Visionary Machines: USCO, Techno-Utopia and Technocracy will be the first book to provide a historical and theoretical account of USCO, a group of poets, filmmakers, artists, and engineers who lived and worked as an artists’ collective from 1963 to 1966. USCO participated in a counterculture that straddled the Beats and the Hippies and intersected with figures from Silicon Valley, academia, and the art world, including Marshall McLuhan, Timothy Leary, Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Carolee Schneeman, John Cage, and Robert Rauschenberg. Widely influential during the 1960s, USCO was essentially lost to history because their work doesn’t fit into many of the traditional cultural and artistic narratives of the period. Nevertheless, USCO’s story offers a unique insight into the problems and possibilities of advanced computational technology, at a point when the world was shifting from the mechanical to the cybernetic age. Patterson will argue that USCO interrogated information technology without slipping into either melancholic fatalism or uncritical techno-utopianism. Instead, they created fictional worlds that fused scientific innovation with mystical exploration, while grappling with the rough work of building community.
Zabet Patterson is assistant professor in the Department of Art at Stony Brook University, where she specializes in the intersection of contemporary art and computational media in the postwar period. Her recent articles include “Cybernetic Cinema: From the Gun Controller to the Mandala” in Grey Room and “POEMFIELDs and the Materiality of the Computational Screen” in Animation. She has presented on modern and contemporary art and computational media at symposia in Istanbul, London, Florence, Vancouver, Tokyo, and the United States, and has curated exhibitions on sound art and locative media. She received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 2007.