1968: Cybernetic Serendipidity

Talks that began in 1965 culminated in an exhibit entitled “Computers and the Arts” at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London in 1968 with the intention of

dealing broadly with the demonstration of how man can use the computer and new technology to extend his creativity and inventiveness (p.3)

The catalogue opens with an essay by Norbert Weiner on cybernetics and the exhibition was extensive: movies, paintings, dance, films, machines, environments, and poems.

In the ‘computer poems and text’ category, an assemblage of the pioneers: Marc Adrian, CLRU (the Cambridge language Unit’s Margaret Masterman and Robin McKinnon Wood), Nanni Balestrini, Alison Knowles and James Tenney, Edwin Morgan, Jean A. Baudot, and E. Mendoza.

All of the works are generative. Matrices of phrases randomly realigned or shuffled according to semantic rules  into novel configurations sprouting from the mainframes of institutional computers. Only one work (Mark Adrian’s) involves playing with the display; in Marc Adrian’s work the “choice size and disposition of words is chosen at random” [Reichardt, p.53]

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Reichardt, Jasia, and Institute of Contemporary Arts (London, England). 1969. Cybernetic Serendipity: The Computer and the Arts. New York: Praeger.

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