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Laboratories and digital experimentation centers in Ecuador: First new technologies art experiences


Abstract and Figures

The Ecuadorian art circuit is feeding on a plastic artists genera- tion based on pictorial practices inherited by modernity for years. They achieved great national and international recognition and even nowadays they occupy privileged places in the most im- portant Ecuadorian art fairs. However, a new generation of artists is abandoning traditional art practices to approach different ways of art making. This change comes hand by hand with the arrival of digital technologies to Ecuador in recent years. On one hand, younger artists have a growing interest in using new media for their creative processes and, on the other hand, different private and public institutions are betting on creating centers and labs for creative experimentation. They are using digital technologies like fab labs, media labs and university laboratories. Considering this, we will analyze the organizational models, the media, the con- cerns and the needs of the institutions mentioned above. Also, we will address, copyright management and its relation to the social sphere. All of them are relevant data related to the core of current participatory practices. This talk, will allow us to generate a cartography of the new paradigm in the Ecuadorian artistic crea- tion, and, its connection with other international realities.
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Archiving Digital Heritage: Pioneers of Fin-De-Siecle Latina America
Reynaldo Thompson, Gabriela Aceves Sepúlveda, Andrés Burbano, Ricardo Dal Farra, José-
Carlos Mariátegui, José Manuel Ruiz-Martin, Andrea Sosa, Rejane Spitz
Universidad de Guanajuato, Simon Fraser University, Universidad de los Andes, Concordia University / CEIArtE-UNTREF, Alta
Tecnología Andina ATA, Universidad Central del Ecuador, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio)
This panel tries to open a discussion on the history of the
hybridization of art and technology in the last five or six
decades, with reference to any specific country, in the
Latina American region. It consists of 33 countries of all
sizes, from the extensive Brazil to the small islands of the
The idea and main purpose of the panel is to address the
under-representation of this new form of art in the global
discourse of the art something that arises out of neglect
and assumptions about the world order. Panelists focus
their attention on the sunrise of an experimental art that
began to embrace more and more of the new technology
since the 50s; at times we witness the incipient promises of
the art technology hybrid as early as in the 40s just as
much as the phenomenon energy oriented art were visible
in labs established in other regions of the developed world.
From Argentina, Ricardo Dal Farra, who is a composer
as well as an established faculty in electronics arts, speaks
of his experience of rediscovering, in a junkyard of the
past, some of the most innovative electroacoustic music
composers and creators of new forms and the new aesthet-
ics of sounds and music. Some of those figures were little
or totally unknown, not only in the annals of music in de-
veloped countries, but sometimes also in their own coun-
tries. Dal Farra who has been closely working with the
Langlois Foundation in Montreal has put together perhaps
the most important archive on electroacoustic music of
Latin American. Our other panelist from Argentina An-
drea Sosa complements this history with a discussion of
the visual art of light effects from the same period, namely
in the works of Julio Le Parc, active from the same era as
when the Torcuato Di Tella Institute began functioning as
the most important supporter of these emerging trends in
art world.
The beginnings of art and technology in Brazil, the larg-
est country in size and population of the region, are repre-
sented in the presentation of Andres Burbano who analyzes
its artistic scenario. He finds the seed for electronic art and
digital photography in the works of Geraldo de Barros who
used punched card to modulate abstract photography and
whose photography now remains as Burbano shows a pio-
neering landmark in computational art. Representing the
same geographical context, our other panelist Rejane Spytz
brings into the discussion the work of three pioneers in
Kinetic and electronic art, namely, Waldemar Cordeiro the
precursor of electronic art in Brazil, Abraham Palatnik a
precursor of kinetic art, and Otávio Donasci known for his
theatrical video performances in the psychological dimen-
sions of social relations. No doubt on about Spitz argument
that electronic art in Brazil has found a fertile ground to
grow and flourish.
Another important perspective in the evolution of kinet-
ic, electronic or digital arts, as well as in evolution of a
critical turn in art in Latin America, is valorized by Ga-
briela Aceves Sepúlveda’s presentation. Her objective is to
highlight on women artists from Mexico. Like the Ameri-
can poet Margaret Randall, Aceves anticipates the im-
portance of Telematic Art of the seventies, Lorraine Pinto
(born in New York and working in Mexico since 1959)
working with sound and light during the 60s, and Pola
Weiss a pioneer of video art.
From Peru we have Jose-Carlos Mariátegui who studies
the contribution of the Swiss born pioneer electronic artist
Francesco Mariotti who is an established artist now in
both, Switzerland and Peru. In his analysis, Mariátegui
focuses attention on two works: the Project Geldmacher-
Mariotti presented at the Documenta in 1968 and the Cir-
cular Movement of Light shown at the X Sao Paolo Bienni-
al in 1994 representing Switzerland together with other
three artists.
Speaking of recent developments in the new media arts,
Jose Manuel Ruiz-Martin analyzes the evolution not of the
work of any specific artist from Ecuador, but of the labora-
tories of digital experimentation, the first one of them be-
ing inaugurated in 2012. With that context in mind, it is
meaningful to start documenting the history of those media
labs that will most likely reap the harvest of the new art for
the generations to come. Thus the panel stands unique in
its diverse range of interest and analysis of art and technol-
ogy through the entire span of our geographical region and
of our cultural identity in the new world.
Author Biography
Reynaldo Thompson is a Mexican scholar working at the Univer-
sity of Guanajuato, Mexico. At present, he is planning to launch
a database on the evolution of Digital Art in Latin America
(DALA) together with a team of international experts.
Feminizing the archives of digital art:
Recovering the work of female artists working in Mexico, 1960-1980
Gabriela Aceves Sepúlveda
School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University
Surrey, B.C. Canada
Given the recent interest in developing archives to recover the
contributions of Latin American pioneers in digital arts, in this
paper I take issue with the lack of attention given to female artists
born or working in Latin America. I argue that the process of
recovery needed to build such archives needs to adopt a feminist
lens that speaks to particular conditions of production and un-
packs the local and international mechanisms of exclusion that
have hindered the recognition of female artists. It should also
consider debates on Latin American art and the recent contribu-
tions of media historians who have opened up art history to un-
derstand the shared histories of art, science, and technology.
Finally, I give a brief overview of the work of three female artists
working in Mexico who anticipated features of digital art by
experimenting with publishing networks, broadcasting technology
and kinetic art.
Latin American art, digital art, Mexico, female artists, publishing
networks, kinetic art, video art, mail art, archives.
Feminizing the archives of digital Art
The lack of visibility of women in the histories of art, sci-
ence, and technology extends geographical regions and
time periods. This invisibility is the product of deep-rooted
patriarchal structures that have historically defined intellec-
tual and scientific fields of action as predominantly mascu-
line spaces (Plant, 1997; Pollock, 1999). Female artists
born or working in the region of Latin America have been
double excluded from these histories due to their gender
and the ambivalent position that the region occupies as
neither entirely western nor fully modern. As Canclini has
put it, Latin America is the region of the semis “semi-
modern, semi- developed, semi-indigenous, semi-
European” (Mosquera 1996, p. 231). This ambivalent con-
text has not only complicated the definition of Latin Amer-
ican art but has, until recently, consigned the early histories
of digital arts as out of reach for a semi-developed techno-
logical region. How should an archive of Latin American
digital art pioneers look like considering its uncertain posi-
tion as neither wholly western nor fully developed? What
does it mean to be a "pioneer" from this complex condition
of imported references and cross-breedings? Should simply
mapping Latin American artist’s contributions into the
dominant cannon will suffice?
These are all important questions that need to be asked
to define the limits of an archival endeavor. Given the
limited scope of this paper and the inherent exclusionary
characteristics of any archival endeavor one of the objec-
tives is to pose suggestions on how to feminize this effort
to undo a historically gendered and geopolitical position of
subordination that have defined the cultural production of
the region. Richard defines feminization as a process that
breaks down the barriers of biological determinism and
fixed symbolic roles, becoming thus a practice of contin-
ued contestation which is not only relevant to those who
define themselves as women but also to a multitude of
experiences that contest normative and fixed definitions of
sex, race or ethnicity (Richard, 2004). Then, I propose that
the process of feminizing an archive of Latin American
digital art should entail questioning the relevance of the
dominant structures of recognition imposed by the Western
European-U.S. art cannon as well as the patriarchal config-
urations of the Latin American art milieu. It should make a
point of recovering the work of artists that define them-
selves as female, but it does not propose to exclude those
who not identify as such. It should aim to map out catego-
ries, networks, and experiences that speak to the ways in
which people and ideas cross borders and art is produced
as an interconnected lived experience and not in a vacuum.
This process of feminization should also build on signif-
icant contributions by scholars who, in the last few dec-
ades, have debated the usefulness of the category “Latin
America” to describe the cultural production of more than
twenty-two nations (Mosquera, 1996; Ramírez, 2004,
Camnitzer et al., 1999). How useful is then the category
“Latin America” to build an archive that proposes to undo
the dominant structures of recognition of the art world? For
many, the solution resided in putting emphasis on networks
of exchange rather than cultural identities and difference.
And yet, others returned to a national model to argue for
local conditions of production (Debroise, 2007). In The
Age of Discrepancies (2007) Debroise and Medina turned
their gaze to 1960s Mexico City to recover the works of
artists born or working in the country at the time. The the-
matic structure of the exhibition, which prioritized local
conditions of production, was a significant contribution.
However, the minimal attention given to the ways in which
technology and scientific discourses influenced art during
the period and to female artists vis-à-vis well-known male
counterparts signaled the project’s adherence to the nation-
al art cannon.
In contrast, feminist and media art historians have made
important contributions to dismantling the dominant struc-
tures of the art worldwhether national or global. Femi-
nist scholars have recuperated the role of female artists
across geographies and historical periods (Pollock, 1999;
Butler 2007). But the ways in which female artists inter-
vene within the broader fields of art, science, and technol-
ogy remains relatively unexamined. For their part, media
art historians have successfully shown how digital art did
not develop in an art historical vacuum (Grau, 2010; Paul,
2015; Shanken, 2014). Several have pointed out the con-
nections between algorithmic procedures and avant-garde
and postwar art (Paul, 2015, p. 11; Weibel, 2010, p. 21).
