Image Objects Reviewed in Artforum

01 Apr, 2022

Image Objects Reviewed in Artforum

Jacob Gaboury's Image Objects: An Archaeology of computer graphics is reviewed by Michael Eby to discuss how digital graphics remade the material world.

From the review:

Gaboury’s book can be considered an “archaeology” for two reasons. First, Image Objects ends, as the author notes, where most histories of computer graphics begin—with the advent of the first mass-manufactured Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) in the early 1980s—and thus constitutes a kind of prehistory. Second, each of its five chapters excavates a particular technical object, most of which form the conceptual basis of tools still used today. These objects are not always material in the strict sense of the term: One chapter examines an algorithm called the “Z-buffer,” employed for representing depth values, while another recounts the emergence of a computer programming model partially inspired by Sketchpad, Ivan Sutherland’s early computer-aided design (CAD) program. Each presents an occasion for thematic exploration and conceptual recombination, revealing particular facets of the medium of computer graphics—its genealogy, techniques, culture, and influence.

"Gaboury’s book paves a way for a discourse on computer graphics independent from the already robust literature on midcentury correspondences between art and engineering, such as those of the Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT) group and the endeavors of Bell Labs, the ICA London’s watershed 1968 “Cybernetic Serendipity” show, the information aesthetics of Max Bense and the Stuttgart school, the systems-theoretic criticism of Jack Burnham, or the ecology oriented design advocated by György Kepes, Charles Eames, and the New Bauhaus. Whereas the latter largely circumscribes computer-generated images to the lineage of artistic modernism, Image Objects situates the field’s idiosyncratic strategies within the realm of popular culture and everyday experience. Gaboury thus seeks to recuperate the history of computer graphics from the dominant art-historical and technological disciplines, such as those of film and photography, that tend to subsume it, and in doing so makes a series of bold claims, chief among them being those graphics played a pivotal role in the reorientation of the computer from a logical and mathematical tool to the graphical and interactive medium it is today. For that reason, the book is a unique interrogation of the contemporary optical regime, structured as it is by black boxes and screens."

To read the full review, please visit here.