Roger F. Malina, Executive Editor
Sean Cubitt, Editor- in-Chief
Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, Eduardo Kac, 2007
The Hidden Sense: Synesthesia in Art and Science, Cretien van Campen, 2007
Closer: Performance, Technologies, Phenomenology, Susan Kozel, 2007
Video: The Reflexive Medium, Yvonne Spielmann, 2007
Software Studies: A Lexicon, Matthew Fuller, 2008
Tactical Biopolitics: Art, Activism, and Technoscience, edited by Beatriz da Costa and Kavita Philip,
White Heat and Cold Logic: British Computer Art 1960–1980, edited by Paul Brown, Charlie Gere,
Nicholas Lambert, and Catherine Mason, 2008
Rethinking Curating: Art after New Media, Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook, 2010
Green Light: Toward an Art of Evolution, George Gessert, 2010
Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art, Laura U. Marks, 2010
Synthetics: Aspects of Art & Technology in Australia, 1956–1975, Stephen Jones, 2011
Hybrid Cultures: Japanese Media Arts in Dialogue with the West, Yvonne Spielmann, 2012
Walking and Mapping: Artists as Cartographers, Karen O’Rourke, 2013
The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art, revised edition, Linda Dalrymple
Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles, Erkki
Relive: Media Art Histories, edited by Sean Cubitt and Paul Thomas, 2013
Re-collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory, Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito, 2014
Biopolitical Screens: Image, Power, and the Neoliberal Brain, Pasi Väliaho, 2014
The Practice of Light: A Genealogy of Visual Technologies from Prints to Pixels, Sean Cubitt, 2014
The Tone of Our Times: Sound, Sense, Economy, and Ecology, Frances Dyson, 2014
The Experience Machine: Stan VanDerBeek’s Movie-Drome and Expanded Cinema, Gloria Sutton,
Hanan al-Cinema: Affections for the Moving Image, Laura U. Marks, 2015
Writing and Unwriting (Media) Art History: Erkki Kurenniemi in 2048, edited by Joasia Krysa and
Jussi Parikka, 2015
Control: Digitality as Cultural Logic, Seb Franklin, 2015
New Tendencies: Art at the Threshold of the Information Revolution (1961–1978), Armin Medosch,
See http://mitpress.mit.edu for a complete list of titles in this series.
Art at the Threshold of the Information Revolution (1961–1978)
The MIT Press
© 2016 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or
mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval)
without permission in writing from the publisher.
This book was set in Stone Sans and Stone Serif by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited. Printed and
bound in the United States of America.
The author has made every attempt to contact the rightsholders of the images reproduced in this
book. Please contact the author with any copyright queries and corrections.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Medosch, Armin, author.
Title: New tendencies : art at the threshold of the information revolution
(1961-1978) / Armin Medosch.
Description: Cambridge, MA : The MIT Press, 2016. | Series: Leonardo book
series | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2015038401 | ISBN 9780262034166 (hardcover : alk. paper)
Subjects: LCSH: Nouvelle tendance (Exhibition) | Information theory in
aesthetics. | Art and technology—Europe—History—20th century. | Art and
Classification: LCC N7433.84.E85 M43 2016 | DDC 701/.03—dc23 LC record available at
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Series Foreword vii
1 Anticipation of the Electronic Grid (New Tendencies, 1961) 15
2 The Scientification of Art? (1962–1963) 67
3 Dreamworlds of Cybernetic Socialism (1963–1965) 109
4 Computers, Visual Research, and “1968” (1968–1969) 143
5 Dematerializations: Art in the Early Information Revolution
6 Information Aesthetics Now 231
Artwork Cited 303
Leonardo/International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology (ISAST)
Leonardo, the International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology, and
the affiliated French organization Association Leonardo have some very simple
1. To advocate, document, and make known the work of artists, researchers, and
scholars developing the new ways that the contemporary arts interact with science,
technology, and society.
2. To create a forum and meeting places where artists, scientists, and engineers can
meet, exchange ideas, and, when appropriate, collaborate.
