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    Oscillons and cathode rays: photographic hybrids in early computer art

    McKim, Joel (2021) Oscillons and cathode rays: photographic hybrids in early computer art. Photographies 14 (3), pp. 459-479. ISSN 1754-0763.

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    Computer art emerged in the 1950s and 60s as a strange hybrid of analogue and digital technologies. Although not always acknowledged, photography plays an important role within this early history. During a period when computers were first being coaxed into generating images, photography was often a necessary technology of capture for screen and projection effects that would otherwise remain undocumented. Photography served as the preservational memory of these early visual experiments. This essay will consider two examples of early computer art documented photographically: Ben F. Laposky’s “Oscillon” works (produced with an analogue oscilloscope) and the digital images produced by A. Michael Noll at Bell Labs. These early examples of computer art are images that reveal the porous boundaries between science and art, the analogue and the digital, the computational and the photographic. They offer an important precedent to our current moment of digital post-photography, in which the technological status and very definition of the photographic is under review. These early moments of computer art encourage us to consider the complex nature of digital images and the complex material infrastructures involved in their creation, preservation and distribution.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Digital, Technology, Computer Art, Ben Laposky, A. Michael Noll, Victoria and Albert Museum
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Research Centres and Institutes: Vasari Research Centre for Art and Technology
    Depositing User: Joel McKim
    Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2022 12:32
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:53


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