When looking at the following title, you may be asking yourself: What is computer art? How does this process work? Is this technology an art made by computers? How is this art received by society? The answers to these and other questions, you will find here, in this Timelinefy article.

Knowing different stories is always important for our recognition as individuals, so that we get to know the world we live in and the things around us, especially when these stories talk about art, technology and society. With this in mind, Timelinefy seeks not only to tell stories, but also to enable stories to be told in different ways and information to be organized in time, in a chronological way, through the structure of timelines. Because it is digital, the tool makes this activity a dynamic and interactive experience, different, but at the same time similar to the methodologies used by museums to tell the story.

This article seeks to deal with the programming technology used in art (computational art) in detail during the next paragraphs and for that, some topics will be presented, such as: what is computational art? What is its origin? and what are the main precursors and works. So, get ready, at this moment, to know a little about the history of computational art and how everything has developed until today.

Initially, in order for us to reach the creation of computational art, it is important to mention the creation of computing and what consolidated it. The term computing, generically, refers to all programming done for computers. It seems obvious, doesn't it? However, such technology may not be as obvious as it seems, because if I tell you that programming is a language made in codes, which when decoded result in the delimitation of functions for the computer? I think that now you will be able to understand better, no?

Well, in addition to being a language, programming is considered a standardized method that consists of a set of syntactic and semantic rules, used to implement a main code, which can be compiled and converted into a function or process. Such processes can result in photographic images, drawings, paintings and even animations, thus creating a computational aesthetic.

It is important to emphasize that programming comes long before the creation of the modern computer, because initially it was limited only as a language and as everyone knows, language is a main source for art, with this, the improvement of this programming language. thus gave birth to computational art.

What is computational art?

When taking the literal meaning of the expression, we can consider computational art, as any type of art in which computers have a basic role in the creation or exhibition, with this, the results of these computer performances can be manifested in images, sounds, videos and even algorithmic animation, as already mentioned.

Many areas of knowledge are already integrating digital technologies and, as a result, the barriers between traditional works of art and new media are falling behind as some artists combine traditional painting with digital technologies. But how do you know what is considered computational art and what is not? We may not be able to answer this question exactly, because even in the first exhibitions of computational art, “art” presented controversies, because the images created at that time were not considered artistic works, but only algorithmic representations.

Most of these algorithmic representations were only geometric, due to the difficulty in creating realistic images, both in relation to the visualization technology in the graphic outputs, monitor and printer, and in the development of algorithms.

In contrast to the past, we can see how much such technology has evolved, mainly in the way it is currently manifested, since computational art, together with the technique of three-dimensional modeling and interactivity, develops the concept of immersion in the image. The sensation of immersion arises in virtual spaces due to its three-dimensional shape, where it is possible, in addition to exploring space, to act inside and get in touch with other people and virtual objects.

Because it takes place in a broad, free and currently highly evolved form, computational art is not able to be measured or presented as an art of recurring or predictable manifestations, because the forms of manifestation are multiple: from codes that represent lines and lines that hypnotize us, even holograms computed to interact with the audience.


What is the origin of this artistic expression?

In this paragraph, we will have to turn to the 1960s, when it all started, since, with the invention of a drawing machine by Desmond Henry, the idea of ​​computational art emerged. When his machine became widely known, his work was exhibited at the Reid Gallery in London and his techniques spread.

Still in London, however in 1968, the Institute of Contemporary Arts hosted one of the most influential exhibitions of computational art in history. The exhibition featured artists who are now considered pioneers in this artistic expression: Nam June Paik, Frieder Nake, Leslie Mezei, Georg Nees and A. Michael Noll. From the socially generated prominence, the works obtained an appreciation, thus contributing to the evolution of the technique, with that, under the direct influence of this event, in 1969, the Computer Arts Society (Computer Arts Society) was founded, also in London.

In the 70s, the Xerox Corporation Research Center, in Palo Alto, United States, created the first Graphical User Interface (or GUI), a more simplified creation platform. But only in 1984 did computer art become a market, thanks to Macintosh. With the increasing popularity, digital designers quickly started using this new creative tool. Also from the 1970s, the Arteônica conference and exhibition was promoted in São Paulo.

How is computational art expressed?