3. To contribute, through the interaction of the arts and sciences, to the creation
of the new culture that will be needed to transition to a sustainable planetary
When the journal Leonardo was started some forty-five years ago, these creative disciplines existed in segregated institutional and social networks, a situation dramatized
at that time by the “Two Cultures” debates initiated by C. P. Snow. Today we live in a
different time of cross-disciplinary ferment, collaboration, and intellectual confrontation enabled by new hybrid organizations, new funding sponsors, and the shared tools
of computers and the Internet. Above all, new generations of artist-researchers and
researcher-artists are now at work individually and collaboratively bridging the art, science, and technology disciplines. For some of the hard problems in our society, we
have no choice but to find new ways to couple the arts and sciences. Perhaps in our
lifetime we will see the emergence of “new Leonardos,” hybrid creative individuals or
teams that will not only develop a meaningful art for our times but also drive new
agendas in science and stimulate technological innovation that addresses today’s
For more information on the activities of the Leonardo organizations and networks,
please visit our websites at http://www.leonardo.info/ and http://www.olats.org.
Roger F. Malina
Executive Editor, Leonardo Publications
ISAST Governing Board of Directors: Nina Czegledy, Greg Harper, Marc Hebert (Chair),
Gordon Knox, Roger Malina, Tami Spector, Darlene Tong
Like many books, this work began as a PhD project. I would like to thank my main
supervisor, Janis Jefferies, for her invaluable support throughout this undertaking. I
would also like to thank my second supervisor, Michael Keith, and my examiners,
Charlie Gere and Matthew Fuller. I would like to thank everybody, students and staff,
at Goldsmiths Digital Studios.
I am deeply indebted to Matko Meštrović for his untiring support; I am grateful for
the continuing support of my friends and colleagues Darko Fritz and Ljiljana Kolešnik,
who helped me gain insight into a Croatian perspective on New Tendencies.
I would like to give a special thanks to all artists, relatives of artists, and art historians
who gave interviews and supplied image materials: Giovanni Anceschi, Antonio
Barrese, Oskar Beckmann, Richard Beckmann, Alberto Biasi, Analivia Cordeiro, Ješa
Denegri, Dieter Hacker, Gottfried Kämmer, Taeko Kawano, Julio Le Parc, Michele Massironi, Almir Mavignier, François Morellet, Frieder Nake, Georg Nees, Ekkehard Nees, A.
Michael Noll, T. Michael Stephens, Biljana Tomić, John B. Thogmartin, Bálint Szombathy, and Grazia Varisco.
I would also like to thank those who read early drafts of this work, in particular Brian
Holmes, Richard Barbrook, John Barker, and Francesca Da Rimini. My special thanks
goes to those who provided feedback at an advanced stage—in particular, Miško
Šuvaković and the anonymous peer reviewers.
A big thanks also to those who supported this project at various stages, such
as Christian Fuchs, Douglas Kahn, Lev Manovich, Nick Lambert and the British
Computer Arts Society, Georg Schöllhammer, Paul Stubbs, Georg Trogemann, and the
members of the Technopolitics circle in Vienna.
I would like to thank scholars who shared research materials with me: Federico
Deambrosis, Jacopo Galimberti, Paula Barreiro López, Midori Yamamuro, and Dietmar
I am grateful for the generous support of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb;
its director, Snježana Pintarić; former head of documentation, Jadranka Vinterhalter,
and current head of documentation, Jasna Jakšić; the late Marija Gattin and Ivna Jelčić;
and curators Lela Topić and Vesna Meštrić. I would like to thank the Austrian Cultural
Forum, Zagreb, for supporting my research trip to Zagreb.
I would like to thank the institutions and individuals who allowed me to access their
archives and/or allowed me to use material in their possession, especially Branka
Ćurčić, Zoran Pantelić of Kuda.org, and Kristian Lukić; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven;
V&A Graphical Cabinet, London; Tate gallery, London; Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana;
Generali Foundation, study room, Vienna; Museum der Moderne, Salzburg, Collection
Marinko Sudac, Avantgarde-Museum; Archiv Otto Beckmann, Vienna; and Gianni
Colombo Archive, Milan, Margit Rosen, ZKM, Karlsruhe.
A big thank you goes to Sean Cubitt, series editor of Leonardo Books, and everybody
else at the MIT Press.
I would like to give a special thanks to my wife, Ina Zwerger, who not only supported me throughout this project but also provided crucial advice about the title and
overall orientation of this work. Last but not least, I thank my mother, Elfriede Medosch,
for her lifelong support.
