Bit international

Title Bit international
Location Zagreb
Publisher Galerije grada zagreba
Periodicity Irregular
URL Bit international Worldcat
Published Since 1968-1972
Indexed Holdings 1968-1972


ccindex office

Periodical's Overview

"In the realm of communication today there are great differences and gaps between:

  • Theoretical knowledge and everyday practice,
  • The results of exact research and the dominant position of
  • »intuitive« methods.
  • The scientific and the artistic,
  • Modern technological possibilities and the level of their
  • application,
  • Progressive ideas and the exponents of traditional interests,
  • Current problems of designing and educational and teaching
  • programmes,
  • The endeavours of lone pioneers and the aspirations of large
  • communities,
  • Potential creative capacities and the ability to assimilate of
  • the social environment,
  • The criteria of universal meaning and the criteria of local
  • conditions, and
  • Developed and underdeveloped cultural environments.

This is the reason why the editors of bit[*] have started this magazine to present the theory of information, exact aesthetics, design, communication mass media, visual and related subjects; and to be an instrument of international cooperation in a field that is becoming daily less divisible into strict compartments. Individual and isolated activity is also becoming less efficient, and the results of efforts based on an organized division of work on all levels are becoming more important. The editors of bit are convinced that the strengthening and deepening of the channels of information and the creation of universal platforms for progressively orientated action are an indispensable need.

The pages of bit are open equally to research and to reports on current experience and newly developed methods that are being worked out in workrooms, laboratories, factories and institutes; individual and particularly collective works are also hoped for. News of finished and classified results and of exploratory action begun are equally welcome. bit is not a medium for showing off and the capitalization of intellectual gains, it is first and foremost a vehicle for continuous effort to develop the theory and practice of communication. bit will publish both unpublished and previously published articles which the editors think worth reprinting.

bit will present various opinions and approaches. Controversy will not be tolerated if the editors are of the opinion that personal prestige is in question, but on the other hand divergent views may be given space alongside either each other or successively if together they tend to give some new result or a result of a higher order. There will also be no conventional limits to expression in the pages of bit. The interests of the motive of research and the function of reporting will be given priority over the technique of writing.

Finally, the editors of bit are persuaded that it will promote the exchange of experience, knowledge and information and as such help towards solving the contradictions of the contemporary world.">[1]

Selected Subject Headings

  • Aesthetics - 20th century
  • Art - effects of technological innovations on
  • Bell Telephone Laboratories
  • Computer art
  • Computer poetry
  • Concrete poetry - history and criticism
  • Cybernetics - history
  • Galerija suvremene umjetnosti, Zagreb
  • Hochschule für Gestaltung (Ulm, Germany) - history
  • Human-computer interaction - research
  • Human beings - effect of technological innovations on
  • Industrial design - Yugoslavia
  • Ing. C. Olivetti & C. Divisione elettronica - history
  • Information theory in aesthetics
  • Literature and technology - history
  • Nouvelle tendance (exhibition)
  • Sesame Street (television program)
  • Socialism and culture - Yugoslavia
  • Television - semiotics
  • Three-dimensional imaging
  • Tran 2 (computer software)


At first glance, Bit international appears to be the official magazine of New Tendencies, a relatively unknown 1960s and 1970s international art movement tied to a series of exhibitions, and with its unofficial HQ based in the Galerija suvremene umjetnosti in Zagreb, then in Yugoslavia.[2]

For those unfamiliar with New Tendencies, here’s an account from art historian Margit Rosen:

“The chronology in brief: In 1961, a young Brazilian artist living in Germany put together an exhibition for the Galerija suvremene umjetnosti [Gallery of Contemporary Art] in Zagreb. The exhibition was then followed by further shows in the Croatian capital, as well as in Italy, Germany, and France with an increasing number of participants. Half a year after the first exhibition, the contours of an evolving artist movement were to become apparent. In April 1968, a new theme was announced that would be implemented in a series of exhibitions, symposia, and publications: “Computers and Visual Research.” In 1978, a final symposium marked the end of the New Tendencies.”[3]

Rosen goes on to show that the history of New Tendencies is slightly more complex, and it might well be that this complexity has affected its historical reception.

