From its legendary beginnings in Silicon Valley, the high-tech computer industry has shared close ties with counter cultures. For Sture Johannesson, co-founder of the Cannabis Gallery (1966-69) in Malmo and initiator of Skandinavias first laboratory of digital art Digitalteatern (late 1970s), this connection also involved a parallel of being high on drugs and being “drugged” – or as Marshall McLuhan said “massaged” – by new technologies. After Cannabis Gallery closed, Sture started working with computer graphics with programmer Sten Kalin at IBM in Stockholm. The collaboration was to last for many years and included projects such as Intra (1969-74) and Exploding Picture Space (Epics) (1986-present). One part of the Intra series is particularly significant in the given context: Leaves is an attempt to trace the outline of a cannabis leaf using a card-punching mainframe computer without a screen. As an output device, they had only a drum-plotter with a 30cm wide roll of paper at their disposal. By varying the input parameters in the mainframe and continuously printing-out the results, Johannesson and Kallin approximated the shape of a cannabis leaf while also anticipating the machine’s performance of imperfections.
Image: Courtesy of the artist / Photo Paolo Pellion, Torino