Heike Werner Gallery

Pioneer Work: Herbert W. Franke

Herbert W. Franke (1927-2022) was obviously an all-rounder and a pioneer in many ways. His pioneer spirit can be found in his science fiction novels, his passion for cave explorations and last but not least in his image experiments. Science and art never were opposites for the doctor of physics, who also studied philosophy. Science and mathematics are the fundament of his works of art.

Franke was one of the best known German-speaking science fiction authors. Since the 1950s he also created visual art, starting with experimental photography and electronic imaging techniques. He created photographic images, wrote articles and books on experimental and generative photography and eventually discovered digital art - as an artist and as a collector. His unique collection of early computer art today belongs to the Kunsthalle Bremen - the Franke Collection can unfortunately not be seen online (let´s hope it will be online soon!). Herbert W. Franke is also a co-founder and pioneer of the ars electronica in Linz, Austria.

Since the 1960s Herbert W. Franke created digital works of art. His body of work represents the development of computer art from the early days until today in an unprecedented way. Here are some of his works:

 Pioneer Work #1      Tanz der Elektronen / Dance of the Electrons

From the mid-1950s to the early 1960s Franke worked with an analog computer connected to a cathode-ray oscillograph, creating oscillograms and electronic graphics, mostly in form of photographic images of screen-displays. These analog graphics are the predecessors of digital computer graphics. In 1961/62 Franke created the series »Tanz der Elektronen / Dance of the Electrons«. In 1962 he produced a similar animated sequence with the same title.

Tanz der Elektronen 0
Herbert W. Franke:
Tanz der Elektronen / Dance of the Electrons
photographic print after screen display, 1961/62    

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 Pioneer Work #2      Quadrate / Squares

One of Franke´s early digital, algorithmic works: »Quadrate/Squares«, 1967. In 1970 a silkscreen print of this motif was on display at the Venice biennale.

Quadrate 0
Herbert W. Franke
Quadrate / Squares
machine drawing, 1967
multiple colors on white paper
idea and parameters: Herbert W. Franke
programmed by Georg Färber

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 Pioneer Work #3      Projektionen/Rotationen - Projections/Rotations

Franke created »Projections/Rotations« in 1970/71.

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Herbert W. Franke:
Projektionen/Rotationen - Projections/Rotations, 1970/71

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 Pioneer Work #4      Animated Computer Graphics

Since the 1960s Franke created animated graphics and film sequences. Some of his latest animations, like the sequence »Octahedron Star«, can be watched on Franke´s YouTube-channel.

Octahedron Star

Octahedron Star

Octahedron Star
Herbert W. Franke:
Octahedron Star, 2012
Screenshots from »Octahedron Star«

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 Science Fiction

Herbert W. Franke is the author of many science fiction novels and short stories. »Das Gedankennetz« is one of his early novels, published in Germany in 1960. Wikipedia has a list of some of his books (in German), see: Herbert W. Franke. Tip: Listen to the author reading (in German) on YouTube.

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Herbert W. Franke: Das Gedankennetz
published 1960, Goldmann Weltraum Taschenbücher

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 Computergraphik - Computerkunst

In 1971 Franke published a book on computer graphics as art: »Computergraphik - Computerkunst« in a first edition; a second, revised edition was published in 1985. On the cover of the first edition: »Matrizenmultiplikation/Matrix Multiplication« by Frieder Nake (1967).

Computergraphik - Computerkunst 0
»Computergraphik - Computerkunst« 1971
not for sale

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 Artist´s Profile

Herbert W. Franke
Born in 1927 in Vienna, Austria, studied physics, mathematic and philosophy in Vienna, doctoral thesis in theoretical physics in 1950. Author of many science fiction stories and non-fiction books, especially on science and art, like generative photography. Between 1973 and 1997 professor for cybernetic aesthetics and computer art at the LMU and Academy of Art in Munich, Germany. Herbert W. Franke passed away in July 2022.

Tip: There is a ZKM-Video and a long and very interesting interview with Herbert W. Franke (in German) on YouTube (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5) and there is Herbert W. Franke´s YouTube-channel.

My special thanks to Herbert W. Franke for his friendly permission to present his images on my gallery-website.

Many of Franke´s »pioneer works« have been on display in major computer art exhibitions, e.g. in:
»Ex Machina – Frühe Computergrafik bis 1979« Kunsthalle Bremen: The Franke Collection, Germany, 2007
»bit international« ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany, 2008-2009

and e.g. publicized in:
Computer-Grafik Galerie. Herbert W. Franke (1984)
Ex Machina – Frühe Computergrafik bis 1979. Hrsg. Wulf Herzogenrath und Barbara Nierhoff-Wielk (2007)
A Little-Known Story about a Movement, a Magazine and the Computer´s Arrival in Art: New Tendencies and Bit International. Hrsg. Margit Rosen (2011)
Computergraphik - Computerkunst. Herbert W. Franke (1985)

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