Author of the project: Marinko Sudac
Curator: Dorotea Fotivec Očić
Texts: Ješa Denegri, Feđa Vukić
Cooperation: Institute for the Research of the Avant-Garde
Referencing one of the most significant phenomena within post-war European art, the New Tendencies movement (Zagreb, 1961 – 1973), and a series of five exhibitions derived from the movement, the Institute for the Research of the Avant-Garde and Marinko Sudac, the project's author, look at the context of creation within artistic groups in the period after the Second World War - groups that operated within different artistic styles, from programmed art, cybernetics, computer, algorithmic, digital art and others. The exhibition also opens a dialogue on art today, the art created within the rapidly changing technological reality and new valuation systems.
The paradigm shift from solo artists to art groups is particularly evident in the late 1950s and 60s. Joint activity, in some cases under manifests, takes place within a time of significant progress in science and social opportunities. As G. C. Argan argues, collective action became "necessary [then] in all areas of research: in urban planning and science, as well as in industry, so why should group research not be possible in the arts? "We find such an example in the works of the Uno Group (presented with the work of its member Nato Frascà). Programmed art (arte programmata), which Umberto Eco named in 1962, is created by the systematic elaboration of strictly defined numerical/mathematical laws. Paintings cease to be individual works of art, and they become units in series as a consequence of the analytical process. One of the representatives of this art is the artistic couple Lucia di Luciano and Giovanni Pizzo, who also exhibited at the New Tendency 3 exhibition in 1965. Their activity occurred in two artistic groups – Gruppo 63 (alongside Francesco Guerrieri and Lia Drei) and Operativo R (alongside Franco di Vito and Carlo Carchietti).
Gruppo Austria is presented at the exhibition by its member Jorrit Tornquist, a colour theorist who bases his work on accurate experiments with colour, density and clarity and analysis of complementary effects. Richard Kriesche, another member of the group, in the catalogue of the exhibition Tendencies 4, forecasts one possibility of the future of art: "The artist's future task could be to offer 'basic instruments' that are subject to the free manipulation of the individual. No "complete work of art", but the basic experiences form a framework program for individual possibilities and realisation."
In the mid-1960s, computer art emerged, aided by new technical achievements and programming processes. The creators of these works were rarely trained artists and often scientists, programmers, and computer enthusiasts. They created works, computer-generated graphics, computer-assisted films and compositions; they created cyber devices and environments, machines that make "art". Among the pioneers of this art are Myron W. Krueger, the father of artificial reality, and Frieder Nake, one of the originators of digital (algorithmic) art. These are just some of the individuals who, through their work and theoretical work, built the foundations for the most recent forms of digital art, such as NFT (non-fungible token; irreplaceable token; a unique encrypted digital file that includes all relevant information about the content it represents and can be identified through a unique code). Also, one of the pioneers of this art, Herbert W. Franke, created generative photography, worked with analogue computers and digital art, and recently turned his series of works Math Art (1980 – 1995) into NFTs (non-fungible tokens).
Technology development gives artists new ideas about the future – what it could look like in its utopian or dystopian edition. In this segment, artists create between anxiety, hope and desire. The New Tendency 3 exhibition, during the Cold War era between the United States and the USSR, presented both the Soviet Dvizhenie group (presented here by the futuristic projects of Lev Nussberg) and the American Anonima group (presented here by the artist Edwin Mieczkowski).
Active since the late '60s and today, artists gathered around an international group based in America, the Art Research Center, led by Michael T. Stephens, operates at the intersection of science, mathematics and art. Stephens believes that: "Artists can and should be experimenters and an 'early warning system' for the world's future - retaining their aesthetic functions, but at the same time forming a whole with the needs of their social environment." One of the group's members is Jon Bress Thogmartin, who is still active in the field of digital arts, and here he also exhibits work in the form of NFT (non-fungible token).
Art also explores its possibilities and limits in today's highly globalised and digital world. In this context of questioning and commenting on today's creativity within the rapidly changing technological reality, the Autopsia group also created works. They are a depersonalised art project that, along with industrial music, bases its creation on samples, the basic unit of post-production material. Another is the representative of the Yugoslav New Art practice, Radomir Damnjanović Damnjan, who, with his "three-dimensional paintings", explores the boundaries and links between subject and non-subject art through NFT (non-fungible token).
The New Fundamental Tendencies exhibition highlights the specific context within which groups of artists created art with the help of operative procedures and new technologies, which come as legacies of futurism and constructivism as pioneering movements from the first half of the century, where their post-war successors continue the ideal of the union of contemporary art and science, the use of new technologies, including computers, for the purposes of artistic design - as indicated by Ješa Denegri.
From programmed art to NFT, much has changed in the social and technological environment. What connects them is a series that began with mathematical, programmed images in series that paved the way for computer-generated art and creators outside the art world. This led to a completely democratic creation of content on the Internet. But is blockchain really a platform of artistic democracy? Can a genuine artistic lineage develop within the highly market-regulated system of digital art creation, a lineage that will continue the fundamental tendencies that began in the 1960s?
Feđa Vukić, one of the authors of the texts in the upcoming exhibition catalogue, rightly asks: Is the trend of tokenisation (NFT – non-fungible token) of the image a new tool of human transcendence of the natural, or a path to a new symbolic level of the idea of freedom within the technologised reality? Or, possibly, a road to direct, digital democracy, which Beer tried at the technical level in the early 1970s in the project Cybersyn (1971 - 1973) for the government of Salvador Allende. Are these the new fundamental tendencies of computing, aesthetics and the human species in general?