Page 19 - Studio International - November 1968
P. 19

Facing page and below Installation shots of the Cybernetic Serendipity
            exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts

            which talked specifically about 'art created by com-  solely through the stimulation of the spectator's   abstract expressionist movement—it is more exciting
            puters', it might have been obvious to even more   presence. Until something occurs physically within   perhaps, more adventurous, but certainly less finite.
            people that computers don't create anything them-  the machine's orbit, it is not fully operational. The   At EAT in New York anyone who comes to ask for
            selves, and that whatever computer graphics, music   audience in turn begin to respond to the sound and   technological advice or assistance and who calls
            and films are made, come about with the aid of com-  light of the moving mechanisms which they have   himself an artist is accepted as an artist; the fact that
            puters through the very deliberate intervention of in-  unwittingly stimulated.   he may never have produced a single piece of art
            dividuals. In rather the same way that we don't hold   The Eastern Daily Press made one of the more widely   which would be acceptable to any of our cultural
            the typewriter responsible for the manuscript which   repeated comments '...the show is guaranteed to   clearing houses in Europe or America has nothing to
            is typed on it, the computer hasn't, so far at least,   keep children interested, and it is much more likely   do with it. Somehow we have accepted that art can
            created anything either.                 to be the adults who will be worried by it.' This was   mean doing one's 'own thing', which can be anything
             Since the exhibition fell between the two stools   perfectly true, children rampaged in the exhibition for   at all, and this marvellous freedom has created its own
            of art and science, it was covered by art journals,   hours on end, but it was almost impossible to find out   problems. The exhibition has diverted a great deal of
            scientific journals and, in the daily press, by news, art,   from any of them what it was that they liked or did not   interest into an area which is finite, which has very
            and science correspondents. The general consensus   like in particular. I suspect that it was the ambience   specific parameters and aims, and which does pro-
            of opinion was that as a venture Cybernetic Seren-  of activity rather than anything specific that they   vide stimulating material, albeit not art.
            dipity was well worth while, that it was significant,   found attractive. To elicit response from the various   The technological world of Cybernetic Serendipity
            and that it was enjoyable. The amount of editorial   machines children screamed and danced, followed in   was far from frightening. It was more human for
            space devoted to the exhibition was exceptionally   turn by many of the adults. Surprisingly enough in the   instance than the recent display of minimal art at the
            large, but surprisingly enough the longest individual   spherical domes where computer music was playing,   Hague, where black cubes, the size of small buildings,
            articles appeared in the German newspapers. The   comparative peace reigned despite the exuberant,   filled a space not unsimilar to a ready-made deserted
            exhibition's press cuttings book is like an exercise in   demonstrations outside.   city. Also, the frequent and persistent mechanical and
            co-existence, where well-known names in the field of   The extreme views were represented by the vindi-  electronic id iosyncracies of the machines which kept
            science are stuck next to those of art critics, edu-  cations of Arthur Moyse in  Freedom Anarchists   a team of young men in attendance all the time, must
            cationalists, anarchists, and gossip columnists. Gen-  Weekly  who dismissed Cybernetic Serendipity and   have reassured many of those who assume perfection
            erally the reports were both conscientious and   Scientology in the same breath, and a doubtful if   and inscrutability in technology. As for man's sup-
            imaginative.                             surprising accolade was accorded to the exhibition   remacy over the computer, this was also demonstrated
             One of the main areas of misunderstanding involved   (or at least its title) by the arrival of a new fashion   repeatedly throughout the show. The computer does
            the confusion about whether the act of audience   boutique in Chelsea called Cybernetic Serendipity.   only what you tell it to do and nothing else. Unfor-
            participation was supposed to be creative in itself,   The overwhelmingly enthusiastic response of the pub-  tunately if you programme a series of pictures which
            and if this participation was creative should it not   lic contributed one of the most pleasant surprises and   are essentially dull there is simply no possibility that
            produce art as an end product. To me creativity does   it was with some dismay that I heard from several   they might turn out to be interesting. The randomness
            not necessarily result in art or music or poetry, and   foreign visitors that the same venture in Paris would   achieved by spilling the contents of a bottle of ink,
            participation has very little to do with creativity but a   have needed police protection.   has greater possibilities of improving a picture than
            great deal to do with enjoyment. If the element of par-  Two main themes emerge as the reasons for the   the use of the random number generator in a com-
            ticipation is rare in exhibitions generally, it is because   obvious significance of the exhibition at this par-  puter. What is disturbing about all this is that the
            the wear and tear is so considerable that the works   ticular time. The first has a great deal to do with the   visual, poetic, and musical output of the computer
            will quite obviously never be the same again. I shall   context in which it is seen. As far as the art world is   represents the intentions of the man who pro-
            never forget Agam's first exhibition in London at the   concerned, it arrived on the scene at a time when the   grammed it with absolute accuracy. It is not surprising
            Drian Galleries, where the only people allowed to   sheer frequency of new 'isms' during the past ten   that the series of deformations of Leonardo's inter-
            play with his transformable paintings were collectors   years has left marks of exhaustion. Michael Shepherd   pretation of Vitrivius' theory of proportion are visually
            and critics. Very unfair and very understandable.   wrote in the Sunday Telegraph: 'What this exhibition   more satisfying and interesting and altogether more
             'What computers do is help people to respond to   also serves to show up is a desolation to be seen in   surprising than the results of the same process of
            things': this comment by John Gormley of The Tablet   art generally—that we haven't the faintest idea these   deformation applied to an indifferent drawing. In the
            was extremely relevant. In the context of the exhi-  days what art is for or about.' This very same problem   end it all depends on the material one starts with and
            bition the computer is seen as a neutral tool, so much   is reflected also in the sadness of the Venice Biennale,   its potential.
            so that only man's intentional endeavour brings about   and the wave of dissatisfaction among staff and
            some result. Not only the computers that had to be   students of art colleges. Art as a concept is less grasp-
            programmed, but also the machines which functioned    able than it had been up to the dissolution of the
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