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Title: Science/Fiction: Canadian Information Art in the 1970s
Authors: Lauder, Adam
Keywords: media art
information art
transformation theory
Issue Date: 17-Oct-2017
Abstract: This paper proposes an original reading of Canadian artists’ evolving relationship to information technologies and changing concepts of “information” during the 1970s, as McLuhan’s media metaphysics entered a period of acute crisis. Symptomatic of this transitional moment is a 1974 microfiche authored by S. Markson and Mark Manson reporting on “a new movement in Canadian art, ‘Data-Art’.” Tensions between the document’s diminutive scale and the ambitious scope of its multi-platform analysis dramatize an accelerated drive to achieve new thresholds of compression and high-speed visualization in this period. Markson and Manson’s choice of microfiche as a publication format echoes American artists and engineers’ use of the S-C 4020 microfilm recorder to produce computer art at Bell Labs in New Jersey. This paper explores the hypothesis that the works brought into visibility by Technological Art in Canada constitute, not the “new movement” of data art proclaimed by its authors, but, rather, a second wave of Canadian information art: one that increasingly pushed up against the limits of the metaphysical media paradigm promoted by McLuhan and followers, as artists contended with the material constraints of complex and multi-layered computational ecologies. Applying the critical theory of François Laruelle—which explores the residual metaphysical investments of post-structuralist philosophy—I will also address the work of Vera Frenkel as thematizing a turn away from the corporeal and theological claims of McLuhan and followers to engage with positivist models as the raw materials of new modalities of “fiction.” Frenkel’s creative redeployment of the conventions of detective fiction in such projects as No Solution: A Suspense Thriller (1976-79) is axiomatic of the strategies of scientific fabulation practiced by artists in the wake of this anthropological turn.
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