However, these narratives rarely account for artists work-
ing outside the Western Euro-U.S-Canada matrix. Hence, a
process of feminizing the archives should consider and
expand on all the aforementioned contributions. Converse-
ly, it should carefully scrutinize the ways in which domi-
nant patterns of exclusion continue to surface in unex-
pected ways. As an initial effort of recovery in what fol-
lows I briefly describe the ways in which some of the work
by Margaret Randall (b. 1936 New York City), Lorraine
Pinto (b. 1933 New York) and Pola Weiss (Mexico City,
1947- 1990) anticipate the arts of the digital era through
their experiments with audience participation, movement,
optical illusions, networks of communication and relations
of self and technology.
Female artists working in Mexico, 1960 -1980
The 1960s was a decade of unprecedented transformation
in the field of media arts. Artists, scientists and technology
enthusiasts experimented with new and old technologies
leading to the development of interdisciplinary media prac-
tices. Magazines became important sites of artistic creation
and exhibition. One such magazine was the bilingual (Eng-
lish and Spanish) magazine El Corno Emplumado/The
Plumed Horn published in Mexico City from 1962 to 1969
by U.S. poet Margaret Randall, who moved to Mexico in
1961, and her husband, Mexican writer Sergio Mondragón.
El Corno, as its collaborators called it, emerged as a re-
sponse to the ideological pressures of the Cold War. With a
printing of 3000 magazines per quarterly issue and a distri-
bution that extended across the Americas and to several
cities in Europe and Australia, El Corno emphasized art’s
potential to bridge barriers between nations and political
ideologies. For Randall, El Corno “was never just a maga-
zine; it was never just a collection of words and images put
together by two people…El Corno was a network”
(Randall, 1978, p. 412).
To create a network, El Corno adopted the spirit of mail
art, using postal mail as a means of distribution and ex-
change. The letter section provided its readers with alterna-
tive information on important issues of the time. Ultimate-
ly, the letters constituted the basis of the magazine distribu-
tion. In publishing visual art along with the poetry, prose,
and critical essays of both established and emergent artists,
El Corno showcased artworks that would otherwise not
have been seen together at the time (Aceves, 2017). By
facilitating these encounters and conversations through
their open editorial approach and their post mail distribu-
tion system, El Corno was in a parallel dialogue with
Fluxus artists, whose aim was to create networks of artists
outside the art establishment by making creative use of
technologies of communication. El Corno spoke to the
ways in which Fluxus endeavors challenged traditional
notions of the artwork and used existing means of commu-
nication to distribute art and create networks (Aceves,
2017). El Corno’s use of mail art as a form of communica-
tion and distribution anticipates Ascott’s notion of
Telematic Art and other works that began to experiment
with slow-scan TV, fax and radio in the 1970s. Experi-
ments with these broadcasting technologies, as Paul has
noted, “represent early explorations of the connectivity that
is an inherent characteristic of networked digital art” (Paul,
2015, p. 21).
In the context of the celebration of the XIX Olympic
Games in 1968, a year before El Corno come to an abrupt
end, the international movement of kinetic and op art took
root in Mexico City. The games adopted the aesthetics of
op art to develop an image of Mexico that would position
the country as a modern and developed nation. Due to the
political turmoil experienced in the country, which resulted
in the massacre of students on October 2nd a couple of days
before the inauguration of the games, art critics in Mexico
have tended to disregard the categories of Kinetic and Op
art because of their connection with the government and
the games. For example, in the Age of Discrepancy the
category “Systems Beyond (the so-called Mexican Geome-
trism)” is used to describe the experiments of Siqueiros,
Felguerez, Cueto, Goertiz, Sakai, Hersúa, and Sebastian
with optical illusions, illusory or mechanical movement
and audience participation rather than Kinetic or Op art.
In contrast, for Lorraine Pinto, an artist working in Mex-
ico City since 1959 and not included in the Age of Dis-
crepancy, the category of Kinetic art has always defined
her practice. In 1964 she established the experimental lab
of kinetic art along with the electrical engineer Leonardo
Viskin and the physicist Roberto Domínguez to integrate
light movement and sound to her sculptural practice. The
establishment of this lab represents one of the first deliber-
ate efforts to work collaboratively across disciplines inte-
grating science, technology, and art in the country. In 1968
she participated in the Solar Exhibition organized as part of
the XIX Olympic Games cultural program with the work
Quinta Dimension, a futuristic model of an urban environ-
ment. Made up of two modular city prototypes encapsulat-
ed in two plexiglass bubbles, Quinta Dimension incorpo-
rated sound and light. Viewers were invited to walk around
and experience it from different perspectives. As Garza
notes Pinto’s use of light and sound emphasized the tem-
poral nature of art and opposed the ocular regime that dom-
inated the postwar painting canon (Garza, 2011). After
winning a prize with Quinta Dimension, Pinto continued to
paint and create kinetic sculptures and large-scale public
works that incorporated movement and sound. However, it
was only in 2012 in the context of Garza's revision of ki-
netic art in Mexico when Pinto's early experiments were
recognized more fully in the company of the male artists
mentioned above (Garza, et al., 2012). As Pinto recently
acknowledged “it took almost 40 years for her kinetic
artworks to be recognized and understood” (XGusto,
Like Pinto, Pola Weiss also stepped out of the bounda-
ries of traditional artistic disciplines and turned to technol-
ogy as the basis for her art practice. Weiss began to exper-
iment with video in the early 1970s to propose new ways
of thinking about televisual images and broadcasting. After
collaborating with both private and state television broad-
casters in 1978 she declared herself to be a teleasta, a pro-
ducer of experimental televisual images. From then until
she took her life in 1990, she produced a series of televi-
sion programs and videos in which she experimented with
live performance, visual poetry, music, and visual effects.
As one of the first artists in the country to experiment
with video, Weiss developed a unique approach. She con-
ceived each of her videos as an act of giving birth, and her
camera was at times her daughter or an extension of her
body. By using the video camera in this manner and adopt-
ing television broadcasting as a conceptual model to reach
audiences outside of the art world circuits, Weiss sought to
break with the media border to interpellate critical and
embodied viewers (Aceves, 2015). Her work was also in
dialogue with Telematic Art’s emphasis on networked
communications and anticipated notions of hybrid con-
structions of self and technology. For instance, her video-
danzas, which consisted of live events in public spaces in
which she combined performance and video, Weiss trans-
formed her video camera into an eye or a limb as she
danced with it in her hand, filming her movements. Simul-
taneously, her camera broadcasted her movements through
video signals transmitted to monitors and reflected through
mirrors. At the same time, through visual effects and the
incorporation of live feedback, she merged her body with
that of the spectator. In doing so, she developed an analog
virtual screen space in which the object and subject of
representation could co-exist and be merged into one
through analog visual effects (Aceves, 2015). In this man-
ner, Weiss’s experiments with televisual images chal-
lenged passive relations between self and technology
The process of feminizing the archives of digital art in-
volves much more than mere acts of recovery. Critical
questions about which artists make into the archive and
what categories should the archive consider cannot be
taken lightly. As an initial step, I’ve discussed how the
work of three self-identified female artists working in Latin
America was in meaningful dialogue with local and inter-
national experiments, and hence, offer different pathways
into the histories of art, science, and technology.
Aceves Sepulveda, G. (2017). Artists' Networks in the 1960s. The
Case of El Corno Emplumado/The Plumed Horn (Mexico
City, 1962-1969). In J.Mooney & T. Chaplin (Eds.), The
Global Sixties: Convention, Contest, Counterculture (pp. 196-
216). New York: Routledge.
Aceves-Sepúlveda, G. (2015). Imagining the cyborg in Náhuatl;
Reading the videos of Pola Weiss through Donna Haraway’s
Manifesto for Cyborgs. Platform: Journal of New Media and
Communication, (6.2), 46-60.
Butler, C. Wack!; Art and the Feminist Revolution." Museum of
Contemporary Art: Los Angeles, 2007.
Camnitzer, L.,et al., (1999). Global Conceptualism : points of
origin, 1950s-1980s. New York: Queens Museum of Art.
Debroise, O. (2007). La era de la discrepancia : arte y cultura
visual en México, 1968 - 1997 México: UNAM
Garza, D. (2011). Situaciones locales y soluciones
internacionales. Paper presented at the III Encuentro de
Críticos e Investigadores, Valparaiso.
Garza, D., et al., (2012). Cinetismo: Movimiento y
Transformación en el Arte de los Sesenta y Setenta. Mexico:
Museo de Arte Moderno.
Grau, O. (2010). MediaArtHistories. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Mosquera, G. (1996). Beyond the fantastic: contemporary art
criticism from Latin America. Cambridge (Mass.): The MIT
Paul, C. (2015). Digital Art. London: Thames & Hudson.
Plant, S. (1997). Zeroes + Ones : digital women + the new
technoculture. New York: Doubleday.
Pollock, G. (1999). Differencing the Canon : feminist desire and
the writing of art's histories. London; New York: Routledge.
Ramírez, et al., (2004). Inverted Utopias : avant-garde art in
Latin America. New Haven; London: Yale University Press.
Randall, M. (1978). El Corno Emplumado, 1961-1969: Some
Notes in Retrospect. In E. Anderson & M. Kinzie (Eds.), The
Little Magazine in America: A Modern Documentary History
(pp. 412). New York: Pushcart.
Richard, N. (2004). Masculine/feminine: Practices of
Difference(s). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Shanken, E. A. (2014). Art and electronic media. London:
Weibel, P. (2010). It is forbidden not to touch: Some remarks on
the (forgotten parts of the) history of interactivity and
virtuality. In O. Grau (Ed.), MediaArtHistories (pp. 43-70).
Cambridge: MIT Press.
XGusto. (2016, December 13) Entrevista Lorraine Pinto, pionera
del arte cinético en México/Interviewer: L. Pinto. X Gusto.
Author Biography
Gabriela Aceves Sepúlveda is Assistant Professor in the School
of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University.
Was part of the media arts history swept under the carpet?
(Latin America’s lost ark)
Dr. Ricardo Dal Farra
Concordia University / CEIArtE-UNTREF
Montreal, Canada / Buenos Aires, Argentina
Who tells history? We can find multiple versions of electronic art
history, most of them with subtle differences, but it has been
unusual -until recently- to find references pointing to countries
out of a small group from Europe and North America. Several
projects have been developed to change that situation. The Latin
American Electroacoustic Music Collection, hosted by The Dan-
iel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology, repre-
sents an example of the relevant role that the archiving of elec-
tronic artworks and public access to them could have in forming
another perspective about (electronic arts) history.
