The first modern technology experiments in art were the works of Impressionists, the first photographs and the first films of the Lumière brothers. Before that, art and technology had been in a unilateral working relationship in which technology was a constant source of progress and evolution. In recent decades, the course of art has been shaped by new trends and innovations in technology, and today there are digital arts, new media and AR or VR that see technology as the primary medium of expression and often turn painting or sculpture into multimedia or sensory experiences.

kinema ikon is as a “multimedia workshop” of artistic experiments that was born as “workshop 16” (from the 16 mm film) in Arad in the ’70s, at the initiative of George Sabău, professor of aesthetics at the High School of Art in Arad. Currently, the coordinator of the group is Călin Man, artist and photographer who took over in 1994, with the arrival of the first computer in the city and the group’s transition to the digital age.

By 1989, kinema ikon had made 62 experimental films and 62 documentaries. In communist times, their films became possible following a kind of political deal – each time the group members made a documentary for the party, they saved part of the film for the works they were to create during their workshop sessions. Their creations were made, unconsciously, in sync with Western practices and included animations, film interventions such as colouring or scratching, surreal exercises that used symbols such as the mirror and the eye, juxtapositions of geometric shapes, abstractions or moments from everyday reality. The films were made strictly by editing, more precisely by capturing images that were cut and then mixed randomly. Afterwards, they were joined into a film that showed only fragments of images instead of a concrete narrative thread.

The group’s international success came in 1995, when Sabău selected 22 films for a screening at Pompidou Centre in Paris. Simultaneously, he reviewed all the films produced by kinema ikon before ’89; a frame was removed from each film and added to what would become Vorspann. Gradually, in 10 years, the project was screened, copied to videotape, transferred to DVD and shown at the MNAC retrospective in Bucharest. This year, the film was updated according to the current technology and remade as the first episode of season 4 of the kinema ikon: Vorspann, NFT series.

Besides films, the group published 19 issues of the Conversația (Conversation) magazine, with a design specific to the 1920s avant-garde and articles on everyday themes that captured society’s transition. Not necessarily an official statement, the magazine was a symbol of how media technology was to influence the world of the 1990s.

Between 1994 and 2004, kinema ikon became one of the major promoters of digital art in Romania. Their created The Rendezvous and exhibited a series of installations in places like the flea market in Arad, where they left a bicycle with the inscription “This bicycle is not for sale.” In the Arlefruct greengrocer’s, they put issues of their Intermedia magazine in the customers’ fruit and vegetable bags.

The evolution of the group was completely dependent on the progress of technology and the transition to the digital was supported from within the group, by Caius Grozav, who created digital images that he printed using the analogue printing process. At the beginning of the 2000s, the group developed their first projects on CD-ROM and their first artworks on, mail art and fax appeared. Among them, the digital multimodular installation alteridem.exe_2, that enjoyed a fair amount of success in the Romanian Pavilion at the 2003 Venice Biennial. Subsequently, the group attracted new young artists from Arad who were invited by Călin Man to exhibit in the playful style specific to kinema ikon – digital, experimental and hybrid works combining the analogue and the digital media.

The more recent exhibitions of the group and its own space in the Art Museum of Arad have built a constant dialogue between the different generations of the group. The new works and installations encompass all previously used artistic media. It would be difficult to define them other than new media art.

A symbol of the technological progress of the last 50 years, kinema ikon has always been a safe and vast artistic space that allows the exchange of ideas between members of different cultural background – visual arts, architecture, literature, science or psychology, creating a legacy worth mentioning in art history books.