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Cybernetic Serendipity
the computer and the arts
Jasia Reichardt (Ed.)
Studio International London, 1968
pp. 104
(out of print)

Franciszka Themerson who designed the exhibition, founded together with her husband the Gaberbocchus Press in London.
There is a website documenting its beautiful and wrongly forgotten history:

Jasia Reichardt was director of ICA (Institute for Contemporary Arts), London.

Introduction and acknowledgements
Norbert Wiener on cybernetics

The introduction tries to define the terms for the audience;

Cybernetic > a sciene of control and communication in complex electronic machines like computers and the human nervouse system
Serendipity > the faculty of making happy chance discoveries

The ackowledgements reads like a who-is-who of the scientific world containing several hundred names. Among them Max Bense (whos idea the exhibition was), Martin Gardner, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Nam June Paik, Joachim Krausse, Nicholas Negroponte, John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, Seymour Papert. Just a few among many others.

It is divided it three major sections:
1. Computer generated graphics, conputer-anomated films, computer-composed and - played music, and computer poems and texts.

2. Cybernetic devies as works of art, cybernetic environments, remote-control robots and painting machines.

3. Machines demonstrating the uses of computers and an environment dealing with the history of cybernetics.

Notes on cybernetics includes a breif overview of the history of computers and robots; as well as a list of a few significant events as Pascal's calculator, Leibniz', Babbage and others.
Mark Dowson explains in a section the architecture of the computer for a lay public.
a) Memory b) Input/Output Devices c) Arithmetic Unit d) the control unit.
He concludes that "the idea of a computer in every home is not as distant as it seemed a few years ago".

As any proper book it has a glossary. Some explanations are in rhyme form as:
In a scientists jargon a 'K'
Is a thousand of be-what-it-may
From storage locations
To cycle durations
To the size of his annual pay.

Relevant to my work is Roger Dainton's essay "Simulated Synethesia".
His installation is transforming sounds into visuals. "From the frequencies of the music, all the colours of the spectrum are produced."
Dainton: "I want to explore effects as a means of transforming from one medium to another, form sounds in time to light in space and time. I am geinning to see a new role for these machines - helping us to reveal ourselves- not to impose ourselves on each other."

Jasia Reichardt in a lecture at Tate Modern (2001?)
"Many or most of the contributions we got for "cybernetic serendipity" were from scientists. I don't really think artists are becoming scientists, i think maybe its the other way round." The Tate modern has a beautfully kept online archive of their conferences and lectures. Thanks for that!


Images from the exhibition:
Computer Arts Society at Middlesex University:

last update: 4/20/02010 15:48

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