The History of Computer Graphics and Digital Art Project
Describe your field. Why are you interested in Computer Art/ Computer Graphics and what (event, need, idea, hope, obstacle) caused your involvement? Summarize your line of development (the essence of your input to the field) in relation to concurrent technology.
My field is the theory and practice of fine art painting as re-born via digital printmaking and video. For still pictures, I combine photography with computer graphic geometry and in the time-based realm, I combine live-action digital video with animated 3D computer graphics. Taking my cue from Picasso and Braque’s Cubism, I have sought to use computer graphics to explore a contemporary graphical metaphor for the structure of space. A metaphor which exemplifies a perceptualand energetic field or network which connectively articulates the interstitial space between figure and ground.
The primary graphical device for this purpose has been my adoption of the omni-triangulated isotropic vector matrix, as sourced from R. Buckminster Fuller’s Synergetic geometry. The use of this particular geometrical structure, as well as other all-space-filling polyhedral networks, produce an acute graphical tension when juxtaposed with photo or video imagery. Influenced by my readings of Fritjof Capra’s book, The Tao of Physics and related texts I was prompted to call my graphical metaphor the void-matrix.
I was introduced to computer graphics in 1980 by Gene Youngblood, who wrote a book called, Expanded Cinema. I was attending Art Center College of Design, and he was teaching a lecture-survey class there on the latest developments in electronic and digital imaging. He showed work by Ed Emschwiller, Woody and Steina Vysulka as well as various early CG experiments from the New York Institute of Technology. The NYIT experiments took several forms, from early light-pen paint systems to 3D solid modeling and rendering. James Blinn also came to the school and lectured on the new rendering algorithms that he was writing at JPL. He also spoke of his dialogue and collaboration with artist David Em. At the time, I was heavily involved in the geometric work of M.C. Escher so the connection between his kind of content and computer graphics was clear and profound. I had seen the future, and that is where I wanted to go. Not having a clue as to where to get access and still quite involved with traditional media, I carried on with oil painting and graphite drawing for another 3 or 4 years. However I gradually became a full on digital artist over the span of years 1983–85.
Does the computer allow you to think visually about some topic or process in new ways? How has this influenced your work? Describe your ultimate accomplishment.
Yes, it has most certainly influenced my work and it has also influenced the way I look at the world. Computer graphic concepts and capabilities dealing with pattern, symmetry, polyhedra, multi-valent vantage points, synthetic worlds, image processing, compositing and augmented reality—all play a role in the creation of my work and they inform the perceptual processes leading up to creation. To answer the other part of this question, I would like to think that my ultimate accomplishment has yet to happen.
Has the field of computer art and graphics progressed in the ways that you expected? What has surprised you? What do you like about its progress and what do you wish had happened differently? What do you think the future holds for visual computing in science/art? Please make some predictions or wish lists for the near- and long-term future.
In 1980–81, when I was first introduced to computer graphics, I was amazed by 3D modeling, animation, paint systems and image processing. Along with all this, early experiments in digital editing, I found to be quite startling. I knew instinctively that that would be an important part future filmmaking. Later on, concepts and practices in VR and the progression of interactive multi-media upped the ante. The advent and proliferation of the world wide web was something that was a pleasant surprise to me and I feel that it gradually created a natural climate for the reception for computer or digital art by the art world as well as the general public.
I haven’t thought about the progress so much, I’ve accepted it as it comes. But, I suppose like most people in the field I look forward to more ergonomic and natural interfaces. I suspect the areas of nanotechnology, augmented reality, wearable and ubiquitous computing hold promise. Further developments in Holography, are always in the back of my mind. Warm and friendly, AI systems that house accessible ancestral wisdom and enable dialogues with non-living persons, would be nice. Perhaps computer graphics will someday help us communicate with extraterrestrials or open up channels to what is now considered the paranormal.
Describe your dream environment for enhancing your project ideas. What are your preferred tools for creating and how do they work? What tools (hardware/software) you have used initially had the strongest impact on your work?
Initially the key software tools for me have been, Photoshop, Final cut pro, AfterFX and Softimage. On the hardware side the main impact has been from Macs, PCs, and wide format printers, such as the IRIS, Roland and the Epson 9600. For the future, I am currently formulating my dream work environment, but don’t have handle on it yet.
How would you characterize the milestones (every ten years) in the development of computer technology? Which ones were most influential in art/graphics?
- 1950s Early graphics hardware and software and the resulting algorithmic art
- 1960s animation, scanning and image processing technologies
- 1970s 3D modeling and animation, 24-bit paint systems
- 1980s The personal computing and desktop revolution.
- 1990s The WWW and interactive multimedia coming of age. 2- and 3D graphics benefit as hardware and software tools become more powerful, yet affordable.
- 2000s Wireless technologies; the art world beginning to embrace digital art; The proliferation of DVDs and 5.1 home entertainment systems.
Which persons would you indicate as the pioneers in the particular areas/stages in which decade?
- 1950s Ben Laposky, Herbert Franke
- 1960s John Whitney Sr., Charles Csuri, Michael Noll, Ken Knowlton
- 1970s David Em, Joan Truckenbrod
- 1980s Yoichiro Kawaguichi, Rebecca Allen, Roman Verostko
- 1990s William Latham, Char Davies
- 2000s John Simon, John Klima, Perry Hoberman