Chromatic Algorithms: Synthetic Color, Computer Art, and by Carolyn L. Kane

By Carolyn L. Kane

Nowadays, we take without any consideration that our computing device screens—and even our phones—will convey us photos in shiny complete colour. electronic colour is a primary a part of how we use our units, yet we by no means supply a proposal to the way it is produced or the way it got here about.

Chromatic Algorithms finds the attention-grabbing background in the back of electronic colour, tracing it from the paintings of some fantastic laptop scientists and experimentally minded artists within the overdue Nineteen Sixties and early ‘70s via to its visual appeal in advertisement software program within the early Nineties. blending philosophy of expertise, aesthetics, and media research, Carolyn Kane indicates how innovative the earliest computer-generated colours were—built with the big postwar number-crunching machines, those first examples of “computer art” have been so awesome that artists and desktop scientists looked them as psychedelic, even innovative, harbingers of a higher destiny for people and machines. yet, Kane indicates, the explosive development of non-public computing and its accompanying desire for off-the-shelf software program resulted in standardization and the sluggish ultimate of the experimental box within which machine artists had thrived.

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Psychophysics In the nineteenth century, scientists like Gustav Theodor Fechner, Ernst Heinrich Weber, Hermann von Helmholtz, Johannes Müller, James Clerk Maxwell, and Thomas Young pioneered the scientific study of optics and perception. They saw value in Goethe’s “embodied” color and likewise located visual truth in the corporeal body. But no sooner was this body identified as the source of visual knowledge than it was also removed and abstracted from the world. In pursuit of an “ideal subject” of vision, perceptual processes were isolated and idealized into objects for rational observation and calculation (it is precisely this reification that comes under the gun in Husserl’s, Heidegger’s, and MerleauPonty’s phenomenology, as I note in the introduction).

57 40 Chapter 1. Colors Sacred and Synthetic Romantic Color in Critical Theory Less acknowledged in Goethe’s legacy is the way in which his color theory influenced critical theory. It is well known that Romantic philosophers like F. W. J. Schelling, G. W. F. 58 Contrary to Kant and the “chromophobic” philosophers who came before him, both Goethe and Hegel glorified the spiritual and majestic powers of color. ”59 Following Goethe, Hegel maintained that color was a form of expression that could be used to achieve a “sublation” (Aufheben) of art into philosophy and ultimately into spirit.

And yet one wonders, in an age of ubiquitous electronic computing and global communications, do these old world values still apply? Does the imperialistic and colonial history of chromophobia continue to thrive on one’s desktop, television, or cell phone screen? Chromatic Algorithms argues that they do not: since the 1960s the United States has embraced a new world of electronic, synthetic color. Decked from head to toe in electronic hues and digital screens, the cultural landscape abounds with color film, television, fluorescents, op art, billboards, Internet banner ads, screaming neon signs, dazzling fashion displays, postmodern architecture, luminous screen savers, and brightly colored multiscreen installations in pharmacies, shopping malls, airports, airplanes, gyms, and cars.

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