New Tendencies: Art at the Threshold of the Information Revolution (1961–1978) presents a
postwar art movement that has not yet received the attention it deserves, despite the
exceptional importance it enjoyed during the 1960s. This is astonishing considering
that, according to the French critic Catherine Millet, New Tendencies—together with
Nouveau Réalisme—was among the first new major art movements to break through
the stalemate in art after the Second World War.1 During the Cold War, the superpowers
instrumentalized art in order to gain the upper hand ideologically, vying for “soft
power”2 in their struggle for global dominance. In the 1950s, the United States supported, albeit covertly, Abstract Expressionism as a symbol of Western freedom and
individualism.3 In Europe, Informel painting was the dominant current, theorized by
influential critic Michel Tapié, who argued that formlessness marked a necessary break
with the past4 after the Second World War had revealed the moral hollowness of industrial civilization. In the nations within the Soviet zone of influence, the doctrine of
socialist realism was officially enforced. As Piotr Piotrowski has shown in his book
about art in the Eastern Bloc after 1945, In the Shadow of Yalta,5 the landscape was far
less monocultural than the official propaganda of both sides projected it to be. In particular, the dichotomy between Western freedom, individualism, and gestural abstract
painting on one hand, and Communism, socialist realism, and the depersonalized
mass man on the other hand was coming close to a caricature, albeit one that was
believed to be true by many people, especially in the former West.
In this scenario, former Yugoslavia, where New Tendencies first emerged, played a
special role. It had freed itself from Nazi occupation through a guerrilla war of a broad
alliance, but led by the Communists under Josip Broz Tito. Initially, Yugoslavia tried to
emulate the Soviet model, but in 1948 things came to a break between Tito and Stalin.
Subsequently, Yugoslavia developed a different brand of self-managed Socialism, in
which the arts were allowed to develop increasingly free from ideological state interference. The Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia was also among the founding
members of the nonaligned nations’ movement, which asserted the right of nations to
follow their own path rather than having to join one of the two power blocs.6 It was
in this scenario that New Tendencies first emerged, through an exhibition held at the
Gallery of Contemporary Art in Zagreb in 1961. As the English art philosopher Peter
Osborne pointed out, this city-sponsored public gallery, founded in 1954, was one of
the first public institutions to carry the term “contemporary art” in its name.7 It was
there that the Brazilian painter Almir Mavignier and the Croatian critic Matko
Meštrović met to complain about the dominance of gestural expression at the Venice
Biennale in 1960, a serendipitous conversation which led to the first New Tendencies
exhibition in Zagreb in 1961. However, the new sensibilities that informed New
Tendencies had started to develop earlier and became first visible around 1957, in oneevening exhibitions in the studio space of Zero in a bombed-out street in Düsseldorf,
or in an exhibition by Equipo 57 (Spanish political migrants) in a café in Paris. Formless painting as the equivalent of the existentialist scream in reaction to the atrocities
of the war and the crimes of Nazi rule had lost much of its creative power by then. It
was a time of many new beginnings, when the immediate task of postwar reconstruction had been accomplished, many nations around the world enjoyed an economic
boom, and new networks of transport and communication brought people and ideas
closer together again.
New Tendencies presents the development of this art movement and network in its
entanglement with economic, social, political, and technological history. This book
has set itself the admittedly ambitious task of rewriting an important chapter in postwar art history by seeking the connections between modernist neo-avant-gardes and
the historical context. The patterns of change and transformation arising from interactions among art, science, politics, technology, and culture in the broadest sense are,
however, more than just a context; they are also the actual content of this work. This
book draws out relationships among the concurrent but not identical paradigm changes
from Fordism to the information society on one hand and from postwar modernism to
dematerialized postmodern new art practices on the other hand.
New Tendencies is treated as neo-avant-garde, in accordance with Peter Bürger’s
influential book on the theory of the avant-garde.8 My usage of the term “neoavant-garde” is also based on the work of scholars from former Yugoslavia who
have invented a convincing periodization of avant-garde, neo-avant-garde, and postavant-garde.9 Yet unlike Bürger, I do not believe that the neo-avant-gardes simply
imitated the historic avant-gardes of the first two decades of the twentieth century.