Latin America, archiving, electronic art preservation,
electroacoustic music history, cultural decentralization
The journey from cultural memory and ethical concerns to
practical strategies on preservation and the impact of dis-
seminating knowledge generated by electronic art has been
navigating a sinuous road.
Memory’s death could benefit some as much as the
desire for immortality could block the way to innovation
open naturally to new generations. Electronic art’s memory
has been partially dead, or perhaps deaf or blind or simply
looking to the other side, maybe to avoid the perception
that the so-called digital revolution has reached most of the
known world and that history does not happen only in a
few “central” countries. The desire of immortality and for
being a cultural lighthouse as much as the guardian of the
right values and the significant art should not take us all to
mislead that intelligence and sensibility belongs to a few.
Who tells history? Who knows about it or who has the
opportunity to do it? We can find multiple versions of elec-
tronic art history, most of them with subtle differences, but
it has been unusual -until recently- to find references point-
ing to countries out of a small group from Europe and
North America. Inequalities have always existed and if we
want to see a change, probably we will need to work hard
ourselves to produce new results. There are many lost and
hidden stories about electronic art that probably should be
part of the official history and not just left aside. There
have been people, ideas and concepts, artworks, discover-
ies and inventions, and we expect someone to take care of
preserving the memory of all that for us but sometimes it
simply doesn’t happen that way and when we look around
after a while, it seems that the history has not been the one
we thought it was and we remember, but a different one
that is being told by others.
Between the obsession of archiving everything and the
difficulty and strong responsibility of deciding what to
preserve, the opportunity to archive electronic art makes us
face a challenge involving technical issues and political,
social, cultural and economical aspects.
How many histories can be told about the same subject?
To who is their narrative directed? Today, the digital di-
vide could be not linked to who has access to the web but
to who dominates the inclusion of content or develops
strategies to keep our attention on certain places and not
others. It looks like we are bombarded with cues guiding
us to consider that the art conceived by some cultures are
the only ones to be recognized as valid.
The Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and
Technology in Montreal has been a leading organization
heavily focused on studying theoretical aspects related to
preserving electronic art and actually archiving it. A num-
ber of major projects have been developed or hosted there
since the late 90s, including the Steina and Woody Vasulka
Fonds, the 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering Fonds, the
Collection of Documents Published by E.A.T. and the
Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection, among
many others.
Music & technology innovation in Latin America
Political and economic instability in most Latin American
countries has been deeply affecting the life of its inhabit-
ants for decades. Support for artistic activities has usually
been postponed to solve urgent social problems. In spite of
that, the development of electronic arts in general and
electroacoustic music in particular in the region is really
astounding. To name but a few examples: Mauricio Kagel
composed eight electroacoustic studies in Argentina be-
tween 1950 and 1953, according to the Hugh Davies’ In-
ternational Electronic Music Catalog published in 1968.
Kagel was one of the pioneer composers laying the founda-
tions of a rich history of experimentation and creation in
the region. Reginaldo Carvalho and Jorge Antunes in Bra-
zil, Juan Amenabar in Chile, Joaquín Orellana in Guatema-
la and Horacio Vaggione in Argentina are only some of the
many names in the ocean of electroacoustic music creativi-
ty that has always been Latin America.
José Vicente Asuar composed between 1958 and 1959 in
Chile his piece Variaciones Espectrales using only elec-
tronic sound sources. The Estudio de Fonología Musical
was created in the University of Buenos Aires of Argentina
by Francisco Kröpfl and Fausto Maranca at the end of
1958. During those same years, and also in Argentina,
César Franchisena was experimenting with electronic
sound sources at the National University of Córdoba radio
station. A landmark in the electronic music history of Latin
America was the lab created in Buenos Aires during 1963
at the Centro Latinoamericano de Altos Estudios Musicales
- CLAEM of the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella (the Electronic
Music Laboratory was part of the Latin American Higher
Studies Musical Center of the Torcuato Di Tella Institute).
Peruvian composer César Bolaños created Intensidad y
Altura, the first piece for tape produced at that lab, in 1964.
In Cuba, Juan Blanco composed Música para Danza for
tape in 1961 and Texturas for orchestra and tape between
1963 and 1964. Blanco composed about a hundred works
using electroacoustic media, including music for mass
public events and large venues. Carlos Jiménez Mabarak
composed in Mexico El Paraíso de los Ahogados, a piece
on tape, in 1960. The same year engineer Raúl Pavón built
the prototype of a small electronic musical instrument
featuring an oscillator with multiple waveform outputs, a
white noise generator, a variety of filters, an envelope
generator and a keyboard. Named Omnifón by Pavón, his
creation was among the first voltage-controlled electronic
sound synthesizers. Well before that, in the early 40s, the
aforementioned composer Juan Blanco designed an inno-
vative electronic instrument similar in concept to the Mel-
lotron. His Multiorgan was based on 12 loops using mag-
netophonic wires. It predated the Mellotron -considered the
predecessor of the digital sampler, the instrument that
changed the way of doing music - by several years. Fer-
nando von Reichenbach invented in Argentina the Analog
Graphic Converter in the 60s. It was used to transform
graphic scores -from pencil drawings done on a paper roll-
into electronic control signals adapted to work with analog
sound equipment. José Vicente Asuar produced in Chile a
hybrid analog-digital computer system in the mid 70s,
exclusively devoted to create music.
Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection
Unavailability of musical recordings, bibliography and
almost any basic reference to the electroacoustic music
activities that were developed since the early 1950s in
several Latin American countries was commonplace when
I started to work in the field around the mid-1970s. That
situation did not change much during several decades. In
various Latin American countries, universities and state
organizations or major private foundations have taken
initiatives to support art research and the use of electronic
media since the early 60s, but most have stopped before
developing enough resources to document their processes
and preserve the results. As a consequence, many early
tape compositions have been lost or the master recordings
Figure 1. The Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection.
Ricardo Dal Farra © La Fondation Daniel Langlois.
The Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection
with over 1,700 digital recordings of compositions by
almost 400 composers, accompanied by photographs, in-
terviews, scores, a trilingual historical essay and over
200,000 words in its database, represents an example of the
relevant role that the archive of artworks and its public
access can play in having another perspective about (elec-
tronic arts) history. Today this resource is being consulted
extensively by people from around the world (e.g. re-
searchers, composers, performers, musicologists, histori-
ans, artists and the general public) helping to transform the
traditional perception of “ownership” that has existed in
some countries with respect to electronic art history. While
all recordings are available online for listening to research-
ers who ask for an access code to The Langlois Founda-
tion, 558 works are freely available to the general public.
The digital recording of a composition can be found by its
title, the name of the composer, the country linked to that
composer, the year or decade when the work was com-
posed, etc. In addition, there are two playlists to access and
listen to the compositions: one sorted alphabetically by the
last name of the composer, the other sorted chronological-
ly, following the year in which the piece was composed.
Part of the 200,000+ words available in the database comes
from two previous research reports I wrote commissioned
by UNESCO between 2002 and 2003: Historical Aspects
of Electroacoustic Music in Latin America: From Pioneer-
ing to Present Days and La música electroacústica en Amé-
rica Latina. They are available online through the
UNESCO’s Digi-Arts knowledge portal. These texts in-
clude references to hundreds of composers who were born
or pursued a portion of their professional careers in Latin
Final words
The Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection has
recovered and made accessible the creative work of many
electronic artists otherwise almost forgotten. It has defied
the hegemonic narrative of electronic art history, breaking
some memory’s death roads and slowly shifting and wid-
ening the way the history of electroacoustic music has been
Archiving and disseminating electronic art history find-
ings is crucial to comprehend the present and to build a
better future.
Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technol-
ogy: http://www.fondation-
Davies, Hugh (1968). Répertoire international des mu-
siques électroacoustiques/International Electronic Mu-
sic Catalog. France: Groupe de recherches musicales,
O.R.T.F. / United States: Independent Electronic Music
Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection. Home
page: http://www.fondation-
Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection. Com-
posers by name & country: http://www.fondation-
Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection. Inter-
views: http://www.fondation-
Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection. Histori-
cal introduction, English: http://www.fondation-
Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection. Histori-
cal introduction, Spanish: http://www.fondation-
Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection. Histori-
cal introduction, French: http://www.fondation-
Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection. Music
selection (by composer): http://www.fondation-
Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection. Audio
player (558 titles): http://www.fondation-
UNESCO. Digi-Arts. Historical Aspects of Electroacoustic
Music in Latin America:
UNESCO. Digi-Arts. La música electroacústica en Améri-
ca Latina:
All websites consulted on March 12, 2017.
Author Biography
Dr. Ricardo Dal Farra is a composer, new media artist, curator,
educator and historian whose work has been focusing on new
music and the electronic arts for several decades. He is professor
at Concordia University, Canada and director of the CEIArtE-
UNTREF Electronic Arts Research Centre, Argentina. His music
and media artworks have been presented in about 40 countries.
Dal Farra is the founder-director of the Balance-Unbalance (elec-
tronic arts & the environmental crisis) and Understanding Visual
Music conference series, and has been researcher for UNESCO in
France, De Montfort University in the UK, Amauta in Peru and
the National Ministry of Education in Argentina. He was director
of Hexagram, the interuniversity international network for re-
search-creation in media arts, design, technology and digital
culture, and coordinator of DOCAM, the Documentation and
Conservation of the Media Arts Heritage research alliance. Dr.
Dal Farra created the Latin American Electroacoustic Music
Collection hosted by The Daniel Langlois Foundation.
Mariotti’s ritual artefacts and the origins of media art.
