Programmed art:
the origin of the term

Posted in Documents

The Almanacco Letterario Bompiani

The artists of Gruppo T happened to deal with Milan, a thrilling city in the post war and reconstruction period, and with an international context, enjoying the intellectual generosity of Lucio Fontana who bought their works and of Bruno Munari who organized their exhibitions.

Fontana and Munari were both very influential on Gruppo T despite being two very different artists: Munari for his objects, e.g. the multiplied artworks, and Fontanta for his environments. As a child, Anceschi visited the “Ambiente spaziale a luce nera” (“Spatial environment in black light”) presented by the Argentinian artist at Galleria del Naviglio in Milan.

The first readers of the Declaration, before it was published on the occasion of Miriorama 1, were Fontana and Munari, as well as Luciano Anceschi and Guido Ballo. The “Macchina inutile” (“Useless machine”) by Munari was exhibited at Miriorama 1: it was a modular piece of six elements of anodized aluminum produced in a series of 20 in 1956, defined by the magazine “Domus” an Italian “mobile” called “useless machine 1956”.

The fellowship between Gruppo T and Munari continued on the occasion of Miriorama 8 and Miriorama 9.

In May 1962 Munari, together with Giorgio Soavi, organized the exhibition Programmed art at the Olivetti showroom in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan. Munari worked for the publishing house Bompiani as well, where Umberto Eco was one of his colleagues.

The Almanacco Letterario Bompiani was published several months before the exhibition. It presented an anticipatory overview of the applications of electronic calculators to moral sciences and literary research. The time corresponded with the origins of the technological revolution of electronics, cybernetics, and information technology.

The issue features a series of artworks by Gruppo T, Castellani, Soto, Rot, Gerstner and Munari himself, who, with his usual creative twist, chose the term “Arte programmata” to define them. He might have taken into account the work of Max Bense, who in those same years wrote about “Programmierung des Schönen” (“Programmation of beauty”).

The table of contents of Almanacco Bompiani features for the very first time the term.

Eco and Munari literally pushed the members of Gruppo T to produce ad hoc hypotheses of “Programmed graphics”, as well as artworks realized according the “cybernetic criteria”. Umberto Eco wrote such an extraordinary text of engaged critics as “La forma del disordine” (“The shape of disorder”).

In the previous pages of the Almanacco, the combinatory poem “Tape Mark I” by Nanni Balestrini was featured. The fact that only recently Balestrini was able to finally realize and publish his multiple novel with current technology (each printed copy is different from the others) proves the anticipatory strength of this auroral kinds of research, since at the time of the publication of the Almanacco only perforated cards and dot matrix printers were available. The Programmed graphic design by Anceschi has become recently an app for iPhone.

Almanacco Letterario Bompiani - Read on