Cybernetic Serendipity

Cybernetic Serendipity

"Cybernetic Serendipity" was an exhibition of computer art curated by Jasia Reichardt, shown at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London in 1968, and then touring the United States.



One part of the exhibition was concerned with algorithms and devices for generating music. Some exhibits were pamphlets describing the algorithms, whilst others showed musical notation produced by computers. Devices made musical effects and played tapes of sounds made by computers. Peter Zinovieff lent part of his studio equipment - visitors could sing or whistle a tune into a microphone and his equipment would improvise a piece of music based on the tune.

Another part described computer projects such as Gustav Metzger's self destructive Five screens with computer, a design for a new hospital, a computer programmed structure, and dance choreography.

The machines and installations were a very noticeable part of the exhibition. Gordon Pask produced a collection of large mobiles with interacting parts that let the viewers join in the conversation. Many machines formed kinetic environments or displayed moving images. Bruce Lacey contributed his radio-controlled robots and a light-sensitive owl. Nam June Paik was represented by Robot K-456 and televisions with distorted images. Jean Tinguely provided two of his painting machines. Edward Ihnatowicz's biomorphic hydraulic ear turned toward sounds and John Billigsey's Albert 1967 turned to face light. Several artists exhibited machines that drew patterns that the visitor could take away, or involved visitors in games. The computer company Honeywell lent Emmet's whimsical Forget-me-not computer.

Another section explored the computer's ability to produce text - both essays and poetry. Different programs produced Haiku, children's stories, and physics essays.

Computer generated movies were represented by John Whitney's permutations and a Bell Labs movie on their technology for producing movies. Some samples included images of teseracts rotating in four dimensions, a satellite orbiting the earth, and an animated data structure.

Computer graphics were also represented, including pictures produced on cathode ray oscilloscopes and digital plotters. There was a variety of posters and graphics demonstrating the power of computers to do complex (and apparently random) calculations. Other graphics showed a simulated Mondrian and the iconic decreasing squares spiral that appeared on the exhibition's poster and book. The Boeing Corporation exhibited their use of wireframe graphics.


TIME magazine noted that there had been 40,000 visitors to the London exhibition. [1]


The exhibition provided the energy for the formation of British Computer Arts Society which continued to explore the interaction between science, technology and art, and put on exhibitions (for example "Event One" at the Royal College of Art [2] ).

See also


External links

  • Reichardt, Jasia (ed), Cybernetic Serendipity, the computer and the arts, Studio International Special Issue, London England

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