In search of the lost multisensorial characteristics of new media
José-Carlos Mariátegui
Alta Tecnología Andina - ATA
Lima, Peru
This paper will give an overview of the seminal works of Fran-
cesco Mariotti, an artist of Swiss origin (Bern, 1943) who has
lived between Peru and Switzerland since 1952 and can be re-
garded as one of the pioneers of media art both in Latin America
and Europe; more importantly, his work linked both continents in
distinctive dialogues relating social processes, natural phenomena
and technology. In 1968, during the 4th Documenta in Kassel he
produced one of the first interactive installations in media art
history: “Project Geldmacher Mariotti”. A year later, in 1969,
during the X Sao Paulo Biennial, he presented “The Circular
Movement of Light”, a multi-sensorial (light, smell, sound) in-
stallation. Through extensive research of the archives of both
Documenta and Sao Paulo Biennial, this paper focuses on these
two seminal works with emphasis on their main characteristics
and explores how these projects are an early example of works on
participatory and social processes, natural and multisensorial
phenomena, arguing that through the use of technology, these
should be regarded as significant works of the history of media
art in Latin America.
Multisensorial, Documenta, Sao Paulo Biennale, mutisensorial,
Mariotti, media art.
Francesco Mariotti (Bern, 1943) is an artist of Swiss origin
who lives between Peru and Switzerland since 1953 and
can be regarded, though relatively unknown in some cir-
cles, as one of the pioneers of media art and whose work
linked Europe and Latin America through distinctive dia-
logues relating participatory and social processes, natural
and multisensorial phenomena and the use of technology.
The work of Mariotti is extensive and most of it is well
documented and available online on the artist’s web site*.
However, we will concentrate mainly on two of his early
significant works which are perhaps his most emblematic
and historical ones during those early years.
Francesco Mariotti comes from an old Ticino family but
spent his youth in Lima. In 1964, he returned to Europe,
* (accessed 17/03/2017).
attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1965 and
then from 1966 to 1968 he studied at the University of Fine
Arts of Hamburg (HFBK). During this time, along with his
friend Klaus Geldmacher, they worked on experimental
installations as well as mixed media shows.
Documenta 4: Project Geldmacher - Mariotti
While still at the university, the young Mariotti, along with
Geldmacher, were invited to present a proposal for Docu-
menta 4 in 1968. The proposal comprised of a model and
cost estimate for the deployment of a large cube-shaped
metallic structure from which 9,000 light bulbs of 22.5 kw,
1,000 fluorescent lamps and several loudspeakers were
arranged. This installation generated a “photo-acoustic
ambience” where the audience could enter and experience
it. Documenta’s selection committee voted in favor of the
project but it was denied being located at the Federicianum
among more stablished artists such as Robert Rauschen-
berg or Roy Lichtenstein. Therein, Mariotti and Geld-
macher’s project work was to be installed at the Orangerie,
where most of the sculptures where located, next to another
remarkable project presented at Documenta 4 by Christo: a
white large packed air structure (an “inflatable sausage”).
Both Christo’s and Geldmacher Mariotti’s projects were
ready weeks after the opening of Documenta 4. In those
weeks, Christo and Mariotti developed an enduring friend-
ship which influenced the young Marriotti to understand
the importance of art, not for its aesthetic or technical val-
ue, but as a host for discussing and thinking about society.
The Project Geldmacher - Mariotti was based on a mani-
festo in which they stated, among other things that in an art
exhibition as Documenta 4, financed to a considerable ex-
tent with government grants, art appears equitable when it
is reinforced as an information carrier not only for a minor-
ity but for the larger audience. In this way, art’s function
must illustrate facts and arguments in favor of social
change. The main objective of their project was to question
the usual superficial beautification of art and to use art
products as a communication medium towards a critical
analysis of its use in society.
The Project Geldmacher Mariotti’s light and sound
effects became one of the landmarks of Documenta 4. It
attracted many curious people who participated in the im-
mersive sensorial concert. Inside the cube, a large fan was
placed to produce a profound and radical sensation. As it
was mentioned in their manifesto, Geldmacher and Mariot-
ti hoped that these structures, based on thousands of elec-
tric light bulbs was going to be able to generate a flow of
relevant discussions. From the documentations of that
time, there were several cultural activities organized
around the installation, so it was used not only as a piece of
aesthetic pleasure, but also as stage for discussions on
topics such as sexuality, war, philosophy or politics as well
as a space for spontaneous live performance and electro
acoustic music. Even during daytime, the zinc plated in-
stallation covered by large plates of Makrolon plastic
plates, was seen as a beautiful architectonic piece drawing
a lot of attention from the visiting audience to Documenta.
The Documenta 4 experience was somewhat shocking
for Mariotti: he felt that most artists, curators and writers
that took part of Documenta where part of a system which
evolved into a superficial spectacle of society, instead of
using art to bring social, political and ecological change.
However, in Documenta he met Rinaldo Bianda who at
that time had a gallery in Lugano, named Flaviana mostly
dedicated to printed and experimental media. Mariotti
started to work with Bianda on artefacts in which the flow
of electricity transformed sound into electrical impulses. It
was an uncanny system of cables. They both were interest-
ed in producing artefacts that through their aesthetic and
technical properties could also stimulate more thoughtful
discussions, ideas and knowledge sharing. Later, Bianda,
would become the founder of the well-known Video Art
Festival of Locarno.
X Sao Paulo Biennale: The Circular Movement of
After the successful and impressive installation made for
Documenta 4 and while collaborating with Bianda, Mariot-
ti, at that time only 26 years old, was invited by the Swiss
Federal Art Commission to represent Switzerland at the X
Sao Paulo Biennale, along with three other Swiss artists
(Camille Graeser, Willy Weber and Herbert Distel).
At the time, Mariotti was just starting to get involved
with Eastern religions; in particular, the study of the Indian
philosophical religious text, the “Bhagavad-Gita” (which
could be loosely translated as the “Song of the Lord”) in
which the Lord Krishna answers fundamental questions
about life posed to him by Arjuna at the helm of going to
war in the Mahabharata. Experiments in the field of aes-
thetics interested Mariotti, only to the extent that they were
conducive to a more profound meditation which could
gather a group of like-minded people. A new project for a
kinetic sculpture increasingly took the form of a sort of
Hindu temple for the “circular movement of light”.
Mariotti chose a penta-dodecahedron with sharpened
pentagonal faces for the sphere-shaped temple. The twelve
pentagons were in turn composed of five triangles, which
in turn were each made up of four triangles and resulted in
a structure with a total of 240 triangular faces. The interior
of the structure was determined by a central multi-beam
light cone with a flame tip. Four electronic systems made
the penetrable structure, reminiscent of a crystal- kinetic
Beyond the infrastructural and technical complexity of
the work, its aim was to comprise a deep multisensorial
experience for the visitors. The idea of the work was that
within one-hour one could experience a 24-hour day cycle
through continuous changes of light, color, scents, temper-
ature, and sound frequencies. It was meant to be not an
individual experience but a participatory one, which also
generated a very different perception from the individualis-
tic western practice of art we are used to.
For Mariotti, existing knowledge tools were extremely
limited to perceive and understand the rich and deep com-
plexity of the world. Western cultural forms of perception
of senses were quite limited and many of the canons we
had established for each sense act as opposed to the others
(Ong 1991, Howes, D. et al. 2014). Thus, Mariotti thought
that only by observation and straining all his or her senses
will the visitor be able to perceive the continuous change
of all these optical, acoustic, olfactory, and thermal effects.
Mariotti deemed necessary a relaxed-tensed stay of at least
thirty minutes for the audience in his installation, to truly
experience the “floating alone in the infinite,” that he seeks
with this meditation room. He himself claimed: “Upon
each assembly of the temple of light I recognize new mes-
sages. The sculpture increasingly strikes me as a spaceship.
A spaceship from the astral world.” […] “I must also say
that this astral ship has a therapeutic effect on the visitors.
The sound frequencies massage the back-bone from bot-
tom to top up to the brain” (Rotzer 1972).
But what was more surprising at that time, and even for
today’s standards, was the installation’s complex setup in
which several technical and mechanical components or-
chestrated an intermingling production of different senses
that acted together in unison resulting in a rather holistic
experience. The acoustic changes were produced by two
tone generators with 36 sound-light channels and two vari-
able sound frequencies oscillators ranging from 10 Hz to
10 kHz can be heard in the interior of the light object over
the course of an hour. In some determined frequencies, the
sound of water was amplified and at some moment it was
heard very loudly. The light program was emitted by the
central cone from under the glass floor daily in an hour-ly
cycle with its subtly changing color spectrum, including
infrared and ultraviolet rays. During the day, the color pro-
gram was determined by the natural change in the direction
of arrival and the incident angle of the Sun. The olfactory
program and the AC-regulated temperature, were modified
by the sound state and ranged from ozone to pine, eucalyp-
tus, mint, violets, lavender, caramel syrup and incense it
was based on the sound frequencies to generate thresholds
from cold odors to hotter ones. The idea was to simulate a
very special and radical atmosphere.
As it was the case in Documenta 4, Mariotti’s installa-
tion for the X Sao Paulo Biennale was also highly com-
mented and appraised by the media. The press at that time
mentioned the striking size and complexity of the work: “a
structure of 7 meters high and 5 meters width, which sym-
bolized a temple dedicated to oration”. Even for Brazilian
standards, the press was quite surprised about the size and
logistics required to bring up such complex work which
comprised of 29 boxes (Lux Journal 1969a). Additionally,
in contrast to “Project Geldmacher Mariotti” which was
situated quite far from Documenta’s main building (the
Federicianum), the “Circular Movement of Light” was
located inside the Biennale building, just right of the main
entrance, making it not only noticeable by every single
visitor but also becoming one of the most iconic pieces,
and thus gathering a significant amount of press.
Coincidentally, a special focus on art and technology
was prompted by three exhibitions to be organized during
the Biennale. One was by the Smithsonian Institution and
MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies (led by Gyorgy
Kepes) on the existing relations between art and technolo-
gy that was celebrated significantly in the news (UPI
1969). The second one, organized by French critic Pierre
Restany, titled “Art & Technologie” included works of
Raysse, Le Parc, Kowalksi, Kosice and Quentin. Lastly,
England was due to participate with an exhibition titled
“Cybernetic Serendipity”. However, none of those exhibi-
tions, along with many others, ever happened as an interna-
tional boycott gained momentum against the exhibition due
to the evidence of cultural repression in Brazil, governed at
that time by a military junta, though some of those coun-
tries did participate with other representatives (Lux Journal
Such a significant turmoil and the lack of shows related
to art and technology also contributed to increase in an
inter-est towards the work of Mariotti, mentioned in some
news as the “Swiss attraction” which emphasized its
“translucent plastic with lights in movement and muta-
tion”. Mariotti’s “sculpture and Hindu temple” was also
mentioned to be “opposed to the creation of serialized art”
by proposing a “Krishna Temple, a place for religious
contemplation, dedicated to the Hindu god”, he added
“after the opening I want to organize a sort of spiritual
symposium inside the temple, with all artists” (Almeida
It is understood that a work such as “The circular
movement of light” cannot be measured or classified with-
in aesthetic or formal standards as it wanted to address the
visitor in an entirely different way than a work of art usual-
ly was able to do. Mariotti’s piece wanted to be nothing
less than a kind of total work of art with an emphasized
sacred character, an instrument, an impetus for meditation
and introspection.
