Prof. Frieder Nake

Frieder Nake was born in Stuttgart. In 1968 he emigrated to Canada. After positions in Toronto and Vancouver, he returned to Bremen in 1972 as professor for interactive computer graphics. In the mid-1960s he was one of the first to create software for aesthetic objects. He was a visiting professor to universities in Vienna, Oslo, Univ. of Colorado at Boulder, Northwest Institute in Xian, Aarhus, ISNM Lübeck, Basel, Krems, Costa Rica, Tongji Shanghai, Lüneburg. He received the Bernighausen Award for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching. In establishing the joint Bremen program in Digital Media, he was a visiting professor to the University of the Arts in Bremen in 2005/06. Since then, he has been a lecturer in the field.

Among other areas, Nake has contributed to probability theory, computer graphics, human-computer interaction, semiotics, theory & critique of computer science & Digital Media, art and art theory. Recent publications include: “Algorithmic & artificial”.  In: Peter Beyls (Ed.): Simple thoughts. 2014 (Asamer), pp. 93-125; “Information aesthetics: an heroic experiment”. In: Journal of Mathematics and the Arts, 6 (2-3), 2012, pp. 65-75.



Machinization of Mental Labor & Art

The great, openly formulated theme of MECS centers about simulation and media: simulations by digital computers, i.e. algorithmic simulation. Media build the heart of MECS' activities that now belong to the foundations of cultures. Into those cultures, media intrude, or they carry such cultures. When we were a bunch of young scientists in the mid-1960s in Stuttgart, open and rebellious, Rul Gunzenhäuser was putting together an anthology to which a number of us were invited to contribute essays. The volume came out under the somewhat terse title, "Nicht-numerische Informationsverarbeitung" (we did not know better). In some of the contributions, simulation played an important role. I want to re-read it and, from hindsight, perhaps draw new conclusions. I will unite my new reading with my later used concept of machinization of mental labor. I have been using it (mildly successfully) to characterize and explain everything in computing. I now also use concepts of algorithmic sign, semiotic machine, and surface / subface.

In particular, I will keep an eye on computer art (better: algorithmic art), in particular on the simulation of randomness that plays an enormous role in that art. Meanwhile, a diploma thesis has been finished (Arjan Hoelke). Perhaps, the two of us can collaborate on some new kind of work. I want to position my Lüneburg work around the triangle of simulation / randomness / art (= media). This is still abstract, more a declaration of intent than a plan for action. Above all, however, I want to finish neglected work that has dearly been longing for completion. As I succeed in this, new work is to be taken up. This refers to the following list of priorities:

  • 1. Peter Bøgh Andersen's and my book, Computers and Signs. Prolegomena to a semiotic foundation of computing must be brought to the printer's shop.
  • 2. In cooperation, a manuscript from the mid-1970s on computer art of the 1960s will be pushed ahead in cooperation with Leslie Mezei.
  • 3. A quite ambitious book on Harold Cohen's art is to take on decisive contours.
  • 4. And, perhaps, an essay on transdisciplinarity is to be sketched and written in part