New Tendencies found inspiration in artistic currents such as Constructivism, De Stijl,
and Bauhaus, but—acting under different historic circumstances—produced something that was genuinely new and original. The task is thus to present the historical,
intellectual, and material circumstances of New Tendencies’ time in such a way that
their lasting significance becomes evident. History is never just about the past but is
always also about the present. The significance of New Tendencies, to put it in the most
pointed way, is that it developed an information aesthetics first without and then
with computers. It emerged during a time when the technological, economic, and
political paradigm of Fordism was still going strong. Yet in the womb of Fordism, a new
paradigm—information society—was already breeding.
The term Fordism was first used by the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci.10 He
understood that Fordism was more than just the production methods introduced by
Henry Ford. It came with its own political economy that enabled workers to buy the
goods which they themselves produced and even implied a specific type of person.
Gramsci’s concept was elaborated by the French Regulation School11 into a political
economic theory that explained the reasons and conditions for the postwar economic
boom, often described in terms of an “economic miracle” (Wirtschaftswunder) in
Germany and Italy.12 The political economy is commonly referred to as Keynesianism,
after the English economist John Maynard Keynes.13 Keynesian policies of redistribution and of macroeconomic stabilization provided the conditions for the long boom of
the first twenty-five years after the Second World War.
Key components of Keynesian Fordism had first been implemented in the United
States during the era of the New Deal under President Roosevelt. After the Second
World War, the United States consciously stepped into the role of leading hegemonic
power of the world. While the United States possessed economic power far superior to
that of its rival, the Soviet Union, the latter was still capable of challenging its hegemony by focusing energies on specific areas such as military research, science, and
space technology.14 Global hegemonic rivalry is considered in this book as a motivating
force for technological development and for a struggle over cultural hegemony. An
attempt is made to give a balanced account, rather than just seeing the Western viewpoint, while always remaining mindful that Yugoslavia as the host of New Tendencies
occupied a third, nonaligned space. Drawing on interpretations of Walter Benjamin’s
work by Susan Buck-Morss,15 it can be said that capitalism and state socialism existed
within a dreamworld of mass utopia. The term “dreamworld” here refers to the dream
not only as an illusion but as a powerful capacity of mythmaking and mobilizing
resources. As Buck-Morss points out, while the rivaling superpowers professed to be
based on mutually opposing ideologies, they de facto deployed quite similar strategies
of industrialization and management. This analysis is consistent with the views of US
economist J. K. Galbraith, according to whom both systems relied on large “technostructures” for their economic and military survival.16 Moreover, the concept of dreamworlds includes a nonlinear understanding of time, whereby one era is capable of
dreaming the next one, albeit in an unclear shape.
This book is built on the premise that the groups, collectives, and artist networks
that began to form around 1957, and which met in that particular constellation in
Zagreb in 1961, articulated a specific relationship with the Fordist paradigm. Although
New Tendencies had its point of origin and organizational headquarters in Zagreb, this
movement had links into other artist networks in Milan, Munich, Düsseldorf and Paris,
which were, not by coincidence, centers of European Fordism in which the new methods of advanced industrial automation were first implemented.
New Tendencies, however, did not just blindly follow the dominant industrial paradigm. Its works created changing relationships between objects of art and viewers,
spatiotemporal relationships of a particular quality aimed at mobilizing viewers. When
its artists declared a complete break with the art of the past, a tabula rasa, reflected in
the choice of names—such as the Zero group in Germany and the Dutch group Nul
(“zero” in Dutch)—they also distanced themselves from the constraints of their present-day surroundings. The Fordist acceleration of production was bought at the price
of heightened alienation in working life and leisure time. New Tendencies artists, rather
than opposing the modern forces of technology—as most other artists and the Western
intelligentsia did—used the speeding up of contemporary life made possible by an
unprecedented rate of technological innovation to catapult themselves and their imaginary viewers even further, into a future beyond alienation and oppression. The new
beginning was also expressed as a search for the infinite,17 the desire to go beyond all
known boundaries, as manifested in the works of artists such as Yves Klein, who was
one of their mentors, and Piero Manzoni, who was a key participant in the first phase
of New Tendencies.
