Heike Werner Gallery

Pioneer Work: Frieder Nake

This page is dedicated to the computer art pioneer Frieder Nake.

In the 1960s Frieder Nake (*1938) studied mathematics in Stuttgart, Germany, and became part of the experimental circle around Max Bense, who had formed the theoretical fundament for early computer art with his information aesthetics. Frieder Nake held his first exhibition together with Georg Nees in November 1965 at the Wendelin Niedlich Gallery, Stuttgart.

Check our available page for available Nake works.

 Pioneer Work #1      25/2/65 Nr.14 (Rectangular Random Polygon)

This early machine drawing »25/2/65 Nr.14« was made on 25th of February 1965 as motif No. 14 in a series of motifs. According to Nake´s program the ER56 and Zuse-Graphomat 64 drawing machine produced an edition of unique plots: every drawing in this edition is different.

Rectangular Random Polygon 0
Frieder Nake:
25/2/65 Nr. 14 (Rectangular Random Polygon)
machine drawing, 31 x 22,5 cm
Edition: 130 (150 according to this numbered plot, but Frieder Nake´s database states that only 130 were made.)

generated: 1965
main frame: ER56 - Standard Elektrik Lorenz
drawing machine: Zuse-Graphomat 64

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 Pioneer Work #2      Hommage à Paul Klee

»Hommage à Paul Klee« is probably Nake´s most prominent work. Inspired by Paul Klee´s painting »High Roads and Byroads« (Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany, see Wikipedia), Nake wrote an image program with COMPART ER56 for the mainframe Standard Elektrik Lorenz ER56. The drawings were made by the ZUSE-Graphomat Z64. More on »Hommage à Paul Klee« on the V&A website and in the compart database at dada.compart-bremen.de
A variation of »Hommage à Paul Klee« is next:

hommage à paul klee (variation) 0
Frieder Nake:
Hommage à Paul Klee (Variation)
plotter drawing: ZUSE Graphomat Z 64, 1966
black ink on white paper, 28 x 20 cm
edition: 100
numbered and signed on reverse side
generated: 1965/1966

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 Pioneer Work #3      Walk-Through-Raster

There are several variations of the motif »Walk-Through-Raster« taken from Nake´s software programed in 1966 (see: Dreher).

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Frieder Nake:
Walk-Through-Raster, 1967
machine drawing, 50 x 50 cm
unique drawing, 7.3.3 series

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Frieder Nake: Walk-Through-Raster -
from the portfolio »Art ex machina«
silk screen print, 1972

motif generated on IBM 360/65, with Fortran IV

see available works

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 Pioneer Work #4      matrix multiplication (tapestry)

Visitors of the Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition could easily walk over a slide projection of one of the »Matrizenmultiplikation/matrix multiplication« works of Frieder Nake on the entrance floor.
Maybe this artwork flooring sparked the idea for the carpets Frieder Nake designed some years later. Around 1974 a series of tapestries with a matrix pattern were produced by a German carpet company.

Over the last centuries the history of textile and carpet art was closely connected to the history of »machines«. 18th century inventions like the power loom and the Jacquard loom - which inspired the »father of computers« Charles Babbage - fueled the First Industrial Revolution. This First Industrial Revolution is also seen as the dawn of the machine age which peaked in the Second Industrial Revolution (and is today known as the first of the machine ages ...)
Meanwhile, the Second Machine Age brought by the Digital Revolution, means even more revolution to textile and carpet art:
Machines are not only weaving - they are generating their own patterns!

This timeline makes Frieder Nake´s tapestries very special artefacts:
These artist tapestries with their a computer generated motifs are most likely the first in the history of carpet art with a pattern created with and by a digital machine.

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tapestry, machine woven
around 1974

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 The Precise Pleasures

The title of the series »The Precise Pleasures «, in German »Die präzisen Vergnügen«, is a term coined by Max Bense. The precise pleasures are a synonym for the mathematician´s, philosopher´s or computer artist´s joy of exactly describing or defining an art work by an algorithm. This Bense-quote is also the title of his book released in 1964 with texts of »artificial poetry« which unite sensuality and artificiality.

