Open Works: Between the Programmed and the Free, Art in Italy from 1962 to 1972


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Art History


Starting in the 1960s, a group of Italian artists known as Arte Programmata (Programmed Art) were among the first to use computers and cybernetics to make artworks, constructing op-art paintings, kinetic sculptures, light environments, and adaptable household designs. This dissertation situates Arte Programmata’s multi-media experiments within conditions unique to Cold War Italy. It argues that artists such as Bruno Munari, Enzo Mari, and the collectives Gruppo T and Gruppo N employed the generative and interactive technologies of early computers—namely, algorithms, feedback mechanisms, and information theory—not just as new media for making art but as conduits for investigating how human agency is produced by shared structures. This project offers new insights into early computer art by considering technology’s socio-political import, thus expanding an understanding of computers, cybernetics, and their bearing on the humanities.