After it was exhibited during the Sao Paulo Biennale for
six months, it was partially rebuilt again in June 1970 for
the Art 70 Fair in Basel and then in November 1971 it went
to Lima, where it was made into a gift by the Swiss gov-
ernment to the Peruvian State as part of the Pacific Ocean
International Trade Fair, considered one of the most popu-
lar events visited in Lima at that time. Families from dif-
ferent ethnical backgrounds who migrated to Lima may
have perceived a completely different experience from the
most artistic western-centric one at Sao Paulo or Basel.
Interestingly for local passersby in Lima, the luminescent
Hindu temple might have been a closer reminiscent of a
mystic space within the Andean cosmovisions, traditions
and myths.
The art system is still mostly controlled by the visual
sense. Mariotti’s seminal works questioned the status quo
of art as a purely visual form by introducing a more holis-
tic form of beauty, one that is maintained through the col-
lective practice of rituals in which the audience congre-
gates in a profound and spiritual multisensorial experience
that integrates, invigorates and restores the balance and
order in our soul.
Almeida, L. (1969, 7-9- 1969). Escultura é templo hindu. O Es-
tado de São Paulo.
Bienal agora em ritmo acelerado. (1969a, 16 Set 1969). LUX
Jornal, Notícias Populares.
Demissão. (1969b, 9 Jul 1969). LUX Jornal, Diário de Notícias.
Howes, D., & Classen, C. (2014). Ways of Sensing: Understand-
ing the Senses in Society. London: Routledge.
Ong, W. J. (1982). Orality and literacy: the technologizing of the
word. London: Methuen.
Rotzler, W. (1972). Kreislauf des Lichts: eine kinetische medita-
tionsskulptur von Franceso Mariotti. Du, June, 432-441.
UPI. (1969, 20 Mai 1969). Mostra americana une arte à técnica.
O Estado de São Paulo.
Author Biography
Writer, curator and scholar on culture and new media. Studied
Biology and received his BSc in Applied Mathematics, holds both
Masters and Doctoral degrees in Information Systems and Inno-
vation from the London School of Economics and Political Sci-
ence - LSE (London). Dr. Mariátegui is the founder of Alta
Tecnología Andina ATA and co-founder of, spac-
es devoted to creativity, technology and innovation in Latin
America. Member of the Advisory Board of the Ministry of Cul-
ture (2010/2012-2017). Editorial Board member for Leonardo
Books at MIT Press. Lives in London (UK) and Lima (Peru).
Laboratories and digital experimentation centers in Ecuador:
First new technologies art experiences
José Manuel Ruiz Martín
Universidad Central del Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador
The Ecuadorian art circuit is feeding on a plastic artists genera-
tion based on pictorial practices inherited by modernity for years.
They achieved great national and international recognition and
even nowadays they occupy privileged places in the most im-
portant Ecuadorian art fairs. However, a new generation of artists
is abandoning traditional art practices to approach different ways
of art making. This change comes hand by hand with the arrival
of digital technologies to Ecuador in recent years. On one hand,
younger artists have a growing interest in using new media for
their creative processes and, on the other hand, different private
and public institutions are betting on creating centers and labs for
creative experimentation. They are using digital technologies like
fab labs, media labs and university laboratories. Considering this,
we will analyze the organizational models, the media, the con-
cerns and the needs of the institutions mentioned above. Also, we
will address, copyright management and its relation to the social
sphere. All of them are relevant data related to the core of current
participatory practices. This talk, will allow us to generate a
cartography of the new paradigm in the Ecuadorian artistic crea-
tion, and, its connection with other international realities.
Art & new technologies; Experimentation centers; Ecuador;
Creation Labs; New art practices.
Art practices related to new technologies are in a pre-birth
stage in Ecuador. But, we perceive few symptoms of life,
statistically, we can forecast a successful bloom for these
art practices. In Ecuador people are starting to gain access
to new technologies and understanding in a broader spec-
trum the possibilities that these offer to art, we can see also
an increasing number of contemporary cultural centers and
exhibition spaces, where people can connect to new tech-
nologies art experiences.
In Ecuador artistic practice in the visual arts field has not
overcome twentieth century foundations yet. Most of the
artists follow principles of the beginning of the mentioned
century, and some of them are attached to conceptual art.
Artworks related with twentieth century bases are still
popular between pieces presented in art fairs and gallery
spaces. These aesthetics also prevail in the courses offered
by University and academic art schools.
Nonetheless, new technology centers and laboratories
are slowly appearing in academic institutions. Being the
most notorious, University of Cuenca Media lab, UIO
Media lab, FAUCE´s extended graphics lab and UArtes
lab. An analysis of these centers and their artistic outcome,
will provide us with information about the position new
technology art practices are having in Ecuador. We will be
able to see the first relations that art and new technologies
are having in this country.
Art Labs: brief historical summary
Medialab centers model has its beginnings with paradigm
change related to artistic creation, this changed was direct-
ly influenced by the birth of digital and electronic technol-
ogies in the second half of the twentieth century. Although
“Bauhaus” was a pioneer in this area, new technologies
labs were more prolific in the USA. During the sixties and
seventies there were prominent faces in new technology
artistic research. Billy Klüver and his teamwork directed
experimentations under the parameters of E.A.T. (Experi-
ments in Art & Technology) projects, they had a big influ-
ence in New York, György Kepes (M.I.T.) and his
C.A.V.S. (Center for Advanced Visual Studies) based in
Boston and Sonia L. Sheridan and her research project The
Generative Systems in Chicago. They were pioneers in
making visible the relation between new technology and
art. All of them faced traditional conceptions about art
discovering a new perspective on the possibilities of artis-
tic creation.
In these collaborative projects, artists were the protago-
nists and representatives of their teamwork. However,
these teams were composed by engineers and technicians,
who contributed with their work and knowledge to achieve
the goals that artists envisioned. With the artist as a leading
figure, interdisciplinary organization had the mission of
artistic experimentation. Therefore, we understand the
model of media lab, as places that possess technological
resources to develop investigations, experiments and artis-
tic works (Ruiz, 2014).
During the eighties and nineties several art centers were
established, following the organizational model of the
former media labs. Some of them are V2 Institute for the
Unstable Media (Rotterdam, Netherlands), ZKM ZKM -
Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe
(Karlsruhe, Germany), NTT InterCommunication Center
and Canon Art Lab (Tokyo, Japan), Centro Multimedia
CENART (Mexico), ARS Electronica Center (Linz, Aus-
Slowly, the former organizational model lost its preva-
lence and dominance. Suddenly it was not necessary to
have full equipped laboratories with expensive machines.
The arrival of digital and compact technologies and the
revolution of social networking democratized the access to
technology, giving birth to a new concept of artistic labora-
tory. The current medialab is a new basilica to the organi-
zation of discourses, a meeting place for the voyager, and,
a scenario of all the collective experiences that require
individual pliability to the foundation of new rules of the
game (Alcalá, 1993). Rules that resonate according to the
new digital culture, especially social networking websites.
This new artwork, needs to be understood, not only as a
production of exhibition objects but also, as a bind to new
ways to experiment reality. Artwork that desires to sustain
communicative territories between man, machine and soci-
ety, hence, artwork that creates new interfaces as a vehicle
of connection to supply data exchange. (Alsina, 2007, p.
Considering this historical background, a new concept of
the media lab has been established. The laboratory is now a
metaphor image of a world that is not a familiar and a
consolidated system anymore. This is a new metaphor of a
system where the relationships between us and the system
itself are constantly modified, inherently changing our
knowledge and appraisal of its phenomena (Alcalá & Mai-
sons, 2004, p.8). This new system adopts and implements
the main features of Internet communicative practices:
transdisciplinarity, read & write culture, free & open
sources and copyleft. These medialabs have become dia-
logue spaces, they are creative ecosystems dedicated to
aesthetics reflection and debate. They are also places to
investigate and produce artwork, and work as well, as
places for art education and socialization. These mentioned
activities encourage changing processes that belong to an
emerging culture, processes that work parallel to the de-
mocratization of communications, a phenomenon that has
never happened in human history (Ruiz & Alcalá, 2016).
Medialabs and its linkage to electronic arts in Ec-
During the last few years in Ecuador radical changes on the
use of new media for artistic creation are happening. These
changes are worth to study.
The first Ecuadorian medialab was inaugurated in 2012,
it was the Ecuadorian institution Universidad de Cuenca´s
medialab. This place is located at the art school building.
The University endeavors to create a medialab introduce
artists, students, teachers and designers to actively partici-
pate in the use of new media. In this center research pro-
jects oriented to the analysis of digital art and sensitive
design are developed. Most of them are funded by the
research department of Universidad de Cuenca. I am going
to highlight some of them to recall some of the most suc-
cessful projects. Cuenca Sound Map (2016), The most
remote place in the world (2015) and Dialogue Interfac-
es(2013). At the same time the University has conducted
an increasing number of courses open to the community,
this introduction of new media to the public has shown the
benefits of using new technologies in art practices. The
University of Cuenca´s medialab has acquired electronic
kits and sensors, technologies that border on open source
software and freeware. Their technological resources go
hand in hand with the standards and processes that most of
the international Medialabs apply in their own practice.
Another laboratory is Medialab UIO (Quito), which
recently opened in 2016. This lab is in Quito, the Ecuador
capital city, as part of the facilities of CIESPAL (Interna-
tional Center for Higher Education in Communication for
Latin America). Socially oriented, Medialab UIO was
founded as an innovative technological space for creation
and experimentation, where trial and error method is fun-
damental in the artistic learning and development process.
