Abstract

This essay describes the discovery and significance of Etude 1 (1967), a previously unknown work by media artist Nam June Paik. Composed at Bell Labs and written in an early version of the computer-programming language FORTRAN, Etude 1 stands as one of the earliest works of digital art—though whether Etude 1 was intended to be a film, the “computer opera” that Paik mentions elsewhere in his writings, or some other kind of art work altogether. By exploring Etude 1's uncertain status, as well as more conceptual indeterminacies concerning the relationship between image and code, music and media, and the analog and the digital, this essay demonstrates how such indefinite artifacts allow for a rethinking of cinema's digital past, film's place in computational media, and the nature of the archive.

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