Grant D. Taylor is an Associate Professor of Art History and the Art and Art History Department Chair at Lebanon Valley college in Pennsylvania. He is also the author of the 2014 book When the Computer Made Art: The Troubled History of Computer Art, which is undoubtedly the most thorough and well-researched history of computer art (and by association digital art) to have popped on CAN’s radar. Our editorial team voraciously consumed the book shortly after it was published and we continue to draw on it as an indispensable resource on the not-so-well-documented early years of mainframes and plotter drawings. Taking the position that computer art has (for various reasons) remained the stuff of niche production and consumption, Taylor traverses the distrust of institutions and the military-industrial complex that coloured the 1960s and ’70s, the exuberance and democratization of computing in the 1980s, and the wide-eyed anticipation of virtuality in the 1990s. Excavating the pioneers, periodicals, exhibitions, and technological and cultural shifts of four decades he delineates computer artists as what might be described as lovable misfits, who – while not exactly resonating with massive audiences – have considerable (art) historical and theoretical importance.
We’ve been in touch with Taylor for some time now and we batted a rich set of interview questions back and forth via Google Docs over the winter. Speaking to past and present heroes of computer art, evolving strategies for curation, and the triumphant return of VR headsets, this exchange offers a handy introduction to his research and expertise.