New Tendencies initially tried to formulate an art most adequate to the age of
advanced mass production. While doing so, its proponents dreamed up foundational
elements of an art of a new era: the information society. New Tendencies had an interesting relationship with technology and science. For example, on the occasion of the
second exhibition in Zagreb in 1963, the artist François Morellet and the researcher
François Molnár together published a theoretic manifesto under the title “For a
Progressive Abstract Art.”18 New Tendencies offers a lesson of eminent importance for
critical practices in art, art and science, and art and technology today. This movement
and network suggested a claim by the artistic left on an optimistic technological civilization. I present this vision as a cybernetic socialism, a possible alternative future, but
one that has become historically repressed. New Tendencies anticipated information
society, but not the neoliberal version that we have today. The collective ethos of New
Tendencies, however, meets us today in different guises—namely, in the form of the
free and open source software movement, Creative Commons, and other initiatives
building on the notion of the digital commons. New Tendencies produced an information aesthetics, first with analog, and then with digital means. Covering a period of
seventeen years, this movement developed in parallel with and contributed to the rise
of the new paradigm of the information age or network society.19
The term “paradigm” has been used here often enough to merit an explanation.
My usage of this term is rather specific. Theories about techno-economic paradigms20
provide the scaffolding for my historical periodization. They posit that periodically
arriving crises of capitalism are resolved only through the emergence of a new “leading
sector” in the economy, which drives economic growth.21 The introduction of new
techno-economic paradigms depends on clusters of innovations, usually combinations
of a technological advantage with new ways of organization and new ways of thinking.
The Venezuelan economist Carlota Perez describes the techno-economic paradigm as a
“mental map of best-practice options.”22 One could argue that New Tendencies tried to
intervene on such an infrastructural level as the mental map of Fordism, and, by doing
so, developed foundational practices and concepts of informational art.
Techno-economic paradigms do not explain the art but provide a framework for
understanding the changing conditions under which the artists operated. This notion
allows for differentiating between recognizing the heterogeneity of historical empiricism and identifying driving forces of historical change. In particular, it sees the introduction of new technologies as embedded within economic (and political) reality. The
notion of the paradigm allows for identifying correspondences between key characteristics of the time and the aesthetics and poetics of New Tendencies. This method is
justified even more because New Tendencies consciously tried to answer the challenges
posed to art by industrial mass production and concomitant changes in technology
and knowledge production.
The introduction of a new paradigm depends not just on technological innovation
but also on a new infrastructure and on organizational, political, and cultural changes.23
The economist Joseph Schumpeter recognized that for new clusters of innovations to
be introduced, a specific type of person was required: the inventor-entrepreneur.
Schumpeter’s conception of evolutionary techno-social change can account for the role
of the artist as agent of change. Artists involved in New Tendencies were close relatives
of Schumpeter’s inventor-entrepreneurs. They belonged, as Richard Barbrook formulated it, to the class of the new.24 Their ancestry includes the historic avant-gardes, but
the roots of their approach go even deeper. Princeton scholar Donald D. Egbert saw
New Tendencies as last in a line that started with the Saint-Simonists,25 a movement
founded by Henry de Saint-Simon (1760–1825). He believed that artists and scientists
would ensure the transition from the feudal theological age to the industrial, scientific
age.26 The Saint-Simonists were also responsible for the first use of the term “avantgarde” in the modern, nonmilitaristic sense. Egbert’s genealogy includes Robert Owen
and other early Communists, William Morris, neo-Impressionism, Constructivism, and
Techno-economic paradigms can be mapped onto the fifty-year cycles of Kondratiev
waves or long cycles: alternating economic phases of upswings and downswings that last
twenty-five years each on average and that were discovered by the Russian econometrist Nikolai Kondratiev in the 1920s.27 Carlota Perez has developed a stylized model of
paradigm change, according to which the new paradigm initially develops inside the
old one.28 While the fourth Kondratiev wave of oil and mass production was still
expanding, a highly productive cybernetic matrix developed around former wartime
research centers in the United States. At places such as MIT and Bell Labs, key concepts
and components of computing and telecommunications were built. The term “cybernetics” was coined by Norbert Wiener in the mid-1940s in the United States and popularized by the successful books Cybernetics29 and The Human Use of Human Beings.30 A
foundational concept developed at that time was the entirely new notion of information. Norbert Wiener defined “information” statistically as that which was “transmitted as a single decision between equally probable alternatives.”31 Claude Shannon put
