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Mainframe Experimentalism challenges the conventional wisdom that the digital arts arose out of Silicon Valley’s technological revolutions in the 1970s. In fact, in the 1960s, a diverse array of artists, musicians, poets, writers, and filmmakers around the world were engaging with mainframe and mini-computers to create innovative new artworks that contradict the stereotypes of "computer art." Juxtaposing the original works alongside scholarly contributions by well-established and emerging scholars from several disciplines, Mainframe Experimentalism demonstrates that the radical and experimental aesthetics and political and cultural engagements of early digital art stand as precursors for the mobility among technological platforms, artistic forms, and social sites that has become commonplace today.
"The computer may now be seen as a 'universal machine,' but this has not always been the case. This substantial collection of essays and documents shows how artists, poets, musicians, filmmakers and other experimenters first discovered the computer, and began using it as their tool and medium. Mainframe Experimentalism is essential reading for anyone who wants to penetrate behind superficial clichés about digital art and culture." Erkki Huhtamo, author of Illusions in Motion: A Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles
"Higgins' and Kahn's anthology is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the impact of computer technology on creative production in the arts and literature in the 1960s and beyond. This superb collection presents the first truly international examination of this subject, demonstrating the fascinating collaborations and interchanges that occurred as artists, poets, musicians, and filmmakers explored the potential for new, impersonal forms of expression offered by 'mainframe experimentalism.' Here is the prehistory of the digital arts of today in a volume that is equally essential to the histories of the individual fields involved as well as to scholarship on art and technology in general." Linda Dalrymple Henderson, author of Duchamp in Context: Science and Technology in the Large Glass and Related Works