The movement’s being based in a socialist, non-aligned country on the “periphery” of Western discursive nodes might be a factor in its diffuse reception; another one could be New Tendencies’ internationalism, prompting divergent accounts from its participants, all stemming from different locations–Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Great Britain, Brazil, Yugoslavia, and so on; these practices were later subsumed into national art historical narratives, dislodging them from an international project; importantly, after the swift institutional embrace of the movement's initial phase, there was internal strife among the artists, prompted by some participants' disappointment about how their work was being framed: a group of international exhibitions focused on specific individuals or groups,[4] rather than the “movement;” in addition, some of these exhibitions juxtaposed New Tendencies output with other works with formal similarities, but “entirely devoid of its goals in the domain of research and emptied of all ideological charges;”[5] this quick embrace by institutions and the market had serious implications, as part of the initial cohort of artists affiliated with New Tendencies disbanded, and focused on their individual or collective practices, prompting a second phase of New Tendencies.

It is precisely this later phase in New Tendencies that Bit international documents, and the journal’s first issue coincides with the above mentioned exhibition and symposium “Computers and Visual Research,” a few years after the embracing international exhibitions focused on its earlier development

Within this new development, there were of course conceptual links to the first phase of New Tendencies, which aimed at demystifying the artistic process as a reaction to post-war expressionist and elitist-perceived modes of artistic production such as Abstract Expressionism, l’Informe, or Tachism; the initial New Tendencies artists’ approach to achieve these goals was to deploy a methodically planned artistic practice in which “research,” “programmed paintings,” the use of industrial materials, and the production of multiples were aimed to entice audience “participation,” “a new art for an ideal democratic, industrialized society.”[6]

Thus, on New Tendencies second phase, the “logical” step was to embrace a further “scientific” approach to aesthetics, a more rigorous “artistic research,” in which the machine, a computer, would be an indispensable tool, and scientists would be co-creators with the artists, all of this mediated by an “aesthetic expert.”

This reconfigured New Tendencies embraced “information aesthetics,” as developed in the late 1950s and 1960s by the French sociologist and electrical engineer Abraham A. Moles and German philosopher Max Bense, and to their influential work the first issue of Bit international was dedicated; after an editorial statement and an introduction by Matko Meštrović–a curator at Zagreb’s Galerija suvremene umjetnosti and instrumental in the development of all phases of New Tendencies–the rest of the issue published papers by Moles and Bense, essays with titles like “Peut-il encore y avoir des oeuvres d’art?” or, “Ästhetik und Programmierung.”

True to New Tendencies’ internationalism, Bit international was a polyglot journal published in Croatian, with many articles in French, German, English, and Italian, all of these accompanied by its corresponding Croatian translation; the journal's contents focused on “information aesthetics”[7] and cybernetic theories applied to art, and it was also bent on developing a theoretical framework for the use of computers in art in which artists and scientists could collaborate; examples of scientific and “artistic” research were featured extensively, conveying an arid feeling for those not used to the intricacies of software programming and its mathematical basis. This visual austerity is too reflected in the magazine’s layout, an austere publication resembling a scientific journal in its design tropes, perhaps due to the fact that a few of its issues were dedicated to publishing academic papers presented at the conferences organized by Galerija suvremene umjetnosti.

Each issue though had a monographic theme:

  • Issue 1: The theory of informations [sic] and the new aesthetics
  • Issue 2: Computers and visual research
  • Issue 3: International colloquy: Computers and visual research, Zagreb, August 3-4, 1968
  • Issue 4: Design
  • Issue 5-6: The word image / Poésie concrète
  • Issue 7: Dialogue with the machine
  • Issue 8-9: Television today

As the “Computers and Visual Research” theme was being developed through publications, exhibitions, and symposiums, and Bit international’s issues published its findings, it appears that a need for historical antecedents was needed; in 1969, an issue dedicated to design focusing on the Bauhaus and the Ulm’s Hochschule für Gestaltung was published, both schools known for trying to mesh art and design with industrial research and production, as well as for their related investigations on visual form, or Gestaltung, theoretical concerns germane to those of New Tendencies. In addition, and given that computer-generated typography was an important research element, an issue was dedicated to it, alongside with artistic experiments with visual poetry, known, in its typographical exuberance, as Poésie concrète. This particular issue of Bit international might be the most visually rewarding for those interested in aesthetics, although the complete set of the journal continues too to be a treasure trove for those looking to trace the historical development of computer graphics and computer art, as a multitude of early experiments, scientific and artistic, are reproduced in its pages.

