ANAT 30 for 30: 1988 – 2018

In our 30 for 30 focus, we remember 30 watershed moments and stories celebrating ANAT’s 30th anniversary…

  1988: Thursday 25 October 

The seeds that grew into ANAT were sown by Interface, a suite of ‘art meets technology’ events developed by the Experimental Art Foundation, working with the South Australian Ministry of Technology, for Adelaide’s 1984 Festival of Arts. A pilot led to ANAT’s establishment in 1988 with a mandate to ‘promote, foster and develop … interaction between the arts, science and technology’.

With these aims in mind, ANAT was tasked with: managing the Australia Council’s devolved Artists and New Technology Fund; collecting and disseminating information relevant to the field; maintaining a database of artists, institutions and organisations; publishing a regular bulletin; contributing to both Australian and international arts and technological publications; initiating and managing special projects; and providing information, advice and assistance to artists, educators and students.

In its first year, Australian new media artists were invited to contribute to Imagescape, an event showcasing recent Australian works in film, video and computer graphics for the 1988 Adelaide Festival.

And the very same year, FISEA (the First International Symposium on Electronic Art), was staged in The Netherlands, bringing together “scientists, artists and other specialists in the field of the electronic arts” in a “scientific, creative and educational forum”. The zeitgeist was underway!

Image: ANAT’s certificate of incorporation

1989: Thursday 1 November

In its second year ANAT launched its National Summer School program, aiming to expand the palette of artists by helping them skill-up in the use of new technologies.

Twelve artists, designers and performers from around Australia converged on Regency College of TAFE in Adelaide for the chance to experiment with a range of software and hardware.

Researcher, artist, writer and performer, Virginia Barratt was one of the 1989 Summer School participants. Virginia is a founding member of VNS Matrix, the influential cyberfeminist collective, and is currently undertaking a PhD at Western Sydney University.

1989 National Summer School in Computer Aided Design and Manufacture

#anat_australia #anat30for30

Image: Virginia Barratt and Adam Boyd, ‘Dada Do’, Eyeline Art Magazine Launch, School of Arts Building, 15 May 1987, Brisbane. Photograph Jose Macalino.

1990: Thursday 8 November

In ANAT’s third year its exhibition Towards a New Aesthetic – Exploring Computer Aided Art featured big in AUSGRAPH 90, the art program of the Australasian Computer Graphics Forum’s annual conference, held in Melbourne.

This second in ANAT’s ongoing program of exhibitions focussing on works that utilise technology—particularly those developed during / inspired by participation in ANAT’s national summer (and sometimes winter) schools—featured works by Adam Wolter, Diane Mantzaris, Hilary Archer, Linda Wallace, Lynne Roberts-Goodwin, Peter Charuk, Phil George, Phillip Bannigan and Sue Harris, Richard Guthrie, Rodney Harris, Sandra Shaw, Simryn Gill, Stelarc, Stephen Hennessy and Wendy Mills.

Wendy Mills remembers the exhibition as “a productive follow-on from the summer school, in that it showcased a new direction that artists were exploring” and “reinforced a feeling of optimism in the potential for using computers in the arts”.

On a personal note, Wendy feels the summer school and exhibition helped her shift the direction of her practice “from ‘real world’ installations to digital constructions and interactive artworks”. It wasn’t all good though, as back then, the equipment required to produce and show these works was still very expensive. Wendy had had to raise funds to produce her work, but during the exhibition equipment used in various artworks was stolen from the gallery. “The sound element of my work, which had been recorded live for the exhibition, was on a master cassette tape. This tape was stolen along with the cassette player, and never heard again.”

That year, ANAT also organised a delegation to SISEA (the Second International Symposium on Electronic Art), which was again staged in The Netherlands.

Image: Wendy Mills, “memories of next easter”, 1990. Installation of transparent cibachromes and recorded sound, 400 x 400 x 400 cm. Sound by Stephen Leek and VoiceArt


1991: Thursday 15 November

Of the 62 artists who applied to ANAT’s Art Research and Development Fund that year, 10 were successful: Charles Anderson, Simon Carroll, Joyce Hinterding, Csaba Szamosy, Paula Dawson, Sally Pryor, Noelle Janczewska, Linda Johnson, James Harley & Shiralee Saul, and Stephen Hennessey.

Joyce Hinterding’s experimental electro-acoustic work ‘Siphon’ (pictured) explored the inherent qualities and characteristic sounds of electricity by sculpturally interpreting an electronic component within a sound-producing circuit.

Joyce explains “this was a time when many people were tackling the building blocks of media and mediums; in my case electricity and the fabulously confusing water analogy was my starting point. I had been studying the Tafe electronics course when we were asked to repeat a turn of the century mathematical problem that calculated how much energy could be stored in a jar of water. This caught my imagination to such a degree that after calculating that I would need 300 jars to run a simple circuit, I set out to use this calculation to literalise the water analogy and the idea that energy flows. The result was ‘Siphon’ a work that gave the audience an experience of a literal filling and emptying of 300 glass jars with electricity. The entire room acted as and replaced a single component in the circuit, and gave agency to this invisible force through sound, and feeling as the room smelled and breathed with picofarads of electricity. “

Image: Joyce Hinterding, “siphon” (detail), 1991.Photograph Ian Hobbs.

1992: Thursday 22 November

Having organised an Australian presence at SISEA in 1990, ANAT was chosen to host TISEA (the Third International Symposium on Electronic Art). The first event of its kind to be staged in Australia (and the first ISEA hosted outside The Netherlands), TISEA invited Australian artists—and their audiences—to explore recent developments in art, science and technology, and their impact on the evolution of culture.

