History of Electronic Arts

A view of the exhibition »Hiroshi Kawano«: A room with seven paintings with geometric patterns, in the middle an abstract wooden sculpture.

The history of electronic arts has been researched only in part until now. The ZKM is committed to exploring this history, and presenting the results of its research in exhibitions, symposia, and publications, and opening it for discussion.

The reasons for these gaps in the history of electronic arts in the twentieth century are many: only a few works are housed in museums or publically accessible private collections. Thus, they are not known to the broad public and scholars can access them, if at all, only with great difficulty. For a considerable time, little information was available in libraries and archives. Many works, together with related knowledge have thus been irrevocably lost.

On the one hand, this resulted from the historical indifference of the art market, collectors, museums, and established art journals. On the other hand, it resulted from a conscious rejection of the art market and conventional art institutions by a large number of artistic working in the new media of their times. Although these artists introduced parallel distribution channels and founded their own journals, they were only partially integrated into the structures for long-term public preservation of cultural goods. One further difficulty in the exploration of historical works of electronic art, for example, videotapes and computer-based works, is their rapid deterioration and extreme sensitivity.
As a museum and site for research and production, the ZKM has at its disposal, unique conditions for pursuing the history – or more precisely, the histories – of electronic arts: curators and guest scholars discover artists whose traces have been nearly completely lost. Restorers – from the Laboratory for Antiquated Video Systems, for example – once again make works accessible, thereby opening new perspectives. Exhibitions and publications facilitate a presentation of electronic artworks within context of the art of their era.

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