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Barbara Sykes


“Art was very good to me, but I feel more and more driven to do work that plays an active role in change and contributes to the larger culture, stories I am intrinsically connected to, feel passionately about, and want to share. Now I am trying to push, grow, and contribute by using the technology in different ways.”

A Movement Within, 1976; In Celebration of Life…In Celebration of Death… Courtesy of Barbara Sykes. From New Media Futures: The Rise of Women in the Digital Arts.   


Barbara Sykes became one of Chicago’s pioneer New Media artists whose multi-media installations and interactive computer and dance performances have received international acclaim since 1974. She created an international precedent for Chicago’s new media art, including Barbara’s 1988-1989 tour with her “Retrospective” and her curated exhibition, “Video and Computer Art: Chicago Style,” in Japan, Australia, Spain and as the first woman video artist to present in China. Barbara’s earliest, groundbreaking work includes performances of “The Poem,” 1975, and “Circle 9 Sunrise,” 1976, with Tom DeFanti and Drew Browning during the first live computer performances of their kind, and “Electronic Masks,”1978, her solo piece which illustrated unprecedented skills in electronic image generation. The recipient of numerous grants and artists residencies, Barbara traveled throughout Asia, the MidEast and Africa in research and production of “In Celebration of Life… In Celebration of Death….,” her award-winning series of experimental ethnographic documentaries and “Amma, A Documentary of a Living Saint.”


“I didn’t think about limits or what I couldn’t do. I submerged myself in the process of creating art and focused on what I wanted to accomplish. The open nature of video art and computer graphics animation provides women with incredible opportunities for explorations, discoveries, and advancements, and has opened doors for future women to prosper in these areas. Each generation of women working in these fields has expanded our understanding of what is possible—revealing aspects of the world not previously imagined. They have inspired others through their own journeys, discoveries, voices, and visions.” –Barbara Sykes

Barbara Sykes jamming and performing on the image processor during “Environmental Symmetry, 1977.” A day-long multimonitor, interactive performance environment that included audience participation, dancers, and musicians. Courtesy of Barbara Sykes.


video and computer art

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