The last five years has witnessed a growing interest in studies concerning mid-twentieth century collaborations between artists, engineers and technological industry.  From Bell Labs-sponsored Experiments in Art and Technology to aesthetic experimentation unfolding at XEROX and the National Research Council of Canada, the 1960s and 1970s saw numerous North American tech ventures inviting artists to access a new suite of creative tools, materials, and technological affordances.  Working contractually as »Resident Visitors« at the Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, artists like Nam June Paik, Lillian Schwartz, and Laurie Spiegel leveraged the emerging terms of computational logic and digital technique to reimagine the creative and aesthetic potential of their previously analogue practices.  Reflecting on her time at the Labs (1968–), Schwartz in particular has spoken of how early access to programmatic forms, processing speed, memory storage, and the material remnants of engineering problems shifted her practice from oil-based painting to computer-generated animations. 
»Working contractually as ›Resident Visitors‹ at the Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, artists like Nam June Paik, Lillian Schwartz, and Laurie Spiegel leveraged the emerging terms of computational logic and digital technique to reimagine the creative and aesthetic potential of their previously analogue practices.«
While computers offered Schwartz a novel technical means through which to continue her defining examination of synthetic color,  the digitalization of her practice ultimately led Schwartz to explore the mediating role that artist and algorithm play in the computational realization of digital images and artefacts. In works like Olympiad (1971) and Papillion (1973), Schwartz was one of the first to consider how an artist’s nuanced manipulation of code would both facilitate and shape the computational realization and animation of visual forms. In doing so, not only did she reassert the artist’s influential role within the throes of algorithmic image production, but she also forefronted the informational grounds of mid-century computation.
While significant scholarship has demonstrated how early access to computational technologies and industry shaped the foundations of many contemporary art movements, such as Performance and Conceptual Art,  these accounts often overlook the critical contributions that artists have made to the realization of technological innovation. In The Artist and the Computer, Bell Labs engineer John Pattberg states that he »find[s] it very interesting to see artists like Lillian Schwartz use the computer for the creation of new visual images.«  At a time when computer graphics were »applied almost exclusively to the problem of designing and documenting electronic circuits,« Pattberg claimed that, »in working with an artist you gain new perspectives in working with computer graphics« (ibid). As Pattberg’s assessment captures, artists were often invited into spaces of technological innovation as potential sources of insight and perspective. While initially conceived of as a tool for visualizing complex circuitry and mathematical problems, Lillian Schwartz identified additional affordances offered by computer graphics and their aesthetic interfaces.
»Reflecting on his own time at Bell Labs, engineer-turned-artist A. Michael Noll has claimed that artists were recruited largely in an effort to beautify and morally (re)frame technologies that were being designed by rigid and calculating engineers.«
In addition to identifying additional technical affordances of the machine, artists working within techno-industrial residency contexts have also shaped the discursive constitution of emerging technologies. Reflecting on his own time at Bell Labs, engineer-turned-artist A. Michael Noll has claimed that artists were recruited largely in an effort to beautify and morally (re)frame technologies that were being designed by rigid and calculating engineers.  Billy Klüver and Robert Rauschenberg echoed this sentiment in the original Manifestothat they wrote for the Experiments in Art and Technology organization (1966–1998). Within this context, collaboration between artists and engineers was intended to »eliminate the separation of the individual from technological change;« »enrich technology;« and »encourage industrial initiative in generating original forethought, instead of a compromise in aftermath.« 
»Rising opposition to American involvement in Vietnam only exacerbated a growing social concern regarding the rapid proliferation of computational technologies. The question in this case became whether technologies born out of these circumstances would necessarily maintain ties […] to their problematic origins.«
The desire in the 1960s and 1970s to recalibrate technological innovation was closely tied to a growing sense of sociopolitical unease directed toward technologies born out of the military-industrial complex.  Not only were the foundations of computer generated art born from ballistic missile technologies,  but numerous sources have identified warfare (and its associated economies) as the driving source of computational innovation across the twentieth century.  Rising opposition to American involvement in Vietnam only exacerbated a growing social concern regarding the rapid proliferation of computational technologies. The question in this case became whether technologies born out of these circumstances would necessarily maintain ties, whether functional or metaphorical, to their problematic origins. In response, many prominent art exhibitions, such as The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Era and Cybernetic Serendipity (both 1968), attempted to reframe new technologies, situating them either within a narrative that ultimately celebrates the progress of modern America  or locates them as playful and agreeable collaborators rather than as menacing interlopers.  Responding to this broader sociocultural and historical context, the collaborative inclusion of artists within techno-industrial environments was also framed as a further means of neutralizing emerging technological innovations while making their presence more aesthetically palatable to the public. 
»These problematic origins have become particularly troubling given the rapid proliferation and ubiquitous presence of digital technologies within contemporary culture. With each passing day, a new roster of smaller, faster, less apparent, and more comprehensive technologies are being advanced.«
Many of the creative practices, concerns, and critical debates that framed mid-twentieth century collaborations between media artists and technologists continue with added urgency today. From the virtual realization of drone warfare  to surveillance capitalism,  contemporary digital innovation remains thoroughly entwined with the needs and pursuit of violence and capital gain. These problematic origins have become particularly troubling given the rapid proliferation and ubiquitous presence of digital technologies within contemporary culture. With each passing day, a new roster of smaller, faster, less apparent, and more comprehensive technologies are being advanced.  From the transformation of banal things into an integrated network of smart actors to the pairing of big data collection methods with »deep learning« regimes, processes of mediation are increasingly withdrawing from view while simultaneously playing a more fundamental role in the articulation of everyday life. 
