be Xenakis himself, ten years later. He is alone (as far as we know) to quote the Trautonium of Dr Trautwein (1929). Leipp talks also about computer music, but concludes "The task of the computer musicion apperals long and difficult".

He adds "A class of expermientl music, where the music student would not be taught a specific coctrine, but informed about all what is being gone, specially in the digital domain, seems us an absolute necessity in the main music schools".

From 1960 to 1968 operates the GRAV (Groupe de recherche d'art visuel). "They were incrediblu suspicious, more than all Le Parc, about any written comment about their work by other than themselves, be they historian or art critics" [Popper 1] p.17. In this group works notably François Morellet.

1961. A centralized network is implemented in Zagreb (Croatia) "in order to present the plurality of the artistic stage on this domain. (see Darko Fritz)
1966. Kunst Licht Kunst schox in Eindhoven, with Malina, Schöffer, Agam and theGrav [Popper 1]. 1967. Creation of the CAVS in MIT.
1967. Popper prublishes Naissance de l'art cinétique. Lumière et mouvement show at Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris [Popper 1] p. 20-22.
1968. Cinétisme, spectacle, environnement show, curated by Popper à la Maison de la culture de Grenoble.
1968. Cybernetic Serendipity show. at the Institute of Contemporary Art ub Londres (curated by Jasia Reichardt)
1969. Popper and Jean Laude found the Arts plastiques department at Université if Vincennes. Ambient notes in [Popper 1] p.32-33.

Cybernetic is at its zenit. Computers are big monsters, safely guarded in their air conditioned rooms, served by the white blouse computer specialists.
Some artists (in France : Xenakis, Barbaud, Vasarely) manage to get some access to them, since the computer manufacturers see there a form of public relations, specially important since public opinion has mixed feelings (they have read Orwell's 1984).
The scientific environment is structuralist, boubakist (in France) and shannonian. That will find its apex with the books of Abraham Moles, published on the end of the decade.
Many publications by the GAM are known, for example listed in E. Leipp's Acoustique et musique. Masson 1970

Post-modern art


As surprising as it may be, the second world war horrors did not immediatly crushed down the modern hops. On the contrary ! After such deep traumata, wounds had to be groomed, reconcile parties and if possible nations, and give to everyboty the hope a new constructions over the ruins. It was a time for modernism, and these idea spread actually in the public, be they "modern mathematics", Le Corbusier architecture, prospecive views of Teilhard de Chardin and, of course modern art... that was Maisse and Picasso.

It's later, in the 60's, that the modern is superseded by the post-modern. Military failures of Occident in Vietnam and Algeria, semi-failur of Vatican II council (which nobody finds at its guide, and ends up in a schisma), reopening of the dark Shoah files... even Science waits for this decade to let itseff be challenged by relativity in physics and undecidability in logic and mathematic. Before then, we were doing as if...

New ideas will feed a new age of ideas as of art. Let's not here discyss the new forms of philosophy, religion or politics. On the other hand, science brings interesting new affordances : supple materials, biological and neurological modls to imitate, and even new mathematics, like the fractals by Mandelbrot or the catastrophes by René Thom.

Computer science also lauches its postmodern revolution (even if these groups, mostly scientific, havec no idea even of the term). The regular diminution of its costs and the integration of circuits open the possibility of "mini-computers' (circa 1970), then of micro-computers (from 1978 and mostly after 1980). Then it is much more affordable to artists, with individual processors and memories of ever growing capacity. Computers go along with data networks where small machines become clients of large servers (The former computer industry knew only master-slave relationships).

And so, in phase with post-modern mindset, the centralized networks let place to free structures, of whic Arpanet then Internet are the emblems. All this, of course, is not done over one day, and the move lasts over a small quarter of centur, up to the moment when a new generation emerges with cell phones then smartphones.

Wit these new tools, what do artsists do ?

Literature and any kind of writing art is rapidly fond of text processing. First for the original typing, considerably more comfortable and efficient that the typewriter. Then along the whole lenght of the graphic chain, up to the printing presses themselves. That reduces the costs and increases quality. It is difficult in the 21st century to remember how poor press and publishing in genral were limited int heir presentations : few fonts, time consuming page setting, cost of correctinos. If for instance you open an issue of L'illustration, which was the luxury press all from 1880 (circa) to the 2d world war, the poverty is evident by comparison with even the cheapest of magazines, of which the number and circultation has strongly grown (and will perhaps vanish due to Internet, but they are still alive en 2013).

A unsolved question remains : how far dit this tools impac the style of writes ? One thing is sure : they did not brind new literary genres. Even if the hyperext, then the mails, then the SMS, twitters... extended the toolbox.

Painting does not make great use of the computers, at least in its "noble" form. This form of art has, from a century, broken off with its representation functions. It uses comparatively cheap means (canvas, paper, pencil, brush, colors...), the mobility of its products and the diversity of its markets contrasts an enormous offer (a lot of people love painting and wish to become artists) with a selectdive demands. On this market, the value of a wok is granted by its mere materiality, with secures its anthenticity and unicity. This market is not wanting the new kinds of works that computer may bring, with infinite copy possibilities and limited perennity. Then, the graphic arts are qconfined to illustration and entertainment. A job for some artists, yes. But not enough to build a new art.

