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Christiane Paul presents a slightly different trajectory. She claims that "the notion of interactivity
and 'virtuality' in art were explored early on by artists such as Marcel Duchamp and László
Moholy-Nagy in relation to objects and their optical effects (Paul 2003, 13)." According to Paul,
Duchamp's work was "extremely influential in the realm of digital art" because of the "shift from
object to concept" (ibid., 13). Paul formulates a genealogy of digital art slightly different from
Weibel's or Manovich's, emphasising the influence of Duchamp via OULIPO, a French literary
group, to Fluxus and conceptual art. The conceptual 'link' here is that Dadaists, the OULIPO
writers and Fluxus artists frequently created art works which were based on the execution of a set
of instructions and/or rules, which can be compared to computer algorithms, which are,
conceptually speaking, nothing else but sequences of instructions carried out in loops (ibid., 13).
This view is supported by Peter Suchin who argues that the art of the 1960s, "institutionalised
under the collective heading of 'Conceptual Art' and its legacies [...] is a key determinant of today's
new media art practices." (Suchin 2004, 67)
Other conceptual links between contemporary media art and art movements in the past focus on the
exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity, at the ICA, London 1968, (Paul 2003, 18), as well as on the
exhibition 'Software Art', curated by Jack Burnham in 1970. Younger artists who are now using the
term 'software art' for their own work are claiming Burnham's show as a conceptual predecessor
(Goriunova and Shulgin 2003). However, there is no continuity between the surge in cybernetic art
in the late 1960s and the reappearance of the 'cyber' paradigm in the 1980s. There is even less
continuity between Burnham's Software Art show which remains an early and isolated example
from which there can be traced no continuous line toward software art in 2005. Thus, when such
long jumps are being made, it is reasonable to assume that a desire for historic legitimisation is at
. Such moves can also be seen as following the logic that Bourdieu describes in Principles for
a Sociology of Cultural Works:
In the struggles within each genre which oppose the consecrated avant-garde to the new avantgarde,
the latter is compelled to question the very foundation of the genre through a return to
sources and to the purity of its origins. (Bourdieu 1993, 187)
The quest for historic legitimacy raises some interesting points. The giants of the modern avantgarde
appear in media art's rear-view mirror, together with the now equally safe and institutionally
consecrated avant-garde of the 1960s. But how valid are those links? Is there really any direct
connection from Duchamp's work to present day net art? The claimed conceptual similarities are, it
appears, identified with the benefit of hindsight. So, why are writers such as Weibel, Manovich and
Paul so keen on quoting high-art references such as Vertov and Duchamp, rather than, for example,
the larger context of visual culture under intensified conditions of industrial production in the
1920s? The suspicion arises that media art needs to give itself added historic depth. Compared to
the western fine arts tradition, which dates itself back at least 2500 years, media art is just a recent
blip on the screen (Fuller 2003). In the struggle for establishing itself as a field, it reaches for the
big guns of art history and the history of media.

z http://theoriebild.ung.at/view/Main/TechnologicalDeterminismInMediaArt