Stephen Jones
, Synthetics: Aspects of Art and Technology in Australia, 1956-1975

Stephen Jones

The MIT Press
, English, 
464 pp., 
ISBN 978-0262014960
This book is a small gem among the many dealing with the history of media art. Stephen Jones has undertaken an excellent and extensive research project, digging not only into his valuable personal archive of Australian media art (patiently assembled over decades) but also sifting through public libraries and private collections. This is neither a dispassionate nor pretentious academic work. It is, moreover, an extremely rigorous investigation – the result of years of passionate personal involvement. He begins with the dawn of computer arts in the late fifties and ends with the milestone exhibition “Australia 75”, framing events in Australia within an international context. As the author affirms, the domestic scene was not isolated during this period, but actively in touch with contemporary entities in Europe and the U.S. What makes this work impressive is the intertwined history of early electronic devices and the art that developed along with them. Rather than simply ‘instructive’, the book reveals itself as an essential reference point for understanding this time period. We learn that “it is the display technologies that govern what kinds of art are possible and how it will be seen.” Every artwork is effectively contextualized in terms of contemporary festivals, exhibitions, and publications on one side and technical innovation and experiments on the other . The book is fully enjoyable, with plenty of historical material, including never-seen-before original pictures that are unquestionably inspiring.