Given than both Moles and Bense were insistent on getting rid of any remnant of “philosophical speculation” embodied in art by the figures of the artist and the art critic, and were aiming at transforming “the metaphysical discipline into a technological one,” Claus Pias has asserted that “from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, we deal with a theory that self-consciously considers the aesthetics calculable.”[8] To prove their point, Moles and Bense even provide mathematical equations to show how to reconceptualize aesthetics in terms of information theory, as for them, “even sensual effects are described mathematically.”[9] Here it is worth highlighting that Moles' vision meant that “the aesthetic expert advances to the equivalent rank as the artist he used to only talk about;” the role of this new “aesthetic expert” is to “offer the elements of programs for the repertory of machines, he determines the hierarchy of levels… so that each analytic machine may serve as a synthetic machine, which is to say as the origin of works of art for which he is the responsible manager.”[10]

A responsible manager in lieu of artists, that’s an interesting concept;[11] unsurprisingly enough, there was pushback from artists, accusing both theorists of scientific determinism and a lack of social engagement, specially as these ideas were being discussed in the context of the revolutionary late 1960s; as Armin Medosch describes in his sweeping analysis of New Tendencies, “it is quite an irony that although artists of the first phase of New Tendencies helped to revolutionize how people saw the world through art, and despite their personal support during the events of 1968, the art of 1968 did not become the art of the revolution.”[12]

Nonetheless, Bit international tried to assuage these societal and conceptual shifts, featuring articles on other artistic practices that refused Moles’ and Bense’s scientific determinism; conceptual art was deemed of interest, with its dematerializing and democratizing leanings, as well as with its emphasis on ideas, instructions, and processes; a younger Yugoslavian generation of artist not embracing the tenets of New Tendencies were also featured in its pages; for example, an exhibition of the OHO Group's work at the Galerija suvremene umjetnosti was presented as “an alternative to the ‘elite culture of social modernism,’ whereby New Tendencies would be the ‘elite culture.’”[13] Appropriately, Bit international’s last issue was dedicated to television broadcasting, marrying all the journal’s conceptual strands: from Moles’ analysis of the medium from his information theory and semiotic perspective, to artists using television and video from a conceptual or performative approach.

From hindsight, Bit international is an indispensable document to trace the history of computers and the initial development of their application to society and art; its interest lies not only in its theoretical and scientific rigor, its documentation of an important chapter of applied cybernetic thought to the humanities, and the historical development of art and science in conjunction with computers; besides all this, we believe that Bit international provides a fascinating glimpse to the international collaborative socio-political context in which these developments were taking place; going through all the journal’s issues, one can observe how Cold War technological disparities prompted the later unequal development of computer research under different geopolitical and socioeconomic systems, a development that landed us in our current predicament of computer ubiquity under corporate and governmental control.

From liberating utopia to surveilled dystopia then, or, from early computer graphics and quaint vector graphics experiments to deepfake disinformation operations, all of it, bit by bit.

To peruse the indexed contents of Bit international, please log into the database.


[1]”Why “Bit” appears: [introduction],” Bit international (Zagreb), no. 1 (1968): 3-5.

[2]The series of exhibitions held in Zagreb were: nove tendencije [New Tendencies], 1961; nove tendencije 2, 1963; nova tendencija 3, [New Tendency], 1965; tendencije 4 / tendencies 4, 1968/1969, and tendencije 5 / tendencies 5, 1974.

[3]Margit Rosen. “Editorial.” In A little known story about a movement, a magazine, and the computer’s arrival in art: New Tendencies and Bit International, 1961-1973. Ed. by Margit Rosen. Karlsruhe: ZKM Center for Art and Media; Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2011. p. 10.

