Page 18 - Studio International - November 1968
P. 18

'Cybernetic                              The main theme of the Cybernetic Serendipity   nationalities, all classes, and the free entry for children
                                                                                       under 12 and old age pensioners enabled us to
                                              exhibition* was the demonstration of machine-aided
                                              creative processes. In the course of this demonstration   realize what a vast and enthusiastic audience there
     Serendipity'                             it became clear that we have preconceived notions   is among the very young and the very old. The
                                              about areas of activity and the people who engage   ICA had more than 60,000 visitors during the eleven
                                              in them, which are not only arbitrary but often simply   wee<s of the exhibition.
     Getting rid of preconceptions
                                              untrue. We assume, for instance, that creative pursuits   The installation of this show and the attendant
                                              are the prerogative of people called artists and it is   problems are worth mentioning briefly. The compli-
                                              difficult for us to conceive of creative activity which   cations involved demanded an ingenuity rarely called
                                              does not result in art (or what we recognize as art   for it the arrangement of the more usual art exhi-
     Jasia Reichardt                          today) and which moreover is done by people like   bitions. Whereas normally one is concerned with the
                                              engineers, chemists and philosophers. By examining   aesthetic arrangement, or even a meaningful arrange-
                                              some of the creative processes which employ com-  ment of objects, here one was dealing with works
                                              puters and other cybernetic devices, we are im-  soma of which were sensitive to light or sensitive to
                                              mediately confronted with an entirely different set   sound and which accordingly had to be placed in the
                                              of people than those whose work normally fills the   sort of surroundings which would enable them to
                                              art galleries. The Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition   remain operational. The degree of ambient noise was
                                              incidentally involved 130 contributors, of whom 43   resp3nsible for the breakdown of at least one
                                              were composers, artists and poets, and 87 were   maciine, and the necessity for dim lights caused
                                              engineers, doctors, computer scientists and philo-  several visitors to trip over. Each contributor firmly
                                              sophers.                                 declared the wish for privacy for his particular work,
                                               The main substance of the Cybernetic Serendipity   and the installation became more like making seating
                                              exhibition was information—the exhibits themselves   arrangements for a number of difficult guests at a
                                              consisting of objects, diagrams, films, and sounds,   dinner table, than the normal process of hanging or
                                              acting as illustrations of the various principles and   arranging an exhibition, which after all had a single
                                              ideas of which the information consisted. It just so   aim-that of presenting works engendered by tech-
                                              happened that the objects which demonstrated these   nology. The fact that the machines had to live together
                                              ideas were often so attractive or simply so absorbing   in one area prevented many from working at 100%
                                              in their own right, that neither the audience nor the   efficiency. Sound was the most difficult element to
                                              critics found it always necessary to venture into the   control, and music was the most difficult material to
                                              layers of information and explanation which were   exhibit. Whereas every graphic, film, poem and
                                              provided. The fact that the exhibition was approach-  maciine was presented in its totality, all musical
                                              able on a number of levels was most fortunate because   compositions had to be represented by a small frag-
                                              it meant that it could be enjoyed by the layman   ment of no more than a few minutes. duration. Also,
                                              without simultaneously seeming offensively simplis-  since many of the visual scores were indistinguish-
                                              tic to the experts. Since no claims were made that the   able from the graphics in the exhibition, it was neces-
                                              various manifestations aimed at art, there was virtually   sary to divide all visual material into strict categories.
                                              no discussion as to whether this was or was not an   Both the exhibition and the lectures which dealt
                                              art exhibition. Surprisingly many adults and certainly   with the main theme of Cybernetic Serendipity were
                                              all children found the question 'Is it art or not?'   designed to dispel some of those prejudices which
                                              irrelevant.                               cause many intelligent people to believe that the
                                               In retrospect and on the basis of this experience it   computer is a threat to those whose intellectual
                                              seems that however esoteric an idea may be, pro-  abilities and creative powers may no longer be in
                                              viding that it avoids the rigid classification of art or   demand as their role is gradually taken over by the
                                              science, or technology, or psychology, and their   artificial intelligence machines. The exhibition demon-
      *The exhibition, held at the I.C.A., London,   various subdivisions, the audience drawn will rep-  strated the possibilities and limitations inherent in the
      closed at the end of October. It was reviewed   resent an entire cross section of people. Cybernetic   uses of computers, and if it were not for the unfor-
      in the September issue of Studio International.   Serendipity had visitors of all ages, all types, all   tunate sensationalism of some reports on the radio
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