Abstract- 'The Fourth Dimension', the History of Science, and New Media"

To write the history of new media, historians must have a solid grasp of the cultural field in which such artists were operating. The popular "fourth dimension" and its vicissitudes during the 20th century serve as an effective case study to demonstrate the relevance of the history of science and scientific popularization to this process. By the 1940s the once rich tradition of the spatial fourth dimension had been largely supplanted by the understanding of time as the fourth dimension in the space-time continuum of Einstein's Relativity Theory. As the public increasingly embraced the temporal fourth dimension by mid-century, artists interested in time-based media found support in Moholy-Nagy's codification of an aesthetic of space-time in books such as Vision in Motion (1947). The resultant tendency among art historians has been to interpret all references to a "fourth dimension" by media artists as to time alone. Yet other of the original associations of the spatial fourth dimension had persisted (often underground), including its links to "cosmic consciousness," science fiction, and complex space. This paper will sample artists ranging from subject in Gene Youngblood's Expanded Cinema (1970) to the recent digital art of Marcos Novak, in order to gauge the resonances of the term "fourth dimension" for these pioneers of new media.