In the 1970s and 1980s, the Department of Media Study at the University of Buffalo was the place to be.
It was here, in 1973, well before any other university had a program explicitly devoted to media art, that Gerald O'Grady founded a media study program that is now legendary. Artists—including avant-garde filmmakers Hollis Frampton, Tony Conrad, and Paul Sharits, documentary maker James Blue, video artists Woody Vasulka and Steina, and Viennese action artist Peter Weibel—investigated, taught, and made media art in all forms, and founded the first Digital Arts Laboratory. These Buffalo faculty members were not just practicing artists, but also theorists who wrote and spoke on issues raised by their work. They set the terms for the development of media art and paved the way for the triumph of video installation art in the 1990s.
This creative spirit continues today in DMS. Faculty and students research the rapid and paradigm-shifting changes in media production, distribution and consumption from the late 19th to the 21st century (early film to computational media and beyond). Faculty and students are immersed in both hands-on engagement with a range of techniques, tools & processes germane to the media arts and sciences, as well as scholarly investigations of contemporary media artifacts, networks, systems and environments. We focus on experimental and radical uses of media in the arts and in society at large. Our methods are diverse: critical, conceptual, historical, theoretical, practice-led and practice-based.
Tony Conrad was an internationally influential educator and artist who worked in music composition, film, video, installations, and live performance. In 1976 he was invited to join the faculty of the Department of Media Study here at the University at Buffalo, where he found himself in the company of other major figures in the experimental film and video scene of the day, including Hollis Frampton, Paul Sharits, and Steina and Woody Vasulka. Over the succeeding decades, he mentored countless young artists in all manner of media.