As already mentioned, computational art can be expressed in countless ways, but perhaps we can only imagine more current forms of computational art, which are graphic animations, which are widely used by cinematographic productions, for example. However, in the past, many of the artists in this field have dared and innovated in forms of expression, as in the case of Béla Julesz, mentioned above. The neuroscientist Béla, studied the demarcation of points on the image, that is, the computational points gave the illusion of an image representation. This representation, now considered artistic, was previously just a study, but which led to the creation of autostereograms.

The technique developed by Béla, has great influence for computational artistic expressions today, because autostereograms are a series of tiny codes designed together to create the visual illusion of a three-dimensional (3D) scene from a two-dimensional image. To perceive the 3D shapes in these autostereograms, it is necessary to overcome the normally automatic coordination between accommodation (focus) and horizontal vergence (angle of the eyes). The illusion is one of depth perception and this is caused by the different perspective of each eye in a three-dimensional scene, called binocular parlaxis.

Did you notice how an artistic expression can imply countless other studies? Some artists, instead of dots, use bar codes to configure the illusion of an image, as in the case of Scott Blake, which will be presented in the next paragraph. 

Meet some works

Until now, we have been able to introduce you to the concept of computational art, how it has developed and how it has evolved, now we will show you a little of the most discussed works in the world, coming from computational art.

The first artist to be explored is Henrique Roscoe. The visual artist as he is known, works with audio, sound and video, however, each project has different concepts and specific tools, from musical instruments to computers. The artist explores a branch still little known in Brazil, but which is gaining space, called generative art, a style defined by computer codes. The plans created by the artist / programmer become colors and sounds that evolve in a predetermined logical sense.

In 2016, the artist exhibited one of his works composed by generative art whose objective was to represent a video game without a winner. An interactive work manipulated by two Super Nintendo controls, with images that resemble old games. The work represents modern computational art, referencing the old, but with current techniques.

The second work to be presented belongs to the Brazilian artist Eduardo Kac, one of the pioneers in computational and holographic art in Brazil. Unlike other works, the artist Eduardo Kac uses computing close to his body, which gave him the title of first person to implant a microchip in his body in 1997 as part of his work, called “Capsule of Time”. Since then, the artist has carried out several controversial experiences in the field of bioart in computational art, daring with his different and modern techniques.

In 1983, Kac released a book called "Escracho" (which is part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York) and started working on the concept of holopoetry. In 1984, he participated in the exhibition "Como Vai Você, Geração 80?" at Parque Lage (Rio de Janeiro). Between 1985 and 1986, he started his work with digital art through the videotext system.

The last work to be presented is by an artist mentioned in the previous paragraph, named Scott Blake. In his projects, the American Blake uses barcodes found in several products. With bar codes, Scott creates countless figures, but mostly, portraits of famous people. Right after the illustration, the artist also creates interactivity between art and its audience. On Elvis' face, for example, when scanning one of the codes that make up the image, it plays a song or presents a clip of the artist, on Youtube. Giving his works a traditional concept of "codes" belonging to computational art, since the beginning.


What's up? Have you finally managed to decipher all the codes of this art? If you have not been able to solve it, feel happy for it, because the codes of this art are not produced to make logical sense but to be appreciated aesthetically, because art, regardless of its forms of expression, must be properly appreciated.

So we can say, that art nowadays has been joining technology in an unprecedented way, nowadays it is not enough for a device to be just technological, it has to have attractive aesthetic traits, this is when art comes in to give a touch of sophistication to them. And in the artistic world, as you could see, it is possible to find many artistic expressions that mention technology, with traces of the past and future together, which makes the arts innovative.

In this text it was possible to find a brief summary of what computational art is and where and when it originated. It was possible to meet some important personalities who not only developed great artistic skills, but discovered great technological achievements as in the case of Béla Julesz with her three-dimensional technique.

With that we were able to discuss not only computational art, but also art in general, around the world, a subject that has been much discussed in this year of 2020, mainly due to the pandemic of COVID-19. If you are interested in knowing a little more about art, or discussing a little about the impacts of technology on art, explore some of our timelines, where you will find detailed stories on certain topics.

For example, the timeline: “Life and Art of Leonardo da Vinci” that tells the life and art of one of the greatest artists in history, bringing together art, history and technology.