Max Bense: Präzise Vergnügen 0
»Die präzisen Vergnügen«, published 1964 by Limes Nova.

»Pioneer Work: Frieder Nake« presents the four computer graphics of »The Precise Pleasures«, a folder edition printed in 2005 and published under the German title »Die präzisen Vergnügen«. The motifs are based on early computer graphics Frieder Nake created in 1965 and 1969. In each sheet four screenshots have been added to the main motif. These screenshots were taken from projections of interactive installations, which were generated by transferring Nakes graphics into interactively changeable virtual depictions.

rectangular hatchings / interrelations 0
from the »The Precise Pleasures« portfolio:
Frieder Nake:
Rectangular Hatchings / Interrelations
by Frieder Nake with Lutz Dickmann and Hendrik Poppe
digital print after plotter drawing and screenshot, 2005

Idea by Frieder Nake, program in cooperation with Lutz Dickmann and Hendrik Poppe
Generated: Rectangular Hatchings, 1965 / Interrelations, 2004

family of lines / expansion 0
from the »The Precise Pleasures« portfolio:
Frieder Nake: Family of Lines / Expansion
by Frieder Nake with Philipp Kehl
digital print after plotter drawing and screenshot, 2005

Idea by Frieder Nake, program in cooperation mit Philipp Kehl
Generated: Family of Lines, 1965 / Expansion, 2004

hommage à paul klee / tension 0
»Hommage à Paul Klee« Frieder Nake, 1965 and it´s interactive depiction »Tension« by Frieder Nake with Susanne Grabowski and Matthias Krauß.

from the »The Precise Pleasures« portfolio:
Frieder Nake: Hommage à Paul Klee / Tension
by Frieder Nake with Susanne Grabowski and Matthias Krauß
Digital print after plotter drawing and screenshot, 2005

Idea by Frieder Nake, program in cooperation with Susanne Grabowski and Matthias Krauß
Generated: Hommage à Paul Klee, 1965 / Tension, 2004

chaos gestalt structure / incompletion 0
from the »The Precise Pleasures« portfolio:
Frieder Nake:
Chaos Gestalt Structure / Incompletion
by Frieder Nake with Christoph Brachmann and Romana Walter
digital print after plotter drawing and screenshot, 2005

Idea by Frieder Nake, program in cooperation with Christoph Brachmann and Romana Walter
Generated: Chaos Gestalt Structure, 1969 / Incompletion, 2004

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 Artist´s Profile

Frieder Nake
Born in Stuttgart, Germany, 1938, studied mathematics in Stuttgart. First experimental works with a main frame in 1963, influenced by Max Bense. 1967 Ph.D. doctoral thesis on stochastic equation systems. Nake is a pioneer of computer art, his works were displayed in many exhibitions, e.g. at the Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition in London, 1968. Since 2005 Frieder Nake is a professor at the »Digital Media« section of the art college (Hochschule für Künste) in Bremen, Germany. Lives in Bremen.

Listen to Frieder Nake at the Eyeo Festival: Frieder Nake

YouTube-Links: An interview with Frieder Nake and other pioneers and his lecture Frieder Nake - Do calculating machines like drawing? And if so, why? Code Mesh LDN 18.

Many of Nake´s »pioneer works« have been on display in major computer art exhibitions, e.g. in:
»Cybernetic Serendipity« London, 1968.
»Venice Biennale«, Venice, Italy, 1970
»Ex Machina – Frühe Computergrafik bis 1979« Kunsthalle Bremen, 2007
»bit international« ZKM Karlsruhe, 2008-2009
»Die präzisen Vergnügen« Kunsthalle Bremen, 2004-2005 and ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany, 2005
»Programmierte Kunst. Frühe Computergraphik.« Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany, 2018
»Chance and Control: Art in the Age of Computers« Victoria and Albert Museum, London, GB, 2018

and e.g. publicized in:
Ästhetik als Informationsverarbeitung. Frieder Nake (1974)
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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