A Brief Technological and Historical Note

essay by Jeremy Couillard

Amidst the success of early video game systems in the late 80s such as the Atari, a small team called the Yost Group released one of the first 3D rendering, modeling and animating programs for the personal computer: 3D Studio. Also during this time home computers were beginning to talk with each other through a vast, labyrinthine structure of interconnected phone lines. Networked, computational space was becoming a growing frontier. Those who felt comfortable foraging through this disorienting new terrain were able to shape a new culture suitable to their interests. Expensive software such as later versions of 3D Studio was freely traded — its registration numbers cracked, its code and graphics hacked and customized. By the time America Online (AOL) began in the 90s, with its massively populated chat rooms and early version of the Web, software piracy was in full bloom. Thousands of dollars of cracked programs and video games could be mailed to your inbox from chat room bots. AOL accounts could be purchased with a simple, fake credit card algorithm. Anyone with a computer and a phone line could utilize professional tools for free and from the comfort of a family living room.

It was in this arena that Jonathan Monaghan established his aesthetic sensibility. His generation were the first natives of this popularized, computational 3D space. Moving around it and being creative through it seemed natural. Jonathan’s first artistic interests were not traditional painters, sculptors or even video artists, but video game designers such as those of SimCity and the first person shooter, Counter Strike. He was able to pirate the creative software they were using and games they made– studying, modifying and quickly mastering their approach. By the time Jonathan was in high-school his images created with 3D Studio Max were already being featured in training manuals and his video game environments were widely distributed.

But rather than pursuing a commercial, entertainment or technical career in 3D modeling, Jonathan was always more interested in its ability to work in the analogical space of contemporary art, specifically in video art as well as sculpture through 3D printing. He has the same training and interest in art history and fine art fundamentals as any young contemporary artist with a MFA. The means to his end emerged not through a paint brush or physical video camera but through the complex manipulation of pixels using 3D software. In this sense he is not a computer artist or a 3ds Max artist, but just an artist. By having screenings and white cube art shows all over the world, Jonathan, along with other artists such as Jon Rafman, Brenna Murphy and Takeshi Murata, has helped to pull this art form from the ghetto of “new media” art and into the domain of Art.

Jeremy Couillard is a New York-based artist working with computer graphics, sculpture and painting. He received his MFA from Columbia University and currently is showing with Louis B. James Gallery in New York. Recently he has had videos in screenings such as MonkeyTown3 at Eyebeam and the Glitch Festival in Dublin, Ireland.