Electronic Mask 3.0
Terminal Art Retrospective: 1986-2006
The Electronic Mask Series explores the creative process using a computer as the artist's tool.
In 1985, as today, creating images on a computer involved the digitalization and manipulation of masks. These electronic masks define some areas of the image, while hiding other areas, thereby limiting the effects of specific operations to the masked areas. These masks are the electronic equivalent of the airbrush artist's frisket paper.
As humans, we have used masks since prehistoric times to hide or transform aspects of ourselves during social rituals.
In the Electronic Mask Series, I identified the eight steps of my creative process: Initiation, Imagination, Visualization, Motivation, Vacation, Ventilation, Examination, & Unification, which in turn leads again to Initiation. This spiralling process leads us to progressively ascending levels of Creation...and Recreation.
Terminal Art Origins
In 1986, the Terminal Art exhibit presented a computer graphics art show, the work of several Genigraphics artists based in Nashville, Tennessee. The Genigraphics system, running on a DEC PDP-11 and outputting to 35mm color slides, was the state-of-the-art in 1986. NASA and other high-tech corporations used the Genigraphics system, which cost about $300,000. The slides output at 2000 lines of resolution with a pallette of 6 million colors and sold for $80 each. The vector-based images were recorded on 8-inch floppy disks. Artists used a pen-like pointing device to select objects and a "hockey puck" to digitize objects on a graphics tablet.
Digital Image, in Nashville, Tennessee, installed the first Genigraphics system in that part of the country in 1982. The company, which used the system to produce boardroom presentations for Fortune 1000 companies, generously permitted its Computer Graphic Artists to use the system during off hours to produce art slides. I curated Terminal Art, the first show of this new art medium and the precursor of today's digital art.
The Singularity Is Near
In 1986, Personal Computers were expensive little toys used for spreadsheets and desktop publishing.
In 1996, my Micron Pentium graphics system cost about $3000, 1% of the price of a Genigraphics computer. It worked with a pallette of 16.7 million colors and output at resolutions up to 8000 lines or 2400 dpi. Raster-based images were stored on 3.5-inch diskettes or 135-megabyte removable hard disks.
Terminal Art 2.0
In 1995, I posted the original Terminal Art images to Art.Net, one of the first web sites to allow artists to share their digital work. For the Art.Net version, I scanned each of the original vector images and revisited them with Pentium power. You can view Electronic Mask 2.0 as well as the Homage to Magritte exhibits.
Terminal Art 3.0
In 2006, I am still peddaling the same Initiation, Imagination, Visualization, Motivation, Vacation, Ventilation, Examination, & Unification cycles. This website adds Communication and Participation to the path of Creation. For me, the Creation process is the most fun when it includes Participation. When I discovered Wiki-Wikis, I immediately saw them as a new tool for Participation. Weblogs are the new tool for Communication. Let the Creation evolve!
—Max Bliss, November, 2006