Skip navigation
Hardcover | $9.75 Short | £8.95 | 416 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 108, figures, 1 table | February 2011 | ISBN: 9780262014960
Mouseover for Online Attention Data

Look Inside


Aspects of Art and Technology in Australia, 1956-1975


New technologies continually arise, offering repeated opportunities to artists in search of the technologically novel. Stephen Jones calls this phenomenon the "rolling new," and in Synthetics he describes how artists in Australia used new technologies in their art, from the early days of digital computing in the 1950s to a landmark exhibition in 1975. Jones looks at not only the artists and the artworks they produced but also at the evolution of computing technologies and video displays as these new forms of media developed into tools that artists could use. He also examines the collaborations that sprang up between artists and the technologists who taught them how to use these new devices. The process, he finds, was reciprocal: the offerings of the engineer could inspire the artist as much as the needs of the artist could inspire the engineer.

Jones discusses the constraints imposed by the limitations of new technologies as they developed and shows that different types of output and display technologies made for the production of very different kinds of images. He explores the development of computer graphics, the use by artists of such new conceptual paradigms as post-object art, and the emergence of video art in the late 1960s and early 1970s. By 1975, the art and technology movement in Australia reached something of a watershed. The work itself became established as an art form just as funding dwindled and a popular and supportive left-wing government left office. And yet, Jones writes, the early electronic artists laid the foundation for today’s burgeoning culture of new media art in Australia.

About the Author

Stephen Jones is an Australian video artist and electronic engineer.

Table of Contents

  • Synthetics
  • Leonardo
  • Roger F. Malina, Executive Editor
  • Sean Cubitt, Editor-in-Chief
  • A complete list of books published in the Leonardo series appears at the back of this book.
  • Synthetics
  • Aspects of Art and Technology in Australia, 1956–1975
  • Stephen Jones
  • The MIT Press
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • London, England
  • © 2011
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
  • For information about special quantity discounts, please email
  • This book was set in Stone Sans and Stone Serif by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited. Printed and bound in the United States of America.
  • Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
  • Jones, Stephen, 1951 Jan. 23–
  • Synthetics : aspects of art and technology in Australia, 1956–1975 / Stephen Jones.
  •  p. cm. — (Leonardo books)
  • Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • ISBN 978-0-262-01496-0 (hardcover : alk. paper)
  • 1. Art and technology—Australia. 2. Art and electronics—Australia. 3. Art, Australian—20th century. I. Title. II. Title: Aspects of art and technology in Australia, 1956–1975.
  • N72.T4J66 2011
  • 776.0994'09045—dc22
  • 2010018804
  • 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
  • This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.
  • Cybernetics, the art of pure relations, or relationship itself, has its origins in karma.
  • —Nam June Paik,
  • Videa ’n’ Videology 1959–1973
  • Contents
  • Series Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 Introduction: Hunters and Gatherers of the New 1
  • 2 The Seeds of Computer Graphics 13
  • 3 Computing at the University of Sydney 47
  • 4 Computer Art and the PDP-8 63
  • 5 Kinetics to Electronics 105
  • 6 Post-object Art and the Tin Sheds 157
  • 7 Video Art 203
  • 8 Converging on Interactivity 269
  • Notes 311
  • Index 381


“A seminal history for any artist who is currently working with technology.”
Jill Scott, Media Artist and Professor for Art and Science Research in the Institute of Cultural Studies in Art, Media, and Design, Zurich University of the Arts
“As one researches aspects of the world, often particular periods of history that we thought we knew find themselves in need of rewriting. Jones has provided us with a comprehensive study of a rich period of technological and artistic change that to a large degree has remained hidden. In this light Synthetics is a deeply important and comprehensive book, for it gently asks us to re-cast the history of this period with newly articulated detail.”
Bill Seaman, Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Duke University
Synthetics offers an unprecedented insight into the convergence of art and technology in Australia in the immediate postwar era. At once surprising and revealing, Stephen Jones’ book charts the collaborative art-making processes of these hitherto undiscovered Antipodean ‘hunters and gathers of the new.’”
Ross Harley, Professor and Head, School of Media Arts, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney