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Arte Programmata: Freedom, Control, and the Computer in 1960s Italy
by Lindsay Caplan
University of Minnesota Press, 2022
Cloth: 978-1-5179-0993-2 | eISBN: 978-1-4529-6434-8 | Paper: 978-1-5179-0995-6
Library of Congress Classification N72.C63C37 2022
Dewey Decimal Classification 702.81

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | REVIEWS
ABOUT THIS BOOK

Tracing the evolution of the Italian avant-garde’s pioneering experiments with art and technology and their subversion of freedom and control

In postwar Italy, a group of visionary artists used emergent computer technologies as both tools of artistic production and a means to reconceptualize the dynamic interrelation between individual freedom and collectivity. Working contrary to assumptions that the rigid, structural nature of programming limits subjectivity, this book traces the multifaceted practices of these groundbreaking artists and their conviction that technology could provide the conditions for a liberated social life.

Situating their developments within the context of the Cold War and the ensuing crisis among the Italian left, Arte Programmata describes how Italy’s distinctive political climate fueled the group’s engagement with computers, cybernetics, and information theory. Creating a broad range of immersive environments, kinetic sculptures, domestic home goods, and other multimedia art and design works, artists such as Bruno Munari, Enzo Mari, and others looked to the conceptual frameworks provided by this new technology to envision a way out of the ideological impasses of the age.

Showcasing the ingenuity of Italy’s earliest computer-based art, this study highlights its distinguishing characteristics while also exploring concurrent developments across the globe. Centered on the relationships between art, technology, and politics, Arte Programmata considers an important antecedent to the digital age. 


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