[4]Although individual artists were affiliated with New Tendencies, it is important to note that what makes New Tendencies remarkable is the unusual number of artists groups that were also part of it, such as Groupe de recherche d'art visuel (GRAV) in France, Gruppo N, Gruppo T, and Gruppo MID, all of them from Italy, and in Spain, Equipo 57. This emphasis on collectivity is aligned with New Tendencies' social concerns, but might also be yet another reason for the movement's delayed historiography.

[5]In 1963, work by artists affiliated with New Tendencies was featured in the VI. Biennale Internazionale d’Arte, San Marino; both the contributions of Zero Group and Gruppo N received awards from the Biennale; in 1964, the Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris, then at the Louvre, organized the exhibition Nouvelle Tendence; in 1965, some New Tendencies artists were included at the Venice Biennale and in documenta III; in New York, also that year, MoMA organized the exhibition The responsive eye. It was precisely this exhibition that was criticized by some New Tendencies artists, as they were concerned that the Op Art label used to describe works in the exhibition reduced their contributions to retinal and physiological interpretation. New Tendencies' artist Massironi described The responsive eye as a “first-class funeral.” For a more detailed history, see Rosen, ibid., and, in the same volume, Jerko Denegri’s “The conditions and circumstances that preceded the mounting of the first two New Tendencies exhibition in Zagreb, 1961-1963,” pp. 19-26. Also, Susann Scholl, "The New Tendencies: the development of a European art movement," in Die Neuen Tendenzen: eine europäische Künstlerbewegung, 1961-1973. Heidelberg: Edition Braus, 2006.

For a thorough history of some of the initial participants' work tied to the initial New Tendencies tenets, and how these were developed independently, before and after the movement's strictures, we recommend Alexander Alberro's Abstraction in reverse: the reconfigured spectator in mid-twentieth-century Latin American Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. Among others artists working on abstraction in Latin America (Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica), Alberro also focuses extensively on the work of Julio Le Parc, initially of New Tendencies, and of those whose work is featured in Bit's pages, such as the Groupe de recherche d'art visuel (GRAV), and Tomás Maldonado, who contributed a series of essays for the issue dedicated to design.

[6]Rosen, ibid., p. 11.

[7]Claus Pias describes in the following terms what could be understood as "information aesthetics":

“The reconceptualization of aesthetics in terms of information theory is so simple that Max Bense was able to do it in two pages: what Birkhoff defined as a measure of complexity, Bense argued, was the number of signs that assemble a particular object, MA = f (O,C). This contained the simplification that each element carried the same aspect of complexity, just as Hartley saw the informational content H as directly proportional to the number of signs, H = n · log2r where n is the number of signs in a transmission, r is the volume of the sign repertory, multiplied by the binary logarithm of the repertory. Bense preferred Shannon’s formula; namely,

H=–Σpi • ld pi

where r is sign of a repertory and its probability (p1 , . . . , pn ). Now Bense takes a simple step: where Birkhoff’s aesthetic measure was a function of order and complexity, Bense replaces the complexity C with information H of the selected signs and replaces order O with redundancy R because 'each order of elements is a phenomenon of redundancy, of the return of the same, the predictable, thus not innovative information.' Thus we get MA = f ( R,H ).”

From Claus Pias, “Hollerith ‘Feathered Crystal’”: art, science, and computing in the era of cybernetics,” in Grey room (New York), no. 29 (Winter 2008), p. 118.

[8]Ibid., p. 120.


[10]Ibid., p. 122-123.

[11]Moles' idea of a "responsible manager" as co-creator of art will unexpectedly resurface a few decades later in the art field with the rise of the curatorial superstructure and artistic directorships; contrary to Moles' ideal, this new cadre won’t be appealing to a scientific, quantifiable process, in order to assume managerial positions

[12]Armin Medosch. New Tendencies: art at the threshold of the information revolution (1961-1978). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2016, p. 165.

[13]Ibid., p. 173.

*The complete set of Bit international is available in .PDF format at Monoskop's New Tendencies record.