< La notion de "programme" dans l'art des années 1960 - art concret, art par ordinateur et art conceptuel. 14 pages signed byDarko Fritz in [Lartigaud]. This book contains several references to artists rather unknown on their time and forgotten in the 21th century (such as Milojevic or Bonacic, for example) and also some links on website dealing with this period.

About music during 20th century,
- [Ross], mainly for savant usic during the whole century, andpour la musique savante surtout, sur l'ensemble du siècle,
- [Moorefield]. for popular music, mostly on the second part or the century
- [Leloup] for popular music and the new media at the end of the century.


The Hifi, the vinyl
The DJ


Integrated circuits.

The 1970's : a wider distribution

- A collection of works relating the take off of computer art, the Cache project(UK), is indicated by Darko Fritz in [Lartigaud]
- See the wegbite of Chrisph Kluetsch

Index of digital artists who started to produce during the 1970's.

- 1970. In the catalog of Tendencije 4. "Many disciples of the Nove Tendencije movement tried to use friendly the machine for their work, or hbased their methodology upon the use of mechanical, or electrical devices. All of thel wdere dreaming of machines... and now the machhines are here". (our translation).

Comments Darko Fritz in [Lartigaud] : "The computer was seen as a tool, granting the "objectivity", the rationality and the lisibility of the productio process. During the creations of images, it allows a superior precision and the handling or more complex processes. Althoug the link between concret art and digvital art was clearly stated by the curators of Tendencije 4, among more than 120 participants of the first NT wave, five only jumped the bar, from the firts form of art to the second one : Marc Adrian, Waldemar Cordeiro? Iva Picelij, Zdenek Sykora and Herman de Vries".

- 1970. The principle of "programming" as the central topic of a show triumphs in 1970, when Jack Burnham organises " Sofware Information Technology : Its New Meaning for Art", at the Jewish Museum of New York".

- "Computer art lost gradually its attractivity on the artistic stage during the 1970's... taking to, int the middle of these years, to a rejection ot this type of art, and its nearly total exclusion form the contemporary art scene" (Darko Fritz dans [Lartigaud], our translation).

- 1970. Sofware Information Technology" at the Jewish Museum of New-York (Jack Burnham curator).
- 1970. Unesco symposium Musique, science et technologie. Le compositeur dans l'ère technologique. Revue Musicale, Paris 197L.
- 1971 Creation of the GAIV (Groupe art et informatique de Vincennes à Saint-Denis).
- 1977, Creation of Ircam (Istitut de recherche et de coordination acoustique/musique) in Paris.
- 1975. Popper publishes Act, action et participation. in which he develops the idea of a democratic art to come if not yet present... "... I was dealing with art use in new immaterial materials, such as light and movement, leading to the mutation of the art object into a proposal on the architectural and environmental scale. From this fact, I was seeing the artist mor as a programmer, enhancing the engagement of the spectator in different domains such as plastic marts, music, dance, theater, television". [Popper 1] p. 35
- 1978. In Francde, the Nora-Minc report lauches telematics, which will cause notably the lauching of minitel in 1982. President Giscard d'Estaing engages himself in person : "The systematic and rapide exploration of musical, plastical, literary or poetic forms may help the creator and stir the creation. The computers influence of the computer upon contemporary music is alreday perceptible. The methods of "computer aided design", applied to drawing, painting, sculture, contains a promise of renewd forms. Even literature may be stimulated by a systematic and guided exploration of "formal possible"". Alredady, several writers, of undisputable poetic stength and wording talent, heral literary combinatorics."

In music, synthesizers and electric guitars are spreading.
It the great time of (american) algorists.

Microfilm, whic will have a rather short life, due to the progress of electronic technology, opens new ways. There exists, for instance, a microfiche of Vasarely works.

1980-1990. The digital exponential

Index of artists who started their activity during this period .

The context

- From the end of the 1970's, the micro-computer has been giving new wings to creators. They can use color and sound. They develop games as well as algorithmic art (with the fractals, widely appreciated).
- Internet is still a tool for scientific labs, but begins to be accessible to a larger public, in particular in France through the minitel. But only some fans imagine its immense future.


- Digital music instruments mutliply : synthesizers, electronic saxophones, trumpets or recorders.


- Artificial Intelligence takes a new start, mainly in business milieux. The world of arts does not feel that need. Anyway, the hopes placed into "expert systems" will fail to meet the expectations.

- Computer viruses enter onto the scence. It gives ideas to some artists (viral art).


- The multimedia and interactive abilities of CD-Rom inspire a lot of artists, of which [Murray, 2008] gives an in depth account. But this creative wave will let bitter regrets, since the software formats are not standardized, and many of these works won't be usable a

- France's president François Mitterand opens in Paris the "Centre informatique mondial" and lauches for schools a global equipment plan ("Informatique pour tous").

- According to [Bootz] : Two important shows impose in France the art of networks and the post-modern artistic thinking : Electra and Les Immatériaux (see below).

