Art by Computer

Topic: Art Subtopic: General

Case Study

of an Exhibition

by Wendy Pollock

Published on February 24, 2008, Modified on October 06, 2011

  • Description and goals

    Long before the iPhone came on the scene, Apple Computer worked with the Lawrence Hall of Science to produce an exhibition that featured “45 of the best current computer artworks.” Art by Computer went on to tour the United States through ASTC, starting in 1980 with a venue at the National Academy of Sciences. Some of the images were photographs of monitors; others were printed out (“CRT and plotter output modes”).

    As we said in our marketing material, “Nearly every graphic task formerly accomplished by hand now has a counterpart in computer-aided design: drafting, architecture, machine design, cartography, film animation. Along with its more practical graphic applications, the computer has proven to be a useful artistic tool. The artists and scientists who create computer art are still few in number but are gaining increasing public recognition for their innovative work.”

    Grace Hertlein, then of the Department of Computer Science at Chico State (and still emeritus faculty), curated the exhibition. We called her up and asked for help coming up with an interactive component. As our literature said, “A computer and graphics tablet on loan from Apple Computer, Inc., allow the visitor to try his hand at creating computer-aided art and to learn about the special characteristics of the medium. The computer ‘drawing machine’ was programmed for museum use by the Maryland Science Center.”

  • Development process and challenges

    Back then, we communicated by phone (landline, that is). Now, thanks to Google, I see that Grace Hertlein has been recognized by sources like Women, Art, and Technology, by Judy Malloy, as the founder of the journal Computer Graphics and Art and an early contributor to the medium.

    There were very few interactive exhibitions back then. Simple as it was, the “drawing machine” was popular. But it also broke down near the end of the tour. We took it out of the show and returned it to Apple. The artworks themselves were returned to the curator so she could display them locally.

  • Lessons learned, mistakes we made (and what we did about them)

    One thing I learned was to remind people to plug in the computer and to turn it off and on again if something went wrong.

    Also: Things change.

  • Exhibition Opened: 1978

  • Traveling Exhibition: Yes

  • Location: Berkeley, CA, United States

Log in to post a response.