Lindsay Caplan – Arte Programmata, Freedom Control And The Computer In 1960S Italy


The University of Minnesota Press, ISBN 978-1517909956, English, 330 pages, 2022, USA

In 1962, an exhibition entitled “Arte Programmata: Arte Cinetica, Opere Moltiplicate, Opera Aperta” (Programmed Art: Kinetic Art, Multiple Works, Open Work), curated by Giorgio Soavi and Bruno Munari, opened at the Olivetti Showroom in Milan. Arte Programmata in Italy was the outcome of a series of pioneering processes that converged in a symbolic space. It took place a few years before the now famous exhibitions Cybernetic Serendipity (1968) and Information (1970). Among the many studios, laboratories and institutions in Europe that used computer technology as a potential tool for cultural and social change in the 1960s, Arte Programmata developed into a truly interdisciplinary movement, attracting various avant-garde groups (such as the renown Gruppo T and Gruppo N), designers and theorists to collaborate. Olivetti, the brand that anticipated the personal computer and had a CEO who cared deeply about a fairer organisation of work and the social consequences of technology and design, was the perfect place at the time to think about “freedom” vs. “control” from a cybernetic perspective. This topic turns out to be a very timely debate today. Caplan gives justice to it, with a carefully reconstructed history, focusing on the political dimension and context in which the left, Eco’s “open work”, and early computer art, flourished in the same spaces.