Thursday, 5 June 2014


Cybernetics, Art and Ideas
Jascia Reichardt (ed.)
New York Graphic Society Ltd.
Greenwich, CT, 1971

Following three years of preparation, curator Jasia Reichardt unveiled the exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity at the ICA, London in the summer of 1968. Primarily a demonstration of current ideas rather than a manifesto, the works displayed dealt with aspects of the relationship between technology, contemporary culture and creativity.

Reichardt gathered such a surplus of material during her lengthy research that she was able to publish a second book three years after the exhibition catalogue. Cybernetics, Art and Ideas was the follow-up, collecting essays by some of the writers, thinkers, scientists and composers who contributed to the exhibition.
The book opens with a short extract from Gulliver's Travels (1726) to set the tone.
'King of the Shouting House' by John Wood, a children's game which made use of computer controlled random interruptions
The mystery of the vanishing triangle by Rutherford Boyd

Iannis Xensakis score

Gaussian probability density images, A. Michael Noll

I have to say that much of the text is pretty heavy going for a code illiterate like myself. However there are some illuminating passages on the relationship between computer science and the creative arts, and some historical context for today's discussions of code as art.

Exhibition poster
I strongly urge everyone to visit the wonderful Cybernetic Serendipity archive site - - if only more exhibitions were curated for posterity with such care. Not only does the site provide links to film clips and free download of the music LP that accompanied the show (including Cage, Xenakis and, erm, Wilhelm Fucks) but also a pdf download of the exhibition catalogue 'Cybernetic Serendipity - the computer and the arts' (Studio International, 1968).

"Mrs Peel, we're not needed"

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