Letter from Philip Leider to Matthew Baigell, October 30, 1967.
ARTFORUM is celebrating its 50th anniversary with an issue dedicated to technology and the arts. You heard me. As ARTFORUM Editor-in-Chief Michelle Kuo points out in her Letter from the Editor: this is pretty freaking weird:
THE MESSAGE WAS BRIEF. Typed as if for telex, a 1967 memo from this magazine’s editor, Philip Leider, responded to a writer’s pitch with characteristically lapidary concision: “I can’t imagine Artforum ever doing a special issue on electronics or computers in art, but one never knows.” And, really, how could one know? The contingency of the moment is right there in black and white. Leider’s skeptical words said one thing, but the memo’s blocky, futuristic design, as if auguring a world defined by computer terminals and communications media, said another.
The magazine Leider helmed—which, with this issue, marks its fiftieth anniversary—was committed to the most advanced art of the day. In that sense, Artforum was very much dedicated to writing the future, whatever that might look like. So it’s safe to assume that it wasn’t a discomfort with the likes of punch cards that gave Leider pause. Rather, he was rightfully loath to pin art too closely to any one kind of media or technology—just as we are loath to do now, whether to avoid lapsing into a retrograde medium specificity, on the one hand, or technological determinism, on the other. Today we still cringe at manufactured genres like “computer art,” even if art as we know it could barely exist without computers. Technophilia and technophobia alike pervade museums, galleries, and art-fair booths; the language of new media and social media—platform, network, algorithm, sharing—abounds in press releases and exhibition titles, slaking our thirst for 1960s-cum-1990s cyber-euphoria. At the same time, Leider’s doubt echoes in the distance, a critical reminder that art’s affair with media is always prone to historical amnesia, to lazy conflations of vastly different positions and practices, to abrupt shifts from the faddish embrace of progress to a pining for the obsolete. We are nostalgic; we want to move on.
This special issue of Artforum aims to move on but not forget. In the following pages, we’ll take stock of five decades of conversation and contestation that helped forge art’s manifold possibilities and that now stand as a vital record of history. More broadly, we’ll reflect on the past fifty years of media, technology, and art, from the Plexiglas and Porta-Paks of the ’60s to the networked art of the present. For the story of media is, in many ways, the story of contemporary art—both its history and its future.
Shock value aside, the issue is chock full of things I want to read right away, not to mention to assign to my graduate students. Did I mention that it's really thick? Yes, art advertizing is up, friends: you can prop open your studio fire door with the thing.
Also: no reviews.