»Given the critical and reflexive role that collaborations between artists and engineers clearly played during the 1960s and 1970s, to ignore the contemporary promise of these creative intersections willfully overlooks the potential insight that they might offer into matters of technological innovation, discursive enframing, and emerging themes in contemporary art practice.«
While the problematic origin and sociocultural anxiety levied against emerging computational technologies echoes sentiments associated with the 1960s and 1970s, little if any research has considered the potential insight that an analysis of contemporary residency programming might offer to critical examinations of our contemporary relations to and understandings of technological innovation. Tech giants like Google and Autodesk, and science hubs like CERN (Switzerland) and NASA offer residency programming and host artists-in-residence, but there has yet to be overarching attempt to aggregate and critically analyze the contemporary implications of these positions and the kinds of work that they produce.  Given the critical and reflexive role that collaborations between artists and engineers clearly played during the 1960s and 1970s, to ignore the contemporary promise of these creative intersections willfully overlooks the potential insight that they might offer into matters of technological innovation, discursive enframing, and emerging themes in contemporary art practice.
In an effort to consider the contemporary implications of techno-industrial artist residencies, my current research maps and analyzes a selective history of techno-industrial residency programming backwards through industrialization and forwards across the contemporary. Drawing together archival and historical research, discourse analysis, interviews, and art criticism, the research program has three broad aims, namely: (1) to explore the rhetorical constitution of artist residency programming within historical and contemporary techno-industrial contexts; (2) to map a rich account of the collaborative relationships that have developed between artists, designers, and technologists working within residency contexts; and (3) to analyze how prominent themes and practices emerging across these residency contexts (past and present) are both corresponded to histories of art, while also functioning to discursively frame and shape the innovative potentials attributed to emerging technologies.
It is precisely in this third case that the concept of affordance comes to the fore as one of the central stakes of the project. From example, how has the work of artists intersected with the imagining, perception, enactment, and »realization« of technological affordances? How have artists critiqued or challenged the presumed affordances associated with established and emerging technologies? How is a negotiation of affordance different when contending with algorithmic rather than physical objects and technologies? These are some of the questions that I hope to take up across the symposium.
- M.A. Noll: »Early Digital Computer Art at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Incorporate,« in: Leonardo, Vol. 49, No. 1. 2016, pp. 55–65./ Z. Patterson: Peripheral Vision: Bell Labs, the S-C 4020, and the Origins of Computer Art. Cambridge 2015./C. Kane: Chromatic Algorithms: Synthetic Color, Computer Art, and Aesthetics After Code. Chicago 2014.
- C. Klüver and Rauschenberg, R.: »E.A.T,« in: The New Media Reader. Edited by N Montfort and Wardrip-Fruin, Cambridge 1998./ M.A. Noll: »Computer and the Visual Arts,« in: Design Quarterly. No. 66/67, 1966, pp. 64–71.
- M. Mansfield: »Computers and Art,« in: Watch This! Revelations in Media Art – Exhibition Catalogue. Smithsonian American Art Museum: Renwick Gallery. April 24, 2015 – September 7, 2015./C. Kane: »Programming the Beautiful: Informatic Color and Aesthetic Transformations in Early Computer Art,« in: Theory, Culture & Society. Vol. 27, No. 1, 2010, pp. 73–93
- L. Schwartz: Interview Appearance for the Office for Creative Research for the 2014 EyeoFestival, 2012. https://vimeo.com/98960229
- C. Kane: Chromatic Algorithms: Synthetic Color, Computer Art, and Aesthetics After Code. Chicago 2014.
- See for example M. Zeilinger: »Digital Art as ›Monetised Graphics‹: Enforcing Intellectual Property on the Blockchain,« in:Philosophy and Technology Journal 30.1, 2016./L. Cook,: Information. Cambridge 2016./E. Shanken: Systems. Cambridge 2015.
- J. Ball:The Artist and the Computer. AT&T Beflix, 1976. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuuGzEsu3-8
- M.A. Noll: »Computer and the Visual Arts,« in: Design Quarterly. No. 66/67, 1966, pp. 64–71.
- E.A.T. 1998: 3.
- A. Medosch: New Tendencies: Art at the Threshold of the Information Revolution [1961–1978]. Cambridge 2016./M. Lovejoy: Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age. New York 2004./ Wardrip-Fruin &Montfort 2003.
- Z. Patterson: Peripheral Vision: Bell Labs, the S-C 4020, and the Origins of Computer Art. Cambridge 2015./G. Taylor: When the Machine Made Art: The Troubled History of Computer Art. New York 2014./I. Sito:Moving Innovation: A History of Computer Animation. Cambridge 2013.
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- A. Broeckmann: Machine Art in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge 2016.
- M. Henning: Museum, Media and Cultural Theory, New York 2016./ R. Usselmann: »The Dilemma of Media Art: Cybernetic Serendipity at the ICA London,« in: Leonardo. Vol. 36, No. 5 n.p.2003.
- M. Wisnioski: »Why MIT Institutionalized the Avant-Garde: Negotiating Aesthetic Virtue in the Postwar Defence Institute,« Configurations. Vol. 21, No. 1., 2013./M.A. Noll: »Computer and the Visual Arts,« in: Design Quarterly. No. 66/67, 1966, pp. 64–71.
- G. Chamayou: A Theory of the Drone. New York 2015./A. Rothstein: Drone. New York 2015.
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- G. Decamous: »When Art and Science Collide: Arts at CERN,« Afterimage. Vol. 44, Issue 3, 2016.