The “Computer Space” forum is one of the oldest computer art festivals organized by Student Computer Art Society (SCAS) in Sofia every year and having a history of 31 years. It is an international non-commercial event and platform joining young artists, students and producers of computer graphics, computer animation, offline multimedia, electronic music and web design. “Computer Space” includes contest and festival part. All the events are free and open to the public, especially encouraging the participation of students and young artists. Every year more than 200 projects in the sphere of computer arts have been presented by their authors and discussed. The creative idea, the transformation of the idea to project, the combination of technology and art in the implementation, the society impact of computers have been always a main focus of the symposium in the frame of “Computer Space”. Starting as an electronic music festival in 1989 “Computer Space” included graphics and animation sections next few years. Web design has been one of the fast growing sections last 7 years. During the first 2 years (1989 and 1990) “Computer Space” has been organized in Goce Delchev and Sandanski towns and focused mainly in electronic music. During that time the event was supported by number of institutions and organization and by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. In 1991 the forum announced it’s nowadays name “Computer Space” and moved to Sofia, in the National Palace of Culture. Between 1991 and 1994 the event has been organized by SCAS and the electronic music section has been organized in cooperation with one of the pioneers of the Bulgarian electronic music, the composer Simo Lazarov. Between 1995 and 1998 the electronic music section has been organized in cooperation with DS Music. Between 1999 and 2001 the contest BGSite has been initiated in the frame of “Computer Space” as a cooperation between SCAS, Internet Society – Bulgaria and ABC Design & Communication, later continuing as a stand-alone event. Some of the early exhibitions, seminars and catalogues could be seen here, 1998, 1999, 2000. On the photo from 1994 you can see participants of Computer Graphics exhibition, from Plovdiv mathematical school. Here is also poster from this year. (continue in part 2)
In order to understand the history of “Computer Space”, we have to understand the context of the situation in Bulgaria in 80s and 90s. During the 1980s Bulgaria was specialized in producing microcomputers in the former communist block countries and Soviet Union was specialized in producing big machines and supercomputers. The Eastern block countries had so called Economic Inter-support Council and in the frame of that Council each country has been developing some economic area. At that time it was not so clear the microcomputers will be the future and some experts believe that the microcomputers are mainly for games and home usage. During that years, and even until the middle of 90s, a lot of professionals used quite big and expensive machines like Silicon Graphics (see the photo , year 1996). It happened that in 1981 the first microcomputer in Eastern Europe called Imko II then (in 1982) called Pravetz 82 (with 8 bit processor) has been released in Bulgaria. This was Apple II compatible microcomputer and it came to life just after Apple II. This situation placed Bulgaria in the leadership role in microcomputers production not only in Eastern Europe but also in the Middle East and even in the Central Europe. Huge plants have been built exporting thousands of Pravetz 82 and later Pravetz 16 (with 8086/88 processor) to all Eastern block countries and to Arabic countries. The development of computer industry in that time strongly influenced the development of software and also the development of computer arts. In the beginning of 80’s the first analogue synthesiser (produced in Paris and occupying almost one big hall) has been installed in the Bulgarian National Radio and thus giving a strong tool to the electronic music composers from the Balkan region. The own production of EGA and VGA displays in the middle and late 80s pushed the computer graphics and visualization to a new level. During that time, in one of the biggest and well-known daily newspapers “Narodna Mladej” (Peoples’ Youth) with approx. 100 000 daily issues circulation, Rosen Petkov, the SCAS founder, promoted electronic arts (see the photo of papers from 1987). “Mlad konstruktor” (The Young Developer) magazine and “Grafika s komputar” (Computer Graphics) magazine were other well known media where Mr. Petkov presented the electronic music and computer graphics achievements during that time. (continue in part 3)
Being a barometer of electronic and computer arts in Sough-Eastern Europe, the “Computer Space” forum often offers the artists a possibility to debate such fundamental issues as the relations between computer arts and other contemporary arts, the place of the artists in the creative process, styles in digital arts, technology and society issues etc. Some of the symposium topics like ‘The Violence of Information’, ‘Virtual Identity’, ‘Computer arts or computers in the arts’, ‘Art or a design’ opened a lot of following discussions in many artistic forums and blogs.
One of the often open questions during the many discussions is the definition of art in the computer generated or manipulated products. For example, some computer graphics like 3D architectural or car images could demonstrate brilliant design technologies and could ‘touch’ the users emotionally. Is this an art? Or we may see very nice Photoshop made drawings of landscapes or processed photographs. And another often posed question, the value of such creations, especially in comparison to the value of oil paintings that exist in just one unique copy. These and many similar questions allow the artists to debate the future of the arts and interaction between the arts.
Computer arts have a lot of forms and appearance and this evolution has always been in a focus of the “Computer Space” seminars. Computer graphics, computer animation, multimedia (CD/ DVD based games, encyclopaedia, fairy-tale stories, galleries, training modules etc.), web-art, net-art, electronic/computer music, VRs, interactive art installations and many forms are regarded as computer arts. But it is always a big discussion when the synthesis of technology and creative ideas becomes an art. How to distinguish the art from the brilliant design or from the perfect modelling? Shall we consider the impact and raised emotions as prove of the artistic elements of some project? And, if and how the entertainment projects (for example, games) could be considered as an art? (continue in part 4)
In the “Computer Space” data-base with participating projects, during the years, a lot of well-known studios and artists could be noticed- Academy for Media and Art (Cologne), ZKM (Karlsruhe), IRCAM (Paris), Platige Studio (Poland), Studio Aka (UK), Miralab (Sitzerland), Institute for Electroacoustic of Vienna University and many others. Most of them are pioneers of some new methods and technologies in computer arts and modern media.