information at the center of his mathematical theory of communication,32 better
known as information theory. After initial condemnation of cybernetics, leading Soviet
scientists embraced it and found support on the uppermost level when Nikita Khrushchev assumed undisputed leadership by 1957. The Soviets developed their own brand
of cybernetics (including early ideas for something akin to the Internet), but in the
end they did not realize it, for political reasons.33 A cybernetic discourse, however, was
rife both in the Soviet Union and its more developed satellites, such as the German
Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia; this discourse also had repercussions in the
arts, seen in groups such as Dvizhenie and a group exhibition of computer art shown
in Brno in January 1968, seven months ahead of London. The developments in the
postwar cyber-matrix were known only to a relatively small intellectual elite. As we
shall see, New Tendencies belonged to those privileged few, partly because of their connection with the Ulm College of Design, often called a new Bauhaus, in part because of
Yugoslavia’s function as a “nonaligned” gateway open to intellectual traffic from all
This book presents “a climate of modernization,” which Yugoslavia shared with
other peripheral and catching-up nations in Europe and Latin America. A premise
behind this book is that this climate of modernization stood in relation to the politics
of form deployed by New Tendencies. The fact that such an advanced discourse was
emanating from Zagreb and found echoes internationally is evidence of a highly original, nonderivative modernism. Charting those developments also leads into a dense
network of movements and groups.
The Croatian artist and curator Darko Fritz was first to suggest reading New Tendencies as a network.34 It was a network of networks that included group Zero from
Germany, the groups N and T from Italy, Equipo 57 from Spain, and Paris-based
Group de Recherche d'Art Visuel (GRAV), to name just a few of the most important
groups of the first phase of New Tendencies. The formation of groups in New Tendencies cannot be taken for granted as a kind of standard procedure in the art world.
It needs to be analyzed in relation to the groups’ collective ethos. Groups such as
GRAV, Equipo 57, and N experimented with collective authorship. Groups were also
a way of facilitating a dense information exchange among like-minded artists, whose
poetics and aesthetics were shaped by open exchanges through circular letters,
workshops, and meetings. In today’s terms, this would be called “commons-based
New Tendencies, although supported by a state-financed gallery, was much too
radical to be officially endorsed by the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (the name
of the party). The many artists and groups involved had links with the emerging
New Left, including the famous Praxis journal and group and precursors of the radical
Italian operaisti (workerists).36 The social analysis and critique of those groups was often
based on a new reading of Marx, initiated by the discovery of his early writings just
before the Second World War.37 A central element was Marx’s critique of commodity
fetishism,38 applied to the artwork and its ideological function in the capitalist world.
New Tendencies was united by the desire to abolish the artist as creative genius and
replace him or her with the notion of the visual researcher. This was rooted in a deep
democratic idealism, which also motivated working with new and often cheap industrial materials and using the most anonymous visual elements to create dynamic and
visual structures that appear to vibrate in space.
New Tendencies gave heightened attention to the viewer as a coproducer of
works. The political and social aspirations and beliefs of participants in New Tendencies amalgamated into a particular politics of form, whereby it was not always easy to
understand—for contemporaries of this movement and even more so for people
today—what was political. Although some participants may have desired to create a
socialist art, it was at least a social art,39 wrote Karl Gerstner, an artist and graphic
designer from Switzerland who was beyond suspicion of being a socialist. As this book
will try to show, New Tendencies’ politics of form was strongly influenced by its disavowal of the artist as a producer of commodities for the art market. By redefining art
as visual research, this movement saw a potential future role for art in societies of
advanced mass production. This also included a reconsideration of the relationship of
hand and head in artistic production. Attacking the individualism and whole worldview behind gestural expressive painting, New Tendencies strove to define the artistic
process in such a way that in the final production process the hand of the artist was no
longer needed. This led to the definition of “programmed art works,”40 as Umberto Eco
explained in a catalog text in 1962.
All those characteristics together make New Tendencies an important precursor of
media art and digital art. However, New Tendencies did not exist in a separate institutional niche like digital art today, but was firmly embedded in an explosively creative
new art scene that invented the new rules of play for art in the second half of the twentieth century. Although few of the participants have become globally recognized icons
of modernism, many are well established in their native countries. It is thus of great
importance to bring the movement and network that so decisively shaped their thinking and their careers back into public discourse.