This place offers workshops, conferences, expert talks and
meetings. This lab has implemented a visual exhibition
circuit, where the thematic core is sustained by the follow-
ing axes: urbanism and citizenship, technology and human
body, ludic and inclusive education, innovative
entrepreneurship businesses, digital arts, techno-politics
and social movements, ancestral technologies and memory
retrieval researching. The Medialab website, positions this laboratory as a
confluence for innovative initiatives, which promote in a
social way, symbolic and political technological processes.
These processes are based on free culture and inclusive
education for academic and popular knowledge. Medialab
UIO works under the parameters of collaborative and
community oriented creative processes. Without doubts,
this center is one of the best models of adaptation to the
international concept of Medialab. Here, the artwork
relevance is relative to the trans-disciplinary dynamics of
the teamwork.
Another medialab created in 2016, the FAUCE’s Ex-
tended Graphics Laboratory. This center is located in the
Facultad de Artes de la Universidad Central del Ecuador,
(School of Art of the Central University of Ecuador, Qui-
to). This laboratory is born as a research project directed
by José Manuel Ruiz (Current director of FAUCE’s gradu-
ate programs), this project is also supported by the Re-
search Department of the Central University of Ecuador.
The main goals of this place, is to explore creative pro-
cesses, under the possibilities that expanded graphics that
use new technologies can offer. This place also has the
function of educating FAUCE´s students in the use of new
technologies as media for artistic production, and, it also
organizes exhibitions and develops publications on the
outcome of its several projects. This place is creating aca-
demic foundations for a new artistic path that uses new
media as a principle, and gradually becoming FAUCE´s
Medialab. This Medialab project was suspended due to the
lack of funds. Nowadays, this project is linking students
and teachers to digital media such as: digital printing, im-
age editing software, automatic machine art theories, etc. I
see the FAUCE´s Extended Graphics Laboratory as a way
of reconnecting with the first American art labs.
At last, I´m introducing LAB Uartes, which is actually
under an opening process as part of the biggest public art
education project in Ecuador, its name is Universidad de
las Artes (University of the Arts, Guayaquil). This LAB
has arranged several events, meetings and panel discus-
sions to understand and become familiar with new perspec-
tives and models that utterly strengthen the development of
LAB Uartes. In between the most prominent conferences
we can mention one titled Laboratorios de Innovación
Ciudadana, which addressed the issues of encouraging
citizens to switch in a more inclusive social model. This
follows the ideological line of Universidad de las Artes.
One of the participants in this conference was Marcos
García, Medialab Prado director (Madrid, España).
Ramiro Noriega president of the management commis-
sion and rector of this University, has visited several labor-
atories and cultural and academic institutions in order to
learn from the experience of these places. Between the
institutions visited I´m citing: Mind Lab (Copenhague,
Denmark), Aalto University Media Lab (Helsinki, Finland)
and Amsterdam Medialab (Amsterdam Netherlands).
Maite Freire, LAB UArtes general manager, searched for
counseling with José Manuel Ruizauthor of this article.
In these conversations we tried to find possible actions to
increase the academic community participation in this
project. One of the main issues addressed was, the high
operating costs of LAB UArtes. As an example, LABoral
(Gijón, Spain) faced the same issue, and couldn´t keep up
through time.
Data indicates that in Ecuador, there is an increasing inter-
est in the use of new technologies for experimentation and
creative purposes. Nonetheless, Ecuadorian artists and
institutions are not prone to change, and, they are attached
to traditional ways of production. Therefore, is important
to reach and educate wider publics.
Several laboratories have been implemented in Ecuador
these laboratories still work as mixture of the first Ameri-
can labs and current ones. Even if they have a hybrid struc-
ture, these centers are oriented to use and consume free and
open source resources, they also encourage collective par-
ticipation processes and questioning of traditional copy-
rights, aligned to new proposals such as Creative Com-
Ecuadorian laboratories that are integrated to University
Art Schools, are keeping up a strong linkage to artistic
practices. LAB UArtes is a peculiar case, its relative short
existence does not provide enough outcome for a more
profound study.
The centers analyzed in this article are the first laborato-
ries in Ecuador where art, science and technology con-
verge. This is a strong indicator for the expansion of these
practices, and also a sign that Ecuador has a promising
future in this artistic field.
Alcalá Mellado, J. R. (2014). La condición de la imagen
digital. Estudios iconográficos para su análisis y clasifi-
cación, Icono 14, volumen (12), pp. 113-140. doi:
Alcalá, J. R. & Maisons, S. (2004). Estudio/Propuesta
para la creación de un Centro de Excelencia en Arte y
Nuevas Tecnologías. Madrid: Fundación Telefónica.
Alsina, P. (2007). Arte, ciencia y tecnología. Barcelona:
Ruiz Martín, J. M. (2014). Aparición, impacto y efectos de
la máquina automática en el atelier del artista. Del ta-
ller tradicional al medialab. Cuenca: Departamento de
Arte, Facultad de Bellas Artes de Cuenca, UCLM.
Ruiz Martín, J.M. & Alcalá Mellado, J.R. (2016). Los
cuatro ejes de la cultura participativa actual. De las pla-
taformas virtuales al medialab, Icono 14, volumen (14),
pp. 95-122. doi: 10.7195/ri14.v14i1.904
Author Biography
Director of Postgraduate Studies - Central University of Ecuador,
School of Arts - Quito, Ecuador.
PhD of New Cultural and Artistic Practices University of
Castilla-La Mancha, School of Fine Arts (Cuenca, Spain, 2014)
with the thesis ’Appearance, impact and effects of the automatic
machine at the artist´s studio: from the traditional workshop to
media lab‘.
He has conducted research in the fields of New Media Art,
Museology, Read & Write and Digital Culture. His work has
focused on the new creative possibilities of Digital Graphic.
As a multimedia artist, his art work has been part of prestigious
exhibitions and festivals from Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela,
Belgium, Mexico and Spain, among others countries.
Brazilian Pioneers in Art and Technology: Waldemar Cordeiro, Abra-
ham Palatnik and Otávio Donasci
Rejane Spitz
Laboratório de Arte Eletrônica (LAE), Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The pioneering ideas and artworks of three major Brazilian artists
Waldemar Cordeiro, Abraham Palatnik and Otávio Donasci -
are discussed in this paper. Waldemar Cordeiro started working
with computers in the late 60s and produced some of the most
important artworks of the initial phase of computer art. Although
his career was interrupted by his premature death in 1973,
Cordeiro left an incredibly vast visual oeuvre, and a great number
of reviews and theoretical articles including “Arteônica”, a
manifesto on Electronic Art. Over the last 65 years Palatnik has
explored the fusion of art, science and technology in creative,
dynamic and kinetic ways. Now in his late 80s, Palatnik is still
actively working on the conception of new art forms with
different media. Otávio Donasci has artistically explored the
combination of human bodies and electronic devices since the
1980s. His pioneering works explored the psychological
dimensions of interpersonal relationships, encompassing a great
variety of media to create innovative theatrical performances and
interactive installations. In conclusion, we argue that these
Brazilian pioneers brought extremely important contributions to
the field of Electronic Art, and deserve greater international
Electronic Art, pioneers, Brazilian Art, digital media.
In a paper we presented at the ISEA 1993 conference -
“Qualitative, dialectical, and experiential domains of Elec-
tronic Art” - we argued that artistic, scientific and techno-
logical areas of knowledge should merge into one single
process of cognition, since they are complementary parts
of the holistic human experience. “Electronic artists are
gradually discovering combinations of the expressive po-
tential of human natural languages - which extend over
aesthetic, metaphoric, artistic, affective and moral domains
- and the objective, quantitative and procedural characteris-
tics of computer technology.” (Spitz, 1993). By that time
over 20 years ago electronic artists around the world
were already fully exploring, criticizing, interfering in and
expanding the creative potential of the fusion of art, sci-
ence and computers. In fact, they were giving continuation
to a movement which had been initiated a few decades
earlier by some pioneering artists, whose theories and
works - developed during the very embrionary phase of our
digital era - inspired us all.
In the Brazilian scenario, pioneering artists such as Wal-
demar Cordeiro and Abraham Palatnik started to explore -
as early as in the 60s - the unlimited number of possible
combinations of art, science and computer technologies. In
the early 80s, Otávio Donasci started to create new expres-
sive languages by combining human actors with digital
media, giving birth to his amazing “videocreatures”.
Although each one of these professionals has contribut-
ed to the artistic field in a different way, their pioneering
ideas and artworks which will be discussed in the next
sections of this paper all pointed to the intersection of art,
science and technology, and paved the way for the devel-
opment of Electronic Art, in Brazil and abroad.
Waldemar Cordeiro: rupture and arteônica
In a time when Brazil was barely entering the age of
electronics, Waldemar Cordeiro was already creating art
with computer technologies. He worked systematically
with “computer-aided art” from 1968-1973, in São Paulo,
and is considered to be the precursor in the use of comput-
er in the arts in Brazil (Cordeiro, 2014a).
Cordeiro was born in Rome in 1925, but was registered
as a Brazilian citizen. In 1946 he moved from Rome to São
Paulo, and settled down. The effervescence of his ideas led
him to work in various different fronts as a journalist,
painter, illustrator, artist, landscape designer, urban plan-
ner, art critic and theoretician (Anagnost, 2010). “Cor-
deiro’s oeuvre was a work in progress, a constant evolu-
tion.” (Cordeiro, 2014b). He studied figurative art, pro-
duced Cubist works, Concrete art, intuitive geometric
painting’ and ‘Popcrete’ art, and “turned to kinetic and
opera aperta works, in 1967-1968, which preceded an
investigation on computer art that the artist named Ar-
teônica, from 1969-1973.” (Cordeiro, 2014b). In “Arteôni-
ca”, Cordeiro highlighted the need for new paradigms and
goals for the creative use of electronic media in the Arts,
raising innovative, critical social and aesthetic issues which
are still of great significance today (Cordeiro, 1972).
Cordeiro’s utopian and revolutionary worldview intro-
duced a critical vein and participative character into the
somewhat aseptic and Cartesian environment of the Con-
crete and electronic arts, enlarging their reach and lending
them a new meaning.” (Machado, 2014). By means of their
capacity to translate reality into digital form” and their
ability to offer developmental alternatives through simula-
tion processes”, Cordeiro believed computers had the po-
tential for changing society (Fabris, 1997).
Although his career was interrupted by his premature
death in 1973, in his short period of practice Waldemar
Cordeiro left a vast oeuvre (Cordeiro, 2014a), a visionary
legacy of writings and artworks, which testifies he was an
artist much ahead of his time.
Abraham Palatnik: forms & dynamics
One of the precursors of kinetic art, Abraham Palatnik is
well-known for his artistic sculptures in which color pieces
move beautifully as parts of a complex system of motors
and gears.
Born in the North of Brazil, Palatnik spent his childhood
in Israel, but in 1947 - at age 20 - he returned permanently
to Brazil. In Rio de Janeiro, Palatnik began visiting the
Dom Pedro II Psychiatric Hospital, coordinated by Dr.
Nise da Silveira, where he saw works by schizophrenic
patients who had exceptional production, without prior art
training. Palatnik then abandoned his brushes and began
to establish a freer relationship between form and color,
since he realized that his own production was impotent in
the light of the work of those artists” (Jornal do Brasil,
This research led to his first “Kinechromatic Device” -
"Blue and purple in first movement" - a motorized light
sculpture that created a play of light and shadow in space
which was awarded an Honorable Mention by the
international jury of the First International Biennial of São
Paulo, in 1951 (MAM, 2014). Worth mentioning that his
work was initially refused by the jury, because it did not fit
into the traditional categories of painting or sculpture, but
ended up in the show only because one of the international
delegations could not participate in it (MAM, 2014).
In addition to creating kinetic objects, mobiles and
drawings, Palatnik worked on many other fronts, including
furniture design, cardboard and wood compositions and
painting on glass (Spitz, 2005). Along different decades, he
also worked with three new materials in succession: in the
70s, polyester resin, in the 80s, strings on canvases, in the
90s, a plaster-and-glue compound.” (Morais, 1999).
Self-taught, the artist considers intuition to be his "initial
impulse." He describes it as the feeling that something
artistic can be done with a non-artistic situation: "In my
case, this path goes through intuition, then through thought
and reasoning along with intense experimentation, and
finally through a careful and careful process of
construction.” (Revista Museu, 2017).
Palatnikwho is now 88 years old - still actively works
on the conception and production of new art forms which
involve different media. In his atelier in Rio de Janeiro,
you will find him surrounded by nuts, bolts and tools built
by him, always researching into new materials, forms,
media and ideas.
Otávio Donasci: video creatures & theatrical
Otávio Donasci - also a pioneer in the field of Electronic
Art in Brazil - is internationally known for his theatrical
performances, or “VideoTheatre”.
Born in 1952, Donasci started mixing arts and
technology in the 70's, by experimenting with forms of
video art. He has been exploring the combination of human
bodies and electronic devices since the beginning of the
In 1983 he created his first “videocriatura” - a hybrid
being, resulting from the creative merging of visual arts,
theater, video technology and performance. In his fantastic
performances, actors use video monitors (attached to a
cable video recorder or wireless transmission) covering
their heads (or other parts of their bodies), which are then
substituted for the parts of the bodies of off-stage actors,
captured live by a video camera or pre-recorded. A
videocreature is “half human, half machine”. The monitor
screen may show a pre-recorded video of a face singing
songs, or reciting monologues, or talking live with the
audience, or in some cases, talking to other
With his videocreatures, Donasci expands the
expressive capabilities of actors by incorporating a myriad
of resources and possibilities of the audiovisual media to
their performances. The resulting effects are intriguing,
surprising, and absolutely convincing and effective, in
spite of being made with domestic video equipment and
handcrafted resources, in most of the cases. “It is not only
five the senses called for the exploration of a new field of
technological art. [...] Indeed, what is at stake in electronic
art is not the use of high technology techniques, but the
formulation of new languages. When I explore holography
to write the holopoems in space, or when Otávio Donasci
uses electronics to dramatically perform his videoteatro,
we are faced with “poetry” or “theater” that are inscribed
in the irreducible possibilities of each interdisciplinary
process, or of each “hybridism”, as Donasci prefers to
call." (Kac, 2004).
Donasci’s pioneering works explored the psychological
dimensions of interpersonal relationships, encompassing a
great variety of media and techniques to create perfor-
mances and interactive installations. He also created and
produced theatrical performances, such as “Viagem ao
Centro da Terra” and “Merlin” (in partnership with Ricar-
do Karman) a performance which lasted five hours, in
which spectators were being physically transported (inside
a truck) from São Paulo to another town. In spite of its
great repercussion in the international press, the very high
cost of the project “Merlin” unfortunately allowed only
three performances.
During his more than 30 years of career, Donasci has
developed more than 20 types of videocreatures, and has
performed all around the world, winning several awards.
Final considerations
As foreseen by Cordeiro in his “Premises for artistic de-
velopment in Brazil”, which he wrote in 1969, Brazil is
the world’s greatest experimental laboratory. Large-scale
demand and an innovation-friendly mind set are key fac-
tors characterizing the general state of art in Brazil.” (Cor-
deiro, 1969).
In fact, electronic art has found here a fertile ground to
grow and flourish: Brazil has today a significant number of
artists, publications, academic conferences and exhibitions
dedicated to the field of Electronic Art, as well as a great
number of internationally awarded artworks.
The great expansion of the field of Electronic Art in
Brazil, over these 50 years, has much to thank to pioneers
such as Waldemar Cordeiro, Abraham Palatnik and Otávio
Donasci, who envisioned the enormous potential of the
merging of art, science and digital technologies. We be-
lieve that their original ideas and artworks - which inspired
us all along all these years deserve greater international
I would like to thank the Department of Art & Design at
Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-
Rio) for their academic support. I am also grateful to ACM
SIGGRAPH Education Committee for their travel support.
Anagnost, A. (2010). Internationalism, Brasilidade, and Politics:
Waldemar Cordeiro and the Search for a Universal Language.
Hemisphere, Visual Cultures of the Americas, 3, 23-41.
Cordeiro, A. (org). (2014a). Waldemar Cordeiro: Fantasia Exata,
São Paulo: Itaú Cultural, 708.
Cordeiro, A. (2014b). Waldemar Cordeiro. In Cordeiro, A. (org),
(2014). Waldemar Cordeiro: Fantasia Exata, São Paulo: Itaú
Cultural, 696-707.
Cordeiro, W. (1969, 29 July). Premises for artistic development
in Brazil. São Paulo: typewritten notes. In Cordeiro, A. (org).
(2014). Waldemar Cordeiro: Fantasia Exata, São Paulo: Itaú
Cultural, 598-599.
Cordeiro, W. (1972). Arteônica. São Paulo, Editora da Universi-
dade de São Paulo Press / Editora das Américas Press. In
Cordeiro, A. (org). (2014). Waldemar Cordeiro: Fantasia
Exata, São Paulo: Itaú Cultural, 591-595.
Fabris. A. (1997). Waldemar Cordeiro: Computer Art Pioneer.
Leonardo. 30, 1, 27-31.
Jornal do Brasil (2017, February 1). Chega ao CCBB a retros-
pectiva ‘Abraham Palatnik: A reinvenção da pintura’. Pio-
neiro da pintura e escultura em movimento celebra 70 anos
de Rio de Janeiro. Retrieved from:
abraham-palatnik-a- reinvencao-da-pintura
Kac, E. (2004). “Em Brasil High Tech, o xeque ao pós-
modernismo.” In Luz & letra: ensaios de arte, literatura e
comunicação, 56- 59. Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Retrieved from:
Machado, A. (2014). Waldemar Cordeiro and Arteonica. In Cor-
deiro, A. (org), (2014). Waldemar Cordeiro: Fantasia Exata,
São Paulo: Itaú Cultural, 674-694.
MAM - Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo. (2014).
Abraham Palatnik A Reinvenção da Pintura. Retrieved from
Morais, F. (1999). Abraham Palatnik: A Pioneer of Technological
Art. In Abraham Palatnik Retrospective, Sao Paulo, Brazil:
Itau Cultural.
Revista Museu. (2017, January 30). Começa a programação 2017
do CCBB: Abraham Palatnik em retrospectiva. Retrieved
Spitz, R. (1993, November). Qualitative, dialectical and experien-
tial domains of Electronic Art. The Art Factor. Fourth Inter-
national Symposium on Electronic Arts, Minneapolis, Minne-
sota, 161-166.
Spitz, R. (2005, March). A Tribute to Pioneer Abraham Palatnik.
Leonardo Electronic Almanac. 13 (3), Retrieved from
Author Biography
Rejane Spitz is a Full Professor at the Department of Art & De-
sign at PUC-Rio, Brazil, where she teaches at both graduate and
undergraduate programs. She was a Pos-Doctoral researcher at
CADRE-Laboratory for New Media /San Jose State University
(California, USA) in 2003, and a Visiting Scholar at the Universi-
ty of California at Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab in 2002. She
has a Ph.D. in Education from PUC-RIO (1993), a M. Arts in
Graphic Design (1983) from the Central School of Art & Design
(London, UK), a B. Arts in Industrial Design (1979) and a B. Arts
in Visual Communication (1979) from PUC-RIO. Spitz coordi-
nates the Electronic Art Lab (Laboratório de Arte Eletrônica), an
experimental research laboratory working with art and technology
at PUC-Rio. She has been working with computers in the Arts
since 1983, and her works have been exhibited around the world.
Rejane has also written extensively on social and cultural issues
related to the use of technology in developing nations.
Proto-Computational Arts and Photography
Andrés Burbano
Universidad de los Andes
Bogota, Colombia
How Geraldo de Barros obtained abstract photographs using
disposed punched cards makes evident that the origins of the
interaction between algorithmic devices and the arts are deep and
there is a clear need to describe the visual artifacts, and the histor-
ical and technological contexts as well to better understand his
work. José Oiticica Filho and de Barros expanded the use of
photography beyond the camera operation focusing on experi-
ments in the darkroom. I have proposed that Geraldo de Barros
must be recognized as a pioneer of computational arts “because
he developed a method for using punched cards instead of the
negative Film in the darkroom, exposing the photographic paper
several times while changing the distance of the enlarger lens to
the photographic paper in order to magnify or minimize the size
of the rectangles through which the light would pass creating
complex abstract compositions in the photographic paper”.
