<< 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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>> Frieder Nake, Hommage à Paul Klee, 1965

"The significant message is that the actual message is one selected from a set of possible messages."
(Frieder Nake in "Ästhetik als Informationsverarbeitung", Springer, Wien, 1974)

http://www.dam.org/nake/index.htm: (shortened)

"Frieder Nake, born in Germany in 1938, is Professor for Compter Graphics and Interactive Systems at the University of Bremen. Primarily a mathematician, Nake's colored computer drawings in 1967, for example, explored the visual expression of series of matrix multiplications, imagery that has an undeniable artistic intention. Nake's account of Manfred Mohr's hypercube series also reveals fascinating insights into the relationship between mathematics and aesthetics. His book, "Ästhetik als Informationsverarbeitung" (Springer Verlag Wien, 1974) is one of the first in the area. He has contributed to all major exhibitions of computer art, including Cybernetic Serendipity in London (1968), tendencies 4 in Zagreb (1968), and the long lasting Goethe Institute show during the 1970s."

Student of Max Bense, first artistic experiments with Konrad Zuse's Graphomat Z64.
First exhibition in 1965, also took part in Cybernetic Serendipity in 1968.

Paul Klee's "Hauptweg und Nebenwege" (mainroad and sideways) was Nake's inspiration and also gave the name to his work.

--> inspiration vs copy
--> inspiration and interpretation
--> classes of work

„Each painter is a restricted picture generator. So is each picture generating computer program. At all times, artists have applied the same method most computer program employ: they tried to vary a theme as often as possible in order to attain a 'best' (in their judgment) object. This method became particularly important in recent years with Bauhaus, concrete art, New
Tendencies, etc.” (Nake 1969b)

Jasia Reichardt in "The Computer in Art", 1971:
"Nake's graphics involved the working through of the entire scope of a particular visual theme. He used a series of elements each of which in turn, or in combination, was subjected to randomization. In this instance, the random element was seen as an equivalent to the intuitive element in the artist's work. More recently the computer-plotted results were translated into shapes on a canvas and painted manually. The main concern in these pictures was with the distribution of areas of colour, the ratio of which was determined according to specified rules. Nake has concluded that much work done with the aid of computers does not justify, by the effects produced, the use of a tool of such great complexity. However, this initial stage is almost inevitable if one is to accept that computer graphicss as an art form is experimental in every way. Whereas some exponents have grave doubts, other set about their work with unshakeable confidence."

On Frank Dietrich's blog teleculture:

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Frieder Nake's Precise Pleasantries

This image made history: Hommage á Paul Klee by German computer scientist Frieder Nake. Produced on a mechanical plotter, driven by software algorithms, designed by Nake, this image is known today as one of the first aesthetic utterances of a digital image making system ever. As such it has historical significance and value.

The Hommage á Paul Klee also has significance due to the aesthetic choices its creator, Frieder Nake, made almost 40 years ago. Having only a very slim visual vocabulary of just straight lines and circles available he managed to create a piece which continues to radiate everytime it is displayed and looked at. Nake knew that he was making art when he set out to have the computer perform certain routines (or do loops as they were called in programming lingo) to draw this picture. He aimed at making the results visually pleasing when he selected the numerical parameters with which his software was fed. He clearly intended to put this work into the framework of the art world which is why he gave it a somewhat ironic title of a hommage and referring to one of the masters and innovators of 20th century art, Paul Klee. And Nake went beyond the original drawing the plotter produced by using standard techniques and procedures of contemporary artists. The final art work was a limited edition of a serigraph. And just like any other piece of art this drawing was exhibited at the Galerie Wendelin Niedlich in Stuttgart in 1965. The aesthetic cycle of creation, exhibition, and perception had been closed, and history had been made.

(For more on the Stuttgart school of philosopher Max Bense and the first computer art produced there, see Stuttgart 1960. Computers in Theory and Art)

No surprise then and predictable by some this work is on its way to become one of the few canonical images in the still short history of computer art. That's why this work is now on display at the various concurrent shows dedicated to some aspect of the early hours of this fascinating new artform. Frieder Nake himself has a retrospective (and a few new interactive installations) at the Kunsthalle Bremen, the northern city in Germany where he tought computer science for several decades. This show will also travel to the ZKM in Karlsruhe in February 2005. Right now the ZKM has another show on display exploring the topic of the Algorithmic Revolution - The History of Interactive Art. Of course, Frieder Nake is represented in this show as well. The show has a fairly comprehensive web site (not to say: academic web site) but most of the writing is in German and unfortunately, there are few or no images published.

Lastly, Frieder Nake is also represented with two pieces in the Scratchcode show at Bitforms in New York, put together by gallerist Steve Sacks with the help of artist Manfred Mohr, a good and long-time friend of Frieder Nake. As can been seen plainly, computer art (or call it New Media Art) must have come to its own, if there is already a History to the thing!"

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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.