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THE LEONARDO GALLERY From Drawing to Montage In our society one can invent and perfect discoveries that still have to conquer their market and justify their existence; in other words discoveries that have not been calledfor. Thus there was a moment when technology was advanced enough to produce the radio and society was not yet advanced enough to accept it. The radio was then in its first phase of being a substitute: A substitutefor theater, opera, concerts, lectures, cafemusL·, local newspapers and soforth. This was thepatient's period ofhalcyon youth. I am not sure if it L· finished yet, but if so then this stripling who needed no certificate of competence to be born will have to start looking retrospectivelyfor an object in life. —Bertolt Brecht, "The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication," 1932 Let us begin by thinking about the ambivalence expressed in this statement of Brecht's, its mixture of excitement for an avant-garde technology and disappointment that its revolutionary potential re­ mains latent, together with the realization that in its very youth the technology is already nostalgic, serving merely to substitute for older forms while its true "object in life" remains unarticulated. It is clear that Brecht did not know what would happen next, and this is the root of his excitement. It is clear that he feared what might happen next (nothing), and this is the root of his apprehension. For me the importance of this passage is in its suggestion that the notion of an avant-garde tech­ nology is one that even in Brecht's time (the essay was written 60 years ago) was already becoming insupportable. For this reason I approach claims for the revolutionary potential of the computer (in whatever sphere to which it is applied) with special skepticism. As solace, however, I will argue that computer-graphics technologies are the fortunate inheritors of a century that has enriched the lan­ guage of the visual arts immensely. I suggest that we study the trajectory of faith and disillusion in technology and that we avoid an easy equation of the new with the revolutionary. Any exploration of artists' involvement with technology—either as subject or medium—must con­ front this faith, a product of the nineteenth century, and the fact of its erosion in our own century. I will argue here that we must understand computer-graphics technology as culmination of a host of twentieth-centur.y innovations in the visual arts; however, the subtext of this essay is that ours is an v uneasy faith in technology together with a shaky hope that it will prove more helpful than harmful, and, that given this social problematic, it is difficult to imagine an uncomplicated, Utopian space in which artists use new technologies. Without attempting to sort out this ambivalence, let us assemble a montage centering on artists and technological innovation in the modern period. Let us consider Baudelaire's fear—an analogue with that of the primitive—that photography would steal the soul of art. Let us consider the facts that in the nineteenth century the railroad was seen by those on the left as an engine of revolutionary progress, that sculpture could look like machines, that factories could be an artist's subject, that an assembly line could be a valid analogy for the creative process, that a John Heartfield could be re­ ferred to as "the mechanic Heartfield." Carrying this montage of images with us, let us consider the place of the computer within the context of a century of artists' involvement with technology. This exhibition seeks to consider artists' use of computer visualization technologies within the larger context of an expanded field of operations [1] within which the visual arts have maneuvered through the course of this century. This notion of an expanded field has informed the selection of work I have made here and is evident in the multiplicity of media represented as well as in these art­ ists' sense of freedom to cross disciplinary boundaries. All of the artists represented here began their careers working in other media; their earlier efforts—in painting, sculpture, photography or video— inform their current work, providing both dialectical movement of ideas...


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