Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226002736 Will Publish August 2014
E-book $36.00 Available for pre-order. ISBN: 9780226002873 Will Publish August 2014

Chromatic Algorithms

Synthetic Color, Computer Art, and Aesthetics after Code

Carolyn L. Kane

Carolyn L. Kane

328 pages | 114 color plates, 15 halftones, 3 line drawings, 1 table | 7 x 10 | © 2014
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226002736 Will Publish August 2014
E-book $36.00 ISBN: 9780226002873 Will Publish August 2014
These days, we take for granted that our computer screens—and even our phones—will show us images in vibrant full color. Digital color is a fundamental part of how we use our devices, but we never give a thought to how it is produced or how it came about.
           
Chromatic Algorithms reveals the fascinating history behind digital color, tracing it from the work of a few brilliant computer scientists and experimentally minded artists in the late 1960s and early ‘70s through to its appearance in commercial software in the early 1990s. Mixing philosophy of technology, aesthetics, and media analysis, Carolyn Kane shows how revolutionary the earliest computer-generated colors were—built with the massive postwar number-crunching machines, these first examples of “computer art” were so fantastic that artists and computer scientists regarded them as psychedelic, even revolutionary, harbingers of a better future for humans and machines. But, Kane shows, the explosive growth of personal computing and its accompanying need for off-the-shelf software led to standardization and the gradual closing of the experimental field in which computer artists had thrived.
           
Even so, the gap between the bright, bold presence of color onscreen and the increasing abstraction of its underlying code continues to lure artists and designers from a wide range of fields, and Kane draws on their work to pose fascinating questions about the relationships among art, code, science, and media in the twenty-first century.
Lev Manovich, Graduate Center, City University of New York
“Kane’s fascinating book is the perfect example of what twenty-first century media history and theory should be—wide-reaching; attentive to the details of media and software technologies; bringing into conversation art, science, and code; and combining analysis of particular artifacts and artworks with institutional history. This is one book you must read, both for its methodology and ideas and the histories Kane uncovers. A fantastic achievement from a brilliant young scholar.”
Sean Cubitt, Goldsmiths, University of London
“To read Chromatic Algorithms is to dive into a hidden history of wild inventions and dramatic standardizations, of artist-engineers whose names are treasured by too few, and of corporations whose norms are praised by too many. Using media archaeology to unpack the mystery and commerce of electronic color that now dominate twenty-first century-perception, Kane communicates lucidly and with passion the joy of discovering lost art and lost ideas, and the euphoria of thinking through them with the most brilliant of contemporary thinkers and artists. From Frieder Nake and Shuya Abe to Eduardo Kac and Jeremy Blake, the book bursts with the struggle for and over color that formed the new digital sensorium. Chromatic Algorithms is a history whose pages could be written only by a scholar who cares equally and passionately about past and future color.”
John Durham Peters, University of Iowa
“Theory is gray, said Goethe, but in Chromatic Algorithms, a secret history of how computers and art came together since the 1960s, Kane begs to differ. This jelly bean bowl of colorful and flavorful characters, ideas, and facts promises to cure us all of colorblindness.”
Brian Price, University of Toronto
Chromatic Algorithms promises to set the fields of color study and new media in a completely new direction. Not only does Kane offer us an important history of the development of digital color technologies and their uptake in video art, she also tells a remarkable story of the relation between art and commerce in her finely detailed study of Bell Labs, which is importantly identified as a site of radical aesthetic experimentation. Kane’s study upends the facile oppositional logics of the relation of art and industry that plague so many discussions of the avant-garde and aesthetic autonomy. Moreover, the digital color aesthetic that Kane elaborates here—which moves from historical accounts of technological development to broader ontological considerations of media, mediation, and aesthetic experience—makes clear the complications of both color and code that any general theory of aesthetic experience in the twenty-first century will have to account for.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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