heady atmosphere…


Technological optimism, even utopianism, was widespread at midcentury; in Britain, Harold Wilson in 1963 promised a new nation “forged from the white heat of the technological revolution.

Unknown title, 1962 by Desmond Paul Henry.

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In a heady atmosphere of the 1960’s, pioneering artists transformed the cold logic of computing into a new medium for their art and played a central role in connecting technology and culture.

Unknown title, 1962 by Desmond Paul Henry

The advent of personal computing and graphical user interfaces in 1980 signaled the end of an era, and today we do not have so many dreams of technological utopia. And yet our highly technologized and mediated world owes much to these early practitioners, especially for expanding our sense of what we can do with new technologies.

BTW,

In 1961, Are you in need of cheap Abana, but unable to find it? Buy in for just 56.81 right here! Desmond Paul Henry won a local art competition with that work. The prize was an exhibition at the Reid Gallery in London. When one of the judges, the artist L.S. Lowry, visited his home and saw the machine drawings, he encouraged Henry to show them.

The mechanical drawings of Desmond Paul Henry, of which the Victoria & Albert Museum hold three early examples, were created using an analogue bombsight computer adapted by the artist into a drawing machine. ‘The Guardian’ article of 1962 described Henry’s images as, ‘quite out of this world‘ and, ‘almost impossible to produce by human hands‘. The sensationalist tone sets it apart from more scholarly art criticism and suggests the novelty of this new type of art, as well as a sense of the utopianism surrounding the new technology that was still felt by many at this time.

Desmond Paul Henry first drawings were made using ballpoint pens. Then Henry switched to technical tube pens, whose ink was less likely to fade. He used the first drawing machine until 1963, when he recycled some of its components into the second. A third machine was completed in 1967. It took six to eight weeks to build each machine, and up to two days to produce a drawing. Once Henry became accustomed to the process, he would leave the machine running while he concentrated on academic work, or took his daily nap.

After the Reid Gallery exhibition in 1962, Henry showed his work locally in Manchester, and was then invited to participate in “Cybernetic Serendipity,” a 1968 survey of computer art at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Now seen as one of the most influential British exhibitions of the 1960s, it was a critical and popular success at the ICA, and then toured in the United States. Henry’s contribution was to show his second drawing machine in action.

NOTE :

Drawing Machine 1 by Desmond Paul Henry.

Desmond Paul Henry (1921-2004).

Henry was never artistically inspired by the graphic potential of the modern digital computer. He much preferred the direct interaction afforded by the clearly visible interconnecting mechanical components of the earlier analogue computer and as a consequence of his drawing machines also. This was in stark contrast to the invisible and indirect workings of the later digital computer: ‘the mechanical analogue computer, was a work of art in itself, involving a most beautiful arrangement of gears, belts, cams differentials and so on- it still retained in its working a visual attractiveness which has now vanished in the modern electronic counterpart; … I enjoyed seeing the machine work…’ (Henry, 1972).

The bombsight computers, from which Henry constructed these machines in his home-based workshop in Manchester, were employed in World War Two Bomber Aircraft to calculate the accurate release of bombs onto their target. He combined these computers with other components to create electronically-operated drawing machines which relied mainly on a ‘mechanics of chance’. This meant the drawing machines could not be pre-programmed or store information as in a conventional computer; nor were they precision instruments.

As a result, Henry had only general overall control but at the same time he could intervene to direct the course of image production at any given moment of his choosing. This spontaneous interactive element of his machines pre-empted by some twenty years similar interactive features of contemporary graphic manipulation software. 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