New Tendencies created the foundations of an information aesthetics, if we allow
a decentered reading of this term. The notion of information aesthetics was initially
developed by Max Bense, his Stuttgart Circle, and, separately, by Abraham Moles.
New Tendencies as a movement was aware of that because of its links with the
Ulm College of Design. However, it is entirely feasible to say that New Tendencies
went beyond the narrow mathematical interpretation by Bense and Moles and created an information aesthetics in a much broader sense, which was also coupled
with an ethics of collective labor. Only such a reading of the term “information aesthetics”41 allows us to grasp the full relevance of New Tendencies for the contemporary world.
Nouvelle Tendance recherche continuelle (New Tendency continuous research), as the
movement was called at some point, replaced Marx’s continuous revolution with the
notion of continuous research. New Tendencies artists shared results rather than producing objects for an art market. Their work imagined a user, rather than a viewer—
someone who got actively involved. In Internet jargon, this resembled the “prosumer”
of the 1990s. Many works asked for a type of involvement that went beyond mere viewing and mobilized the viewer. However, formal innovation was not a goal in itself. The
mobilized viewer was expected to discover her or his critical agency. New Tendencies’
anticipatory treatment of important themes of 1960s art, such as participation, was
closely linked with its political vision. This vision, however, was less revolutionary than
reformist, as some of its left-wing opponents observed. The presentation of New
Tendencies’ projects triggered antagonism by groups such as Situationist International.
Within the movement, there existed a growing gulf between those who primarily
aimed at opening the sensibilities of viewers to new notions of space and time and
those who had a more consciously socialist, rationalist, and collectivist orientation.
This is a useful simplification, but there was actually a multiplicity of parallel narratives. Each group or individual treated some of the artistic problems differently while
coming from a shared set of interests. Engaging with the apparent contradictions
between a rationalist and a lyrical wing within New Tendencies from an open mindframe leads into a thicket of important questions regarding art’s relation to science and
New Tendencies artists created an analog “programmed art” without computers
during its first phase from 1961 to 1965 and actively turned to the computer as a
medium of visual research in 1968 to 1969. New Tendencies produced not only
innovative works of art and a string of seminal exhibitions in Zagreb and other
places (such as Venice and Paris) but also public conferences, catalogs, and nine
issues of Bit International, a journal published between 1968 and 1972. New Tendencies articulated itself also through closed meetings, small publications, newsletters,
and internal documents, such as private letters and concept papers. This text production forms an important body of work. Access to the archives of the former Gallery
Author Armin Medosch Isbn 9780262034166 File size 6MB Year 2016 Pages 408 Language English File format PDF Category Art Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare New Tendencies, a nonaligned modernist art movement, emerged in the early 1960s in the former Yugoslavia, a nonaligned country. It represented a new sensibility, rejecting both Abstract Expressionism and socialist realism in an attempt to formulate an art adequate to the age of advanced mass production. In this book, Armin Medosch examines the development of New Tendencies as a major international art movement in the context of social, political, and technological history. Doing so, he traces concurrent paradigm shifts: the change from Fordism (the political economy of mass production and consumption) to the information society, and the change from postwar modernism to dematerialized postmodern art practices. Medosch explains that New Tendencies, rather than opposing the forces of technology as most artists and intellectuals of the time did, imagined the rapid advance of technology to be a springboard into a future beyond alienation and oppression. Works by New Tendencies cast the viewer as coproducer, abolishing the idea of artist as creative genius and replacing it with the notion of the visual researcher. In 1968 and 1969, the group actively turned to the computer as a medium of visual research, anticipating new media and digital art. Medosch discusses modernization in then-Yugoslavia and other nations on the periphery; looks in detail at New Tendencies’ five major exhibitions in Zagreb (the capital of Croatia); and considers such topics as the group’s relation to science, the changing relationship of manual and intellectual labor, New Tendencies in the international art market, their engagement with computer art, and the group’s eventual eclipse by other “new art practices” including conceptualism, land art, and arte povera. Numerous illustrations document New Tendencies’ works and exhibitions. Download (6MB) Environmental Sound Artists: In Their Own Words Culture Crash: The Killing Of The Creative Class Digital Creativity: Something from Nothing Drama, Theatre, Performance Art and Human Rights: Contemporary Asian contexts Load more posts