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The E.A.T. Datascape: An Experiment in Digital Social History of Art

Christophe Leclercq, Paul Girard, Daniele Guido

Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) is an organi- zation co-founded in 1966 by artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman, and engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer, in order to support collaboration between artists and engineers. The E.A.T. datascape is a digital instrument for analyzing the digitized traces left by its members via many available resources. Its aim is to study as closely as possible the complexity of collaborative interdisciplinary works. The E.A.T. datascape methodology makes it possible, by means of an anthropological action-centred approach, to go beyond the distinction between art history and art sociology and to renew the social history of art by challeng- ing the notion of authorship and by describing the work as constituted by the intersection between heterogeneous trajectories, rather than an object within a context that would influence it, or constitute its environment. In other words, it allows us to reflect on what digital design does, in turn, to the social history of art, and to put forward hypotheses about what a digital social history of art might be or could offer to the study of complex, interdisciplinary projects that are multiplying in the contemporary art world.