White Heat Cold Logic: British Computer Art 1960-1980


Technological optimism, even utopianism, was widespread at midcentury of 20th century; in Britain, Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1963 promised a new nation “forged from the white heat of the technological revolution.” In this heady atmosphere, pioneering artists transformed the cold logic of computing into a new medium for their art and played a central role in connecting technology and culture. White Heat Cold Logic tells the story of these early British digital and computer artists—and fills in a missing chapter in contemporary art history.

In this heroic period of computer art, artists were required to build their own machines, collaborate closely with computer scientists, and learn difficult computer languages. White Heat Cold Logic’s chapters, many written by computer art pioneers themselves, describe the influence of cybernetics, with its emphasis on process and interactivity; the connections to the constructivist movement; and the importance of work done in such different venues as commercial animation, fine art schools, and polytechnics.

The advent of personal computing and graphical user interfaces in 1980 signaled the end of an era, and today we do not have so many dreams of technological utopia. And yet our highly technologized and mediated world owes much to these early practitioners, especially for expanding our sense of what we can do with new technologies.


Year: 2008
Place: Cambridge, MA
Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 9780262026536
People referred to: Manfred Mohr, Georg Nees, A. Michael Noll, Charles "Chuck" Csuri, Lillian F. Schwartz, Karl Gerstner, Christoph Hoffmann, Jasia Reichardt, Harold Cohen, Frieder Nake, Frank Popper, William Allan Fetter, Robert John Lansdown, Herbert W. Franke, Paul Brown, Lloyd Sumner, Jack Wesley Burnham Jr., David Em, Josef Albers, Jackson Pollock, Boris Kelemen, Howard Wise, Bela Julesz, Marc Adrian, Richard Paul Lohse, Kazimir Severinovich Malevich, Pieter Cornelis "Piet" Mondrian, Martin Krampen, Bridget Riley, Paul Klee, Edward Ihnatowicz, Jeffrey Steele, Desmond Paul Henry, Charlie Gere, Lucy R. Lippard, Douglas Davis, Abraham André Moles, John Vince, Stephen Willats, John Hamilton Frazer, Tony Longson, Norman White, Max V. Mathews, Sol Le Witt, John Turnbull, Brian Reffin Smith, David Rokeby, Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, John Whitney Sr., Stan VanDerBeek, Yaacov Agam, Herbert Brün, Roger Dainton, Christopher Evans, Lejaren A. Hiller, Bruce Lacey, John Lifton, Frank Joseph Malina, Gustav Metzger, Lowell Nesbitt, Nam June Paik, Gordon Pask, Lionel Penrose, J. R. Pierce, Michael Pitteway, Anthony Pritchett, Nicolas Schöffer, James Seawright, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Jean Tinguely, Wen Ying Tsai, Peter Zinovieff, Edward Zajec, Iannis Xenakis, Donald Michie, Jef Raskin, Hans Haacke, Nicholas Negroponte, Alan Sutcliffe, George Mallen, Jeremy Gardiner, Vannevar Bush, Gottfried Michael Koenig, Myron W. Krueger, Franciszka Themerson, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Stephen A.R. Scrivener, Ernest Edmonds, Grace C. Hertlein