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Title: Digital Art History, 56°56’51” N 24°6’23”E
Authors: Zarina, Solvita
Issue Date: 5-Jul-2016
Series/Report no.: Practices: Differential Sites;08.11.2015 Session 8A
Abstract: Fortunately Latvia has found a place in Media Art history. This is evidenced by the annual festival Art+Communication held in Riga, the pioneering status of E­LAB as the early developers of Net Art, the prix Ars Electronica awarded to the MILK project (2005) and other well­known activities and events in this field. This paper wants to dig deeper in the past and attempt to unearth some lesser­known artifacts from the 1970s, when a kind of ASCII Art and Computer music emerged in the academic circles of Latvian computer scientists. Case studies of these ephemeral art phenomena show several differences from their Western counterparts. Among these are the realistic approach and even a pro­Soviet propaganda function of visual arts. Music formed by calculated computer signals prompted a scientific approach to this field. In other cases, it served as a somewhat underground activity. Another site­specific milestone has to be mentioned to paint a more accurate picture of the early history of media art. The emergence of design was encouraged by the establishment of the Design Department at the Art Academy of Latvia in the 1960s. Gradually it became an environment where most Western contemporary art movements and practices were inconspicuously studied and pursued. Design served as a kind of umbrella term for artistic activities that were not allowed in the political space of the Soviet Union. Later, it made possible the freedom of ideas for realizing a completely new set of activities in the field of media art.
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