Proto punk and generative art pioneer–Sonia Landy Sheridan
Before the days of PCs and desktop publishing, grassroots and underground publishing was often created on copy machines. In addition to my own publications, I still have a stash of old ‘zines from the 80’s and 90’s. My collection favors underground mini comics but there are a few olde timey punk and Xerox art zines too.
Some of the techniques in play by Blair Menace above were first pioneered by Sonia Landry Sheridan, her artist colleagues and art students. Sheridan taught printmaking and drawing in her early career but eventually developed an interest in communication technology. Through her contacts in the tech industries in 1969 she became artist-in-residence at 3M where she began to tinker with their cutting-edge imaging systems. Soon after in 1970, she started the Generative Systems workshop at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This teaching lab explored new modes of art making with nascent computing and the digital processing tools emerging at the time.
Sheridan’s residency with 3M continued into the mid 70’s. At her request, SAIC students got their hands onto one of the first industrial 3M color-in-color photocopiers and an array of other computer and digital image processing devices.
The art making techniques demonstrated by Sonia Sheridan and her students at the Generative Systems lab and made possible by technology of 3M and other companies helped make the pop art movement more democratic than ever. During the 70’s and 80’s copy machines became cheaper and more commonly available. Suddenly, anyone with access to these devices could play and publish. Xerox art hit the streets.
What follows are some images of Sonia Sheridan’s pioneering reprographic art work. She was very heavy into conceptually exploring and technologically deconstructing/manipulating/reconstructing images. Sheridan used everything and anything to get, make and manipulate her images. She worked with early video and closed circuit cameras. She developed possibly the first computer image editing software for artists in the early 80’s. If it had a power source and could produce an image she would take that image and input it over and over again into other devices and then output onto paper, video, fabric, whatever.
Finally, there is also a link to a series of ultra nerdy videos about her body of work hosted at la fondation Daniel Langlois pour l’art, la science, et la technologie. The entire site is a gold mine.
(The piece above is typical of the barrage of distortions, generations, and manipulations she would put many of her images through.)
Here is a short, easy to digest video from a European retrospective exhibition of Sonia Sheridan’s work.
This link is to a series of very nerdy but informative videos from 1977 on Sonia Sheridan’s work by John Mabey. I haven’t made it through all of them yet. Fair warning: Those excited by devices and artifacts of the dawn of the digital age will be entranced.