Proto-computational Arts, Algorithmic Devices, Early Comput-
ers, Geraldo de Barros, Jose Oiticica Filho.
This research must be contextualized within a larger scope
project that is systematizing early interactions between
computation and the arts. This project identifies several
layers in time, starting with proto-computational initiatives
in which the notes written by Ada Lovelace about the Ana-
lytical Engine (1839) and its potential capacity to compose
music occupy a unique place. Nevertheless, there are sev-
eral other examples in the modern history of computation
where it is possible to trace early encounters between the
computers and the arts. For instance, the interactions be-
tween computation, the visual arts and cinema in the case
of Konrad Zuse in Germany in the decade of the forties
(Burbano, 2013), the interactions between literature and
electronic writing in the case of Christopher Strachey in
the UK in decade of the fifties (Link, 2006), the case of
Electronic Music production in the CSIRAC in Australia in
early fifties too (Doornbusch, 2005). The experiments
made by Geraldo de Barros in Brazil with punched cards
storing binary code translated into photographic experi-
ments are a rare case in which a Latin American artist
anticipates the deep relation that computation and photog-
raphy will have several decades after (Burbano, 2013).
Konrad Zuse
The opening phase of my research about early computation
and the arts was the examination of the work of engineer
Konrad Zuse (1910-1995), the responsible of developing
the Z1 and Z3 computers, the Z3 made in 1941 is arguably
the first fully programmable computer. In several of his
pioneer computer devices, Zuse used punched film stock as
a storage medium (to store data and instructions). Frag-
ments of celluloid with frames showing cinematographic
scenes punched with digital code remain as a mysterious
trace of intersection “between cinematographic image and
computational code” (Rojas, 2002). After writing about the
meaning and significance of Zuse’s method I had the im-
pression that the relationship between binary code and the
cinematographic and/or the photographic image was a
unique feature of that isolated example (Burbano, García,
2016). The findings of the work of Geraldo de Barros
showed the relationship mentioned above could be ex-
plored in depth in other scenarios. More importantly, there
is a need to find possibilities to elaborate a discourse capa-
ble of articulating these two phenomena.
Barros and the Darkroom Experiments
Between 1949 and 1951 Geraldo Barros produced seven
photographic works made with punched cards, these exper-
iments are notorious nowadays and some of them are part
of important collections worldwide like the photography
collection at MOMA in New York. Today is clear that
Barros “played” with the punched cards in the darkroom
controlling the light exposition and the sensitive photo-
graphic paper. A new material analysis shows that he was
using other additional materials in the process like cello-
phane paper. In the absence of a photographic negative,
there are no physical sources from which make copies of
these seven works. These pieces have no particular title
and are part of the “Fotoformas” series, an influential pho-
to collection of more than fifty works (Girardin, 1999).
Photographic Context
Originally when conducting research about Barros, there
was not much information about the context to explain his
experiments at the photographic level, in the last two years
I have had the opportunity to re-collect information about
that aspect. We can start with a glimpse of the history of
photography in Brazil. In the transition between the forties
and the fifties, there are exquisite examples of experi-
mental photography there; these works have been linked to
the Concrete or Constructivist art movements (Espada,
2014). Amongst the practitioners is José Oiticica Filho,
father of influential artist Helio Oiticia. Oiticica Filho who
made abstract photographic works like “Forma D-10 A”
was part of the artistic scene in Rio de Janeiro while Barros
was part of the one in Sao Paulo, both can be seen as key
figures of the photographic modernity in Brazil in a period
where Biennale de Sao Paulo was founded, and several
important transformations in the local art scene took place
(Herkenhoff, 1983). Both of them started to work with
photography more or less at the same time and contrary to
other contemporary creators using the same medium they
focused on the dark room and the materiality of the photo-
graphic process as key elements of their creative practices.
These two artists also have in common their heterodox
careers, as far as Oiticica Filho was originally trained as an
entomologist and Barros was working for the Banco do
Brasil part time, this double action opened several doors to
unknown fields for both of them.
Thinking about the historical context to explain the appari-
tion of experimental photographers like Barros and Oitici-
ca Filho I would like to refer to the work of another im-
portant Brazilian pioneer in the field of photography. In
1901 Valério Vieira (1862-1941) made the influential
photographic composition “The thirty Valerios” a rich
photography with significant elaboration in the dark room,
an image that can be seen as an anticipation of the manipu-
lation of layers in the computational photography and that
can be clearly seen as a premonition of what Photoshop,
and other software to process photography based on the
layers principle, does to contemporary photography. How-
ever, at the conceptual level we can observe that the prom-
ise of computer imaging that Vieira examines in his picture
is based on the figurative front of photography, while in
the case of Barros his investigation occupies the abstract
side of it.
Technical and Technological Context
Of course, Barros made his experiments before any com-
puter was actually able to produce computer graphics or
digital images. At that time the calculators or tabulating
machines were unable to produce any visual output, no
computer screen was even implemented therefore comput-
er graphics were not in the plans of the most audacious
computer makers at that time. The first commercially
available computer, the UNI-Versal Automatic Computer
I, was available the same year that Barros was working in
his experiments with tabulating machines, an IMB machine
at the Banco do Brasil, it is clear now it was not a comput-
er as such, as far as the first computer, a Univac-120, was
imported to Brazil in 1957.
The typology of the punched cards used at that time is
relatively easier to track. Because of the shape of the rec-
tangles seen on the photographic experiments by Barros is
possible to identify that the cards used were the IBM “80-
colum punched cards” introduced in 1928. Those cards
were a global standard for several decades. When Barros
made his experiments IBM had bases in several Latin
American countries (Medina, 2008). At the time I came
across the work done by Barros, “I found myself confront-
ed to a constellation of phenomena that emerged at that
moment in history more or less pointing in the same direc-
tion: unusual, unseen, often misunderstood creative phe-
nomena made with binary code punched cards or punched
film stock, two examples that can be regarded as instantia-
tions of the same phenomenon: the early interaction of the
digital code and the photochemical image” (Burbano,
Proto-Computational Photography
The originality of the photographic experiments made by
Barros and Oiticia Filho are based on their creative use of
the photographic equipment in the darkroom. They were
building upon the basic idea that not only the photographic
negative but, in fact, any transparent object or surface with
holes can be used to interfere with the transit of light, the
photons, from the enlarger light bulb to the sensitized pa-
per. This can be seen, of course, as the manifestation of a
deep understanding of the photographic equipment func-
tionalities. Nevertheless, a characteristic that remains dis-
tinctive of the work done by Barros is his use of cards with
binary code punched, this process shows an additional
sophisticated level of creative relationship with the ma-
chines, in this case, the IBM tabulating machines used at
Banco do Brasil. His approach shows an imaginative view
of the material elements and the technical processes, how a
piece of equipment used here could be used there, how a
material disposed from one process could be used in an-
other one. This particular method is no doubt one of the
patterns of technological innovation nowadays (Johnson,
The survey about other artists or technicians working in a
similar path to Barros has been fruitful in some ways. First
of all, the investigations exposed that in the experimental
level there is indeed a good close example in the manipula-
tion of photographic material in the dark room. The quality
of the work of José Oiticica Filho shows how advanced
was the scene in Brazil and reflects well the inspirational
changes in the artistic world at that time (Oiticica Filho,
1983). Nevertheless, I was not able to identify other pho-
tographers doing experiments with punched cards; this
remains a distinctive path of Barros creative endeavors.
Finding another experiment in that specific way is hard if
no impossible.
However, there is a novel way of exploration that has start-
ed. This short text began with the mention of pioneer
Zuse´s work, which has an important signification for the
computer history but also for the media art history. After
doing a general review of Brazilian computer history in
order to find possible examples of computational creativity
related to the work done by Barros I found a new interest-
ing track that can connect this story in Brazil and the one
of Zuse in Germany. Zuse had a partner in the develop-
ment of the Z1 and Z3 computers (Rojas, 2002), who actu-
ally helped him to use telephone relays and who later on
suggested to use vacuum tubes to make computations.
Zuse´s friend is Helmut Schreyer who was a computer
pioneer and partially responsible for the achievements of
the construction of first computers made with Zuse.
Schreyer after the World War II immigrated to Brazil, to
Rio de Janeiro specifically, where developed an academic
career joining the Instituto Militar de Engenharia (Rojas,
2010) and he also used to work at the Departamento de
Correios e Telégrafos Therefore there is a new branch to
explore on the intersection between computation and Bra-
zilian art history.
I would like to thank Fabiana de Barros for her precious
help and advice with the research about his father Geraldo
de Barros.
Burbano, A. (2013). Between Punched Film Stock and the
First Computers: The Work of Konrad Zuse In S. Cubitt
(Ed), Relive Media Art Histories (pp. 135-148). Cam-
bridge, MA: MIT Press.
Burbano, A. (2013). Photo(infography) Geraldo de Barros
and the New Media In F. de Barros (Ed), Geraldo de
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Author Biography
"Burbano, originally from Colombia, explores the interactions of
science, art and technology in various capacities: as a researcher,
as an individual artist and in collaborations with other artists and
designers. Burbano's work ranges from documentary video (in
both science and art), sound and telecommunication art to the
exploration of algorithmic cinematic narratives. The broad spec-
trum of his work illustrates the importance- indeed, the preva-
lence- of interdisciplinary collaborative work in the field of digi-
tal art."
Andres Burbano is doctor in Media Arts and Technology form
the University of California Santa Barbara. Burbano is currently
Assistant Professor in the Department of Design at Universidad
de los Andes and is Academic Chair of ISEA2017 and Gallery
Chair of Siggraph 2018.
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This article draws attention to the critical role of electronic artists in the light of an examination of the differences between the First and Third Worlds. The author suggests that electronic artists are opening new venues for the use of computers as a human-centered technology by taking into account the complexity of human-machine relationships in a sociocultural perspective. Artistic experiments are giving rise to combinations of the expressive potentials of human natural languages--which extend over aesthetic, metaphoric, artistic, affective and moral domains--and the objective, quantitative and procedural characteristics of computer-related languages. The author proposes that, in a world of social, cultural and economic disparities, the contemporary electronic artist's major struggle must be for balance between uniqueness and uniformity.