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Generative Art Summit Berlin

“I am very pleased to participate in this important Summit and to assist in recovering the work of the early generation of artists who, by engaging with machines, first explored the potential of what beame the digital revolution.”

A Quest for Creative Collaboration: George Mallen and the early Computer Arts Society

“The creative processes of artists are thought to be extremely complex.  How may computer technology be harnessed to assist, to inspire, to improve these processes?  Current experiments are exploratory first steps.”  George Mallen, co-founder of the Computer Arts Society, writing in 1969.

The Computer Arts Society’s first exhibition – Event One at the Royal College of Art (March 1969), defined the future direction of the Society. Namely, a desire to promote creative computing in all art forms, based on an understanding of cybernetics that allowed a previously unknown degree of collaborative meaning making for art. An analysis of the early activity of CAS demonstrates that artists, by embracing computing, could have a greatly amplified role, one that was integrated with societal concerns. The ground-breaking CAS project Ecogame of 1970, led by Mallen (a pioneer of creative computer systems since 1962), was a very early example of digital technology in interactive art. Ecogame was a simulation model of an economic system, dealt with opportune issues of ecology and environment, and was the first multi-player, digitally driven, interactive gaming system in the UK.  CAS members believed in a positive ‘human machine interrelationship’ made visible through art – their cross-disciplinary and collaborative art projects heralded the future, a future visible today in many aspects of contemporary media art. Today, with Artificial Intelligence affecting nearly every aspect of human life – one largely mediated through screens, it is timely to focus on early innovators of the 1960s like Mallen and Herbert W. Franke.

Catherine Mason is an independent art historian and writer. 

Over a thirty-five-year career she has worked in both commercial galleries and public-sector arts organisations, spent ten years teaching adult education in the 1990s, and from 2002 has been focused on recovering the lost history of computer and digital art.

Just published is Creative Simulations: George Mallen and the early Computer Arts Society (Springer: 2024).

Other books include the solo authored A Computer in the Art Room: The Origins of British Computer Arts 1950-80 (JJG: 2008 & eBook 2021) and the co-edited White Heat, Cold Logic: British Computer Art 1960-1980 (MIT: 2009).  She is on the board of the Computer Arts Society.