Some major events :

- 1982. In France, the minitel is lauched (a small, low performance terminal, but freely distributed to millions of telephone owners). Its low transfer rate and its small monochrome screen, under character mode (not pixel) limit severly its artistic performance. But some works appear, and a little later, they can use color.

- 1982. A first full feature film uses computer generated images : Tron.

- 1983-84. Electra, held from december 10, 1983 to february 5, 1984 at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Electra was designed by Marie-Odile Briot and Frank Popper (a major theorist of cinetic and new media art), a project funded by Electricité de France. "Electra was designed around two major axes. The first, historical. The second, showing brand new works, electronic or digigal, specially created for the show" (says [Popper 1] p.45, our translation). It afforded to show interactive and networked art works (pre-internet), including La Plissure du Texte by Roy Ascott.

- 1983. Two vinyls annouce house and techno : On&On, by DJ Jesse Saunders and Clear, by Cybotron. "These two maxi-discs will be the major influence on dance music to come, stir vocations and have a long lineage of heirs [Leloup, 2013], p. 14.

- 1984. Plan Image in France.The digital image explodes, and France is quite well active in the movement. Unortunately, for lack of sufficient coordination between business and politics, this strong momentum will fall dowh. TDI (Thomson Digital Image) is sold to an American corporation. And the US leaders break the French ambitions, sometimes with disputable means (see the Risset report).

- 1984. Siggraph France is created, as a French chapter of ACM SIggraph. It will become the present Paris ACM Siggraph.

- 1984, Acevedo paints his last oil canvas. Afterwards, he will use the computer exclusiely.

- 1985. Les immatériaux, held from march 28 to july 15, at Centre Georges Pompidou. Designed by par Jean-François Lyotard, it aimed bo present the post-modern aesthetics and all its facets. Were shown the first "telematic" works and some automated text generators.

- 1985. Nicholas Negroponte founds the Media Lab within the MIT.
- 1985. Odorama at La Vilette's Cité des Sciences de La Villette .

- 1988. Elecronic arts festival (Festival des arts électroniques) in Rennes (Brittany): "Poetry plays te peer with science". See [Picon-Vallin] which gives the program.

1990-2000. Internet explodes

Index des artistes des années cette période .

The context

Quelques notes :

- 1993. Popper L'art à l'âge électronique
- 1993. Jean-Pierre Giovanelli : Installations SOS Tiers Monde (1993) et IO (1996).
- 1996, Longavesne montre ses grandes imprimantes dans le cadrede performances spectaculaires.
- 1997. Création du réseau des ECM (établissements culturels multimédia).

- The "techno" music. [Leloup, 2013]

C'est une grande décennie pour les arts numériques, particulièrement pour les arts graphiques. Les session annuelles du Siggraph atteignent des sommets de participation (40 000).
On attend beaucoup de la réalité virtuelle, surtout avec les casques (goggles).
Les artistes commencent à disposer de puissantes machines (Silicon Graphics), et de logiciels impresionnants.
Internet explose, ainsi que les machines de jeux.

Autonomy, motricity, reproductibility

En revanche, l'intelligence artificielle et les systèmes experts en particulier montrent leurs limites et sont considérés comme des échecs.

2000-2010. Cell phones, grids and clouds

Index des artistes des années cette période .

The context

2001, 150 ECM in Frnce
Progress of sensors, used by dancers and choreograhes.
A festival opens in Monaco.
Explostion of cell phones, then smartphones.

La commande WII pour les machines de jeux.
Les grands écrans commencent à se multiplier (hélas pour l'écologie).
The "electonic music" or "electro". See [Leloup, 2013]





2010 and the present : some hints

The context

- Index des artistes des années cette période .

Explosion of transmedia.

State of digital art in 2012 (in French)

Explosion des "mobiles", à partir des fonctions téléphoniques.

2010. Le label ECM est supprimé. En partie parce que le "multimédia" a débordé ses frontières. Le réseau continue à fonctionner de manière plus informelle.
2011, Ouvertue la Gaité lyrique à Paris.
Smartphones, tablettes. Montée d'Apple. Interfaces tactiles.

For the following years, Notes de Prospective.



Still Moore's law
La télévision non numérique disparaît. Radio sur Internet
Transmedia as fragmentation of the story.
LED sceens multiply, and give way to LED art. A sort of video art. See LED.

Les écrans à LED se multiplient, et font naître le LED art.


Le 3D-relief relaye le simple "3D".

Autonomy, motricity

Living art, by Aziosmanoff. Rogots
Interaction : Donald Abad. The public.

2012. Ircam. Multichannel sound spatialisation system. Inauguration. See [Leloup, 2013].


- A Critical Examination of Computer Art by Nick Lambert (philosophy thesis at Oxford University, 2003) . See our Index of historical texts in diccan.
See or index of digital artists by periods
- Historicizing art and technology : forging a method and firing a canon. par Edward A. Shanken. 28 pages dans [Grau]
- Remember the phantasmagoria! illusion. Politics of the Eighteenth century and its multimedia afterlife. par Oliver Grau. 25 pages dans [Grau]
- Between a Bach and a bard place : productive constraints in early computer arts. par Douglas Kanh. 29 pages dans [Grau]


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