TISEA revolved around two major themes. ‘Art and the Algorithm’ explored the critical role played by artists’ visual literacy in expressing and communicating esoteric data, while ‘Cultural Diversity in the Global Village’ highlighted the globally transformative impact of three decades of IT proliferation, and the role of artists in resisting the homogenising effects of the ‘global village’ and ensuring a future for the rich diversity of human cultures.

The TISEA Coordinating Committee Chair was Gary Warner, with members Virginia Barratt, Rebecca Coyle, Paula Dawson, Tim Gruchy, Ross Harley, Jon McCormack and Bill Seaman. The symposium included presentations by artists including Simon Biggs, John Colette, Linda Dement, Ian Haig, Elena Popa and VNS Matrix. The performance program included notable performances by Rod Berry, Barbara Campbell, Stelarc, Amanda Stewart and Warren Burt.

Stephen Jones’s film ‘Artists in Cyberculture’, shot during TISEA, examined the cultural, social and environmental implications of new technologies and featured many of the TISEA artists.

Image: Tim Gruchy, ‘Video portrait’ (still), Video synthesis by Stephen Jones. Photograph by Pam Greet.

1993: Thursday 29 November

In its sixth year ANAT curated Artists thinking about Science for the 1993 Great Australian Science Show. Held at the World Trade Centre, Melbourne and later toured to other states, the exhibition included works by Deborah Kelly, Dale Nason, Troy Innocent, Moira Corby, Faye Maxwell, Brad Miller and Jason Gee.

Troy Innocent describes his work Idea-ON>! (pictured) as exploring “ideas for virtual worlds inspired of the first wave of VR” at a time when “a VR headset and the hardware to run it would cost in excess of a million dollars. Not having access to this tech at the time, I created interactions that explored the endemic properties of electronic space by emulating the language of VR via playable CD-ROM experience”.

Through showing the work in the context of the Science Show Troy was able to observe “a range of different players experience the work in the different ways”, and this “became part of my creative research practice and an effective methodology for exploring possibilities afforded by interaction and game design”. Idea-ON>! was later released on the cover of Mediamatic and included in the Burning the Interface exhibition at the MCA in Sydney:

Read more about Idea-ON>! here

Read more about “Burning the Interface’: The first major survey exhibition of works on CD-ROM by contemporary Australian and international artists, here

Image: Troy Innocent, ‘Idea-ON>!’ (detail), 1992, Database of experience, CD-ROM


1994: Thursday 6 December

Twelve artists participated in ANAT’s fifth National Summer School in Computer Aided Art and Design, held at Curtin University in 1994. Twenty-four years later we asked Alyson Bell for a still from her moving image work Here I Sit—inspired by a poem with the same name written by Sandy Jeffs—which she began working on there. Alyson replied:

I didn’t finish Here I Sit at the summer school, but all the Super 8 footage you see in the film was the original footage I worked with at Curtin. I got to grips with what I could do with the technology and how I wanted the film to look … and most importantly I learnt motion graphics.

For some reason we were unable to copy the work from the computer at the end of the course (in those days it wasn’t so easy with large files!) Then unfortunately, somebody at the university managed to wipe it completely … leaving me absolutely nothing to show from my time at the Summer School!

Luckily though, a representative from the Australian Film Commission came to Curtin to see what we were doing, and I felt encouraged to apply to the AFC for funding to remake my film.

The second attempt was a lot more sophisticated because I’d had more experience with the software by then, and the funding allowed me to employ a sound designer, and a cinematographer to shoot extra footage on 16mm, and to get assistance with editing, kine-ing to 35mm and so on.

Losing the first attempt turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the second version went on to be screened at film festivals all over the world, including the Venice International Film Festival, and back home it was nominated for an AFI award, and screened on SBS for International Women’s Day. Amazingly, Here I Sit is still doing the rounds – it’s recently been screened at a poetry festival, and will be shown in Paris (again) next month.

The Summer School helped put me on a very interesting path: one where I could combine my interest in film and video (I’d just finished a postgrad course at VCA (Swinburne) Film & Television School) with my design background … at that time, this was really unique.”



Image: Alyson Bell, Here I Sit (still), 1996. 8 minutes. Poetry by Sandy Jeffs

1995: Thursday 13 December

Now in its eighth year, ANAT put together a program of screen-based new media work for the Australasian Interactive Multimedia Industry Association (AIMIA) conference in Adelaide. It featured works by Kim Bounds, John Colette, Linda Dement, Ian Haig, Troy Innocent and Elena Pope, Faye Maxwell, MindFlux, Bill Seaman and John Tonkin, as well as The User Unfriendly Interface (pictured) by Josephine Starrs and Leon Cmielewski.

ANAT also convened a special panel at the conference on artists’ use and development of technology, chaired by multimedia producer Simon Edhouse. Presentations by Leigh Hobba, John McCormack and Josephine Starrs sparked questions from the audience on issues including the politics of authorship, relations between artists and the multimedia industry, intellectual property, moral rights of artists and copyright.

ANAT’s presence in the public domain took a great leap forward that year with the launch of its website, designed by the ubiquitous cyber-entrepreneurs Virtual Artists (Jesse Reynolds and Dave Sag).

And as 1995 came to a close, ANAT launched an international artists project—designed to bring artists and writers to Australia to present their work and meet with Australian practitioners—with Francesca da Rimini’s curation of Virogenesis (1995–96).

Image: Conference-goers exploring The User Unfriendly Interface by Josephine Starrs and Leon Cmielewski



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