Computer graphics were originally developed as a visualisation tool for engineers and scientists, but evolved over time in a number of directions. The term was coined in 1960 by William Fetter, an employee of Boeing, and early examples of computer graphics include a visualisation system developed for NASA, which used real-time colour raster graphics displayed on a monitor as a training aid for astronauts. During the 1960s, various advances were made by pioneers of the field; including the first popular computer graphic game Spacewar, the earliest computer films, the first use of graphics as an architectural aid, and the use of computers and drawing machines to create plotter drawings.
The first exhibitions of computer art also took place during the 1960s. Georg Nees’ solo show at the Studiengalerie of the Technische Hochschule in Stuttgart in 1965 is probably the earliest exhibition of its kind, and later that year A. Michael Noll and Bella Julesz exhibited their computer art at the Howard Wise Gallery in New York. In 1967 Charles Csuri created his Hummingbird film, which is now a part of the collection at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The following year saw two exhibitions take place in the United Kingdom: the EVENT ONE computer art exhibition at the Royal College of Art, and Cybernetic Serendipity: The Computer and the Arts at the London Institute of Contemporary Arts. Cybernetic Serendipity was the first major public computer art show.
As a young man, Charles Csuri chose to forgoe a promising as a professional American football player, and instead focussed upon a study of the arts at a graduate level. He went on to teach at the Ohio State University, and exhibited paintings in New York City between 1955 – 1965.
His first experiments with computer art began in 1964, and by 1965 he had begun creating computer animated films. In 1967 he received the animation prize at the 4th International Experimental Film Festival, Brussels, Belgium in 1968. His film ‘Hummingbird’ is part of the MoMA collection.
Csuri's Random War (1967) was exhibited at the Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition. Created using a computer, punched cards and a drum plotter; a sketch of a toy soldier was replicated across a field, and the various figures were then assigned a colour, red or black, via coding. A random number generator assigned the following properties to the soldiers, and the results were displayed via a list of serial numbers and names: (1) Dead (2) Wounded (3) Missing (4) Survivors (5) One Hero for Each Side (6) Medals for Valor (7) Good Conduct (8) Efficiency Medals. The use of a random number generator to assign the fate of each soldier reflects upon the chaos of war and its indiscriminate nature.
Csuri's research in computer graphics has led to advances in a number of areas including flight simulators, computer-aided design, and special effects for television and films. Siggraph, the International Computer Graphics Conference, officially recognised him as a computer graphics pioneer.
Digital Art Museum, “Charles Csuri”, accessed 15.10.15, http://dam.org/artists/phase-one/charles-csuri
Langberg, Ben; “Charles Csuri”, Csuri Computer Artist, accessed 15.10.15 via http://www.siggraph.org/artdesign/profile/csuri/
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Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science, “History of Computer Graphics”, The Computer Graphics Book of Knowledge, accessed 15.10.15 http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~ph/nyit/masson/history.htm
Compart, “Georg Nees”, accessed 15.10.15 http://dada.compart-bremen.de/item/agent/15
Pattison, Yuri, “Cybernetic Serendipity”, Cybernetic Serendipity Archive, accessed 15.10.15 http://cyberneticserendipity.net
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