<< preface

this blog is nina wenhart's collection of resources on the various histories of new media art. it consists mainly of non or very little edited material i found flaneuring on the net, sometimes with my own annotations and comments, sometimes it's also textparts i retyped from books that are out of print.

it is also meant to be an additional resource of information and recommended reading for my students of the prehystories of new media class that i teach at the school of the art institute of chicago in fall 2008.

the focus is on the time period from the beginning of the 20th century up to today.

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>> Franz Gsellmann's world machine (1958 - 1981)


Tucked behind the southern Austrian hills in a farmhouse outbuilding sits the Weltmaschine (the World Machine). Created over 23 years by Franz Gsellmann, the machine is made up of hundreds of separate parts, including a ship’s propeller, two gondolas, a Dutch windmill, a Persian goblet, a salt and pepper set, five crucifixes, 560 wooden beads, a glass Jesus and a glass Mary, eight lampshades and a barometer, held together with a brightly coloured lattice of wire, pipes and gear wheels. Once powered into action the 25 motors, one-armed bandit, 64 bird whistles, 20 fan belts and 14 bells, whistle, clang and whirr. The 200 coloured lights flash. The poky Austrian farm building is filled with a blaze of noise, colour and light.

The creator of the machine, Franz Gsellmann, grew up dreaming of becoming an engineer, but with just four years of schooling, he seemed destined to spend his life on the family smallholding. His life changed in 1958: seeing an article in the local newspaper about the Brussels Atomium, a huge structure symbolising a crystallised molecule of iron, created by the engineer André Waterkeyn for the International Exhibition, Gsellmann travelled out of Austria for the first time, visited Belgium, and studied the architectural structure for himself."

"accomplishing by extremely complex roundabout means what actually or seemingly could be done simply." That is the definition of a Rube Goldberg machine, but also would apply to Gsellmann's worldmachine. Only that Gsellmann built his machine without any purpose in mind, not even the one of doing something simple in a complicated way. Because it isn't doing anything but moving.

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... is a Media Art historian and independent researcher. She is currently writing on "speculative archiving && experimental preservation of Media Art" and graduated from Prof. Oliver Grau's Media Art Histories program at the Danube University in Krems, Austria with a Master Thesis on Descriptive Metadata for Media Arts. For many years, she has been working in the field of archiving/documenting Media Art, recently at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Media.Art.Research and before as the head of the Ars Electronica Futurelab's videostudio, where she created their archives and primarily worked with the archival material. She was teaching the Prehystories of New Media Class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and in the Media Art Histories program at the Danube University Krems.