Digital Art in Croatia 1968-1984, Technical Museum Nikola TeslaMarilena Pateraki
Early digital art in Croatia has never been systematically discussed. The criterion according to which works were selected from all the pieces of early digital art featured in this project is that in least one part of the working process, in pieces created up to 1984, digital technology was employed. Since no text or any other kind of document on the topic was available, the research had to start out from zero, collecting information and correlating the findings.1 Some of the anyway few leading figures and practitioners of early digital art in Croatia are no longer alive, and the networks and institutions are no longer in operation or else have undergone major changes, and so some useful information was either not accessible or could not be checked out multilaterally. Bearing this in mind, the author is aware that there might be some areas of incompleteness.
From the mid-20th century, during the transition from the industrial age to the information society, two segments of contemporary art practices used information as their primary material: conceptual art on the one hand2 and media art on the other, while the latter encompassed information that was digitally generated and mediated, digital art.3 Computers began to be used in visual art in the early 1960s, first in West Germany and in the USA. After a short period of the inauguration of Computer Art in mainstream art discourses and institutions in the late 1960s and at the very beginning of the 1970s, digital art disappeared from the world art scene in the mid-1970s, on the whole due to anti-technological feelings4 and the development of new discourses in contemporary art. From the 1960s there were waves of digital art within and without the fields of interest of mainstream contemporary art, which from the 1980s canonised mainly conceptual art, excluding other, competitive, discourses. From the 1990s, digital art was seen in the context of media art and media culture, an open area of practice and critical theory that operated on the narrow line between visual and multimedia art, science, technology and social and political activism. Attempts at the canonization of media art did not begin until the 21^st^ century.
This project is the first attempt at mapping the employment of digital technologies in the art of Croatia from 1968 to 1984, the years being chosen for several reasons. The year 1968 is not only that in which the first works of digital art in Croatia were made and shown in public, but also a year that became the signifier of a turning point in the creation of a new discourse in politics, society and art that occurred all over the world in the previous and the next few years. May 1968 was marked by student protests in Paris, rapidly spreading over Europe and North America. In London, on August 2, the exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity was opened, the first in a series of big exhibitions about computer art and cybernetics; the curator, Jasia Reichardt, later stated that it was then impossible to pull it off in Paris because of the different social climate and the anti-technological mood, one of the consequences of the social changes of 1968. The day after the opening of the London exhibition, in Zagreb the exhibition computers and visual research opened its doors, the beginning of the international event tendencies 4 (1968-1969), where the first digital works of Croatian artists were shown. On August 20, 1968, Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia so as to halt by military aggression the economic social and political changes in that country, the political programme named the Prague Spring,5 and there was some fear that Yugoslavia too would be attacked militarily.