ESTATE OF HERBERT W. FRANKE
"People generally dismiss technology as a threat to art. I will attempt to demonstrate that it is not, and even opens up previously unimagined artistic territory." – Herbert W. Franke (Kunst und Konstruktion, 1957)
Herbert W. Franke (1927-2022) was a pivotal figure in bridging the gap between art and science. He was a scientist, author of science fiction, curator, mathematician, physicist, and speleologist. He was a co-founder of Ars Electronica in 1979. Franke has been called "the most prominent German science fiction writer" by Die Zeit, and a "great storyteller" by the FAZ. He also developed a rational theory of art. As a writer, he has been a pioneer of virtual worlds since 1960 – with his first work DER GRÜNE KOMET (Goldmann, Munich). In addition, he pioneered cave research with the dating of stalactites, with which he was also able to reveal significant information about climatology since the last ice age.
As early as 1957, Franke proved in a book entitled ART AND CONSTRUCTION (Verlag F. Bruckmann, Munich) that technology "opens up undreamed-of new artistic territory". Franke has consistently explored new territory with analytical methods and the assistance of machines for over 70 years, looking into the future of digital art until he arrived in the metaverse as an artist and curator in the early 2000s. He began experimenting with generative photography in 1953, used an analogue computer in 1954, and the first mainframe computers for his abstract algorithmic art in the 1960s and 1970s, before beginning programming himself in 1980 with one of the earliest Apple IIs.
PIONEER OF DIGITAL ART
He was a pivotal figure in the development of digital art, which he helped to shape over the next few decades as an artist, writer and curator. He was represented at the Venice Biennale in 1970 with a silkscreen from his QUADRATE series. It is his first work created with a digital computer in which he allowed chance to collaborate with an algorithm.
Herbert W. Franke saw mathematics, with its abstract world of formulae, as the essence of visual art since its beginnings in the 1950s. While he saw the artist as the analytical creator who uses mathematical methods to create structures, he assigned the computer the task of modulating these principles of order through varying random processes. Franke saw the computer as a partner from the beginning. He was always looking for known or newly discovered mathematical principles to use in his artistic experiments. For Franke, it was clear that it was the artist's task to examine new technologies with their great social significance for their creative potential, but also to draw attention to their opportunities and dangers. For they should not be reserved for technocrats, commerce or even the military. The field of tension between science and technology, as well as society and the individual, with its opportunities and dangers, was also at the centre of his award-winning utopian novels and anthologies.
APPRECIATION OF HIS LIFE'S WORK
On the occasion of Franke's 95th birthday in 2022, the Francisco Carolinum in Linz (the UNESCO City of Media Arts) honored the Austrian artist, science fiction author, and scientist with the exhibition VISIONARY. His first NFT drop sold out within 30 seconds on one of the leading NFT platforms, Quantum Art, in June 2022. The purpose was to fundraise for the establishment of his foundation: art meets science – STIFTUNG HERBERT W. FRANKE. This foundation aims to further publicize Franke's pioneering achievements and works through exhibitions and events, as well as to support scientific symposia on relevant topics. The foundation, which was established in the summer of 2022, will also co-finance or support research projects aimed towards expanding the bridge built by Franke in the twentieth century between the worlds of art and natural science of the twenty-first century.
Herbert W. Franke was a member of the PEN Centre Germany. He was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art 1st Class by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Culture in 2007, and the Cultural Medal in Gold by the State of Upper Austria in 2022. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe in 2018.
EXHIBITIONS AND PUBLICATIONS
Selected solo and group exhibitions: Experimental Aesthetics, Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna (1959); Herbert W. Franke – Wanderer between the Worlds, ZKM Karlsruhe (2010); Minus Space – Digital Pioneers, Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Proof of Art. A Brief History of NFTs, from the Beginnings of Digital Art to the Metaverse, Francisco Carolinum, Linz (2021); Herbert W. Franke – Visionary, Francisco Carolinum, Linz (2022).
Selected art theoretical publications: Art and Construction (1957), Computer Graphics – Computer Art (1971), Art versus Technology? (1978), Phenomenon Art (1967), Phenomenon Art. The Cybernetic Foundations of Aesthetics (2nd extended edition, 1974), Cybernetic Aesthetics – Phenomenon Art (3rd extended edition, 1979), Aesthetic Information (together with H. G. Frank, 1997).
Selected science fiction literature: The Green Comet (1960), The Orchid Cage (1961), The Thought Network (1961), Zone Zero (1970), Sirius Transit (1979), Centre of the Milky Way (1990) Cyber City South (2005), Escape to Mars (2007).