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Themesicon: navigation pathGenerative Toolsicon: navigation pathComputer Art
What is Computer Art?
An attempt towards an answer and examples of interpretation
Matthias Weiß


«No instrument plays itself or writes its own music.» Per Cederqvist[1]

«That which is programmable must also be computable.» Frieder Nake[2]

«It is understood that the artistic goal of THE SOFTWARE is to express conceptual ideas as software. It is also understood that THE SOFTWARE is partially automated, and its output is a result of its process. Despite the process being an integral part of THE SOFTWARE, this does not imply nor grant the status of artwork on the output of THE SOFTWARE. This is the sole responsibility of YOU (the USER).» Signwave Auto-Illustrator LICENSE AGREEMENT (for Version 1.2), § 7.3

A. Towards an Ahistorical Assessment of the Computer Art Scene

The history of reflection on the artistic use of computer software and hardware did not begin with transmediale.01. For artists who employ computer programming, however, that event, as the first international festival of its kind—the origin of which,


like the origin of virtually all of the efforts in art history involving new procedures in technologybased artistic strategies and production methods lies in video technology—provided an impetus for new, more extensive explorations of software programmes, and found its most recent, and broadest platform to date at the Ars Electronica 2003. [3] In classical art appreciation, however, it is generally ignored that the computer is and has been both a tool and a component of art for nearly as long as the machine itself has existed. A reappraisal of this history, one that attempts to place it in an art history context, is still needed. [4] This perspective shifts when we consider the international art scene, and the many varieties of computer art that closely follow developments in the technological domain. Accordingly, in what follows, two stimuli will be provided for looking at computer art in an art history context. The first clarifies the historicity of the phenomenon by stages. In the second, I will emphasize the role that description plays, in order, on the one hand, to show that close

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