Joseph Nechvatal

American artist

Joseph Nechvatal (born 1951) is a post-conceptual digital artist and art theoretician who creates computer-assisted paintings and computer animations, often using custom-created computer viruses.

Joseph Nechvatal, 2005.


  • Frank, you are, without doubt, a scarcity. Anyone who looks at the historical record of the juncture of art and technology finds you nearly unaccompanied when it comes to documenting this historical record between the years of the late-1960's up to the early 1990s. Basically there is you, Jack Burnham's book Beyond Modern Sculpture (1968), and Gene Youngblood's reference work Expanded Cinema (1970). Specifically, your books Origins and Development of Kinetic Art (1968), Art, Action and Participation (1975) and Art of the Electronic Age (1993) are indispensable research tools in helping us figure out how art got to where it is today - in your terms virtualized.
  • The very idea of philosopher as art curator deeply interests me. One swiftly dreams of what Gilles Deleuze might have done with the opportunity to curate an art exhibition at MoMA: Art and Alloverness perhaps? Or Michel Foucault: the New Panopticons at the Centre Georges Pompidou? What would Susan Sontag or Roland Barthes have done at the International Center of Photography or at the Tate? What could Friedrich Nietzsche have done at the Louvre Museum? What indeed could Georges Bataille have haughtily done at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?
  • The digital revolution changed my process early on in terms of technique, but my early analog drawings and paintings had the same thematic intention as my latest digital work: the attempt to conjure, or render, a glimpse into an enigmatically layered and lively world that I sense and know to be reality, an energetic vibratory world of almost dreadful depth. In this respect, my process of making computer-robotic assisted paintings and animations have, until recently, been made up of an excessive concoction of ambiguous sexual body parts (morphed from both sexes) tied to the viral form. Philosophy has been, and is, a way of freeing myself enough to connect with this depth so as to process the phantasmagorical aspects of reality into art. This process of art making, for me, must hinge on a dynamic engagement and then wedding of image production and image resistance. The idea is to encourage subversive readings of computational media by presenting an artistic consciousness that articulates contemporary concerns regarding safety, truth, identity and objectivity.

Quotes about Joseph Nechvatal

  • In the artist/theorist tradition of Robert Smithson, Joseph Nechvatal is a pioneer in the field of digital image making who challenges our perceptions of nature by altering conventional notions of space and time, gender, and self... Nechvatal successfully plunged into the depths where art, technology and theory meet.
    • Joe Lewis (2003), "Joseph Nechvatal at Universal Concepts Unlimited," in: Art in America Magazine, March 2003. pp.123-124.
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