About

Micro Arts was a group for computer artists in the 1980s in the UK founded and programmed by Geoff Davis and others. It distributed micro computer software for algorithmic art and story generators on data cassettes and national Prestel teletext. There was also a print magazine.

NEWS

June 2021

Micro Arts 8-bit Exhibition

There is an exhibition of Micro Arts in LCB Depot, Leicester UK, from 7 June to 26 June. Please see the blog

Exhibition Leicester 6-26 June 2021 LCB Depot
Exhibition Leicester 6-26 June 2021 LCB Depot

 

 

 

 

 

Micro Arts book – second edition

This is due in June 2021. If you have the first edition please contact me and I’ll send you the new one. It has the 1980s Timeline (see the menu here) in it and some news about the 2021 developments.

January 2021

NFT Art

Micro Arts digital collection live, please visit

OpenSea Geoff Davis Micro Arts collection

https://opensea.io/collection/micro-arts-group-geoff-davis

This is on OpenSea and is an NFT collection. I am also doing this on a Proof of Stake platform using Tezos. All Micro Arts work will be on these new digital platforms.   They will be short animations, still images, etc. 

There will be a complete collection of tokens, in the form of ‘cards’ for each significant event. So there will tokens for the actual art pieces (as stills and videos), the magazine, the reviews and written material, the Prestel pages, and also recent events. These will be prepared then launched by summer 2021.

November 2020 

Micro Arts in National Art Archive

Micro Arts is in the new Computer Arts Archive (British Computer Society)
Visit Computer Art Archive here.

SUMMARY

Micro Arts was founded, run and programmed by Geoff Davis, along with an diverse group of young artists and programmers. It released computer generated art, conceptual pieces and story generators on data cassettes and Prestel TV teletext, and provided a forum for computer artists and musicians. Micro computers were newly available at low cost and led to a radical change in the use and consumption of computer graphics and computer controlled systems.

BOOK – ALL FORMATS LINK  – to choose your ebook format – Kindle, Apple, B&N, Kobo and more:

Micro Arts History Geoff Davis ebook many formats

Sample or buy Micro Arts ebook

The range of publicly released computer art was very wide. 

  • generative visual art with user control – MA1 ‘Abstract Originals’ – 7 programs – see video section
  • conceptual and challenging programs – MA2 ‘Various Unusual Events‘ – 6 programs
  • feminist agitprop – MA2 ‘The Money Work System’ animation of the SCUM Manifesto Valerie Solanas (Andy Warhol connection). This also included a Universal Basic Income (UBI) concept used in later fiction
  • math/data art – ‘Carry On Computing’ (in MA2) – January 2020 reissued as print in the code::art magazine by Sy Brand (blog on soon)
  • story text generator – MA4 ‘Cow Boils Head‘ – endless fiction
  • slow art – ‘Minimal‘ – 23 months to draw one screen (in MA2)
  • art animations – MA3 – based on Duchamp, Mondrian and Muybridge – BBC Micro (2 MHz MOS Technology 6502/6512) – 4 programs (these by Martin Rootes, who also made animations for the Hacienda and Leadmill clubs)

Other aspects:

  • had a print magazine – ‘Language as a Virus’, ‘Electronic Beowulf’, ‘Micro Music’ and many other articles
  • innovative graphics for NetWork 21 pirate TV  in London (Geoff) and Manchester Hacienda, Sheffield Leadmill (Martin) 
  • inclusive, not exclusive, no membership, open source (before it was named) software, publicly available on national Prestel teletext and via mail order data cassettes
  • widely reviewed in the national computer press such as Computing and Computer Weekly, and niche magazines like Blitz, Sinclair User etc.

In the early 1980s computers and computer (or ‘video’) graphics of all types were making it into public awareness. The new micro computers such as the Sinclair Spectrum, Amiga, BBC Micro and many others were mostly used for games, although 3D journeys of exploration were arriving in cloaks of pixilated mystery. Pong, Space Invaders, Manic Miner and The Dark Crystal arrived around this period.

Micro Arts was one of the first producers of computer art and ‘creativity apps’ in 1984, presenting a wide range of generative computer art for the microcomputer, including evolving computer art, animations and generated text stories. These were distributed in compilations, to entertain and educate. The Micro Arts generated abstract art could be used to make ambient visuals, with menus to control colours, speed etc. Micro Arts also produced text story generators, animations and more.

CBH-2-not sharpened 300.jpg
Cow Boils Head text generator Geoff Davis

The history of this period is summed up well by Paul Brown of the Computer Arts Society (CAS):

“My reading of this is: by the mid 1980’s the original objectives of the CAS  – ie. to promote the use of computers to creatives – had become obsolete thanks to cheap ‘personal’ computing and creative apps.  When CAS was relaunched 20 years later the main objective was to research, archive and maintain the history.” [1]

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MA1 Geoff Davis – ‘Abstract Originals’ – one of seven generated art pieces

MA2 Geoff Davis – Various Unusual Events – The Money Work System (SCUM Manifesto)
– one of six art pieces

MA1 Geoff Davis – ‘Abstract Originals’ – one of seven generated art pieces

MicroArts-tw2.jpg
Data cassette MA2 – a normal cassette with recorded data bits

MA1, MA2, MA4 were programmed by Geoff Davis using a Spectrum 48 – a Zilog Z80 A CPU running at 3.5 MHz, with 48k of RAM. Programming was in Sinclair BASIC with ‘peeking’ and ‘poking’ values directly into the memory. MA3 was programmed by Martin Rootes on the BBC Micro.

[1] Paul Brown of CAS, email to Geoff Davis June 2019.