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Frieder Nake

Frieder Nake, 2015

Frieder Nake (born December 16, 1938 in Stuttgart, Germany) is a mathematician, computer scientist, and pioneer of computer art. He is best known internationally for his contributions to the earliest manifestations of computer art, a field of computing that made its first public appearances with three small exhibitions in 1965.


  • Life and work 1
  • Public collections 2
  • Publications 3
  • External links 4

Life and work

Frieder Nake, 2013

Without knowing of each other, A. New York, with Bela Julesz). Frieder Nake had his first exhibition at Galerie Wendelin Niedlich in Stuttgart (November 5–26, 1965, with Georg Nees).

Until 1969, Nake generated in rapid sequence a large number of works that he showed in many exhibitions during those years and later. He estimates his production at about 300 to 400 works during those years. A few were limited screenprint editions, single pieces and portfolios. The bulk were done as China ink on paper graphics, carried out by a flatbed high precision plotter (the Zuse Graphomat Z64).

Nake participated in the important group shows of the 1960s as, most prominently, Cybernetic Serendipity (London, UK, 1968), Tendencies 4: Computers and Visual Research (Zagreb, Yugoslavia, 1968), Ricerca e Progettazione. Proposte per una esposizione sperimentale (35th Venice Biennale, Italy, 1970), Arteonica (São Paulo, Brazil, 1971).

In 1971, he wrote a short and provocative note for Page, the Bulletin of the Computer Arts Society (whose member he was and still is), under the title „There Should Be No Computer-Art“ (Page No. 18, Oct. 1971, p. 1-2. Reprinted in Arie Altena, Lucas van der Velden (eds.): The anthology of computer art. Amsterdam: Sonic Acts 2006, p. 59-60). The note sparked a lively controversial debate among those who had meanwhile started to build an active community of artists, writers, musicians, and designers in the digital domain. His statement was rooted in a moral position. The involvement of computer technology in the Vietnam War and in massive attempts by capital to automate productive processes and, thereby, generate unemployment, should not allow artists to close their eyes and become silent servants of the ruling classes by reconciling high technology with the masses of the poor and suppressed.

Frieder Nake has been a professor of interactive computer graphics at the Department of Computer Science, Germany, since 1972. Since 2005, he has also been teaching digital media design at Bremen. After studying mathematics at the University of Stuttgart, where he earned his Diplom and doctoral degrees (in probability theory), he has taught in Stuttgart, Toronto and Vancouver, before coming to Bremen. His courses and seminars, besides computer graphics, interactivity, and digital media, are in the areas of computer art, aesthetics, semiotics, computers and society, and theory of computing. He has been a visiting professor to Universitetet Oslo, Aarhus Universitet, Universität Wien, Danube University Krems, University of Colorado, University of Lübeck, University of Basel, University of Costa Rica, Xi'an University of Science and Technology and Tongji University.

He won the First Prize of the Computer Art Contest of Computers & Automation in 1966. In 1997, his teaching work was honored by the Berninghausen Award for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching (University of Bremen).

His book Ästhetik als Informationsverarbeitung (1974) is one of the first to study connections between aesthetics, computing, and information theory, which has become important to the transdisciplinary area of digital media. This book and many of his ca. 300 publications (2012) evince his intellectual position between science and the humanities – a position that has always made him critical about the marvels and wonders of information technology.

In his publications, seminars, and lectures, he has developed the following fundamental concepts of a (cultural) theory of computing:

  • the machinization of mental labor
  • the duplication of computer things
  • the instrumental medium (with Heidi Schelhowe)
  • the algorithmic sign

Public collections

Besides being represented in many private collections, his works are held by Abteiberg Museum Mönchengladbach (Germany), Kunsthalle Bremen (Germany), Victoria and Albert Museum London (UK), Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb (Croatia), Sprengel Museum Hannover (Germany), Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art Evanston (USA), Tama Art University Museum Tokyo (Japan).


  • Frieder Nake: Information aesthetics: an heroic experiment. Journal of Mathematics and the Arts 6, 2-3, (2012) p. 65-75
  • Frieder Nake: Construction and intuition. Creativity in early computer art. In J. McCormack, M. d’Inverno (eds.): Computers and creativity. Berlin, London: Springer 2012, p. 61-95
  • Frieder Nake: Paragraphs on computer art, past and present. In: N. Lambert et al. (eds.): Ideas before their time. London: BCS 2010, p. 55-63
  • Frieder Nake: Alles, was fest ist, verdampft. Ästhetik & Kommunikation 144/45 (Sping 2009), p. 21-30
  • Frieder Nake: The semiotic engine. Notes on the history of algorithmic images in Europe. Art Journal 68,1 (Spring 2009) p. 76-89
  • Frieder Nake: Work, design, computers, artifacts. In Th. Binder et al. (eds.): (Re)Searching the digital Bauhaus. London: Springer 2009, p. 309-331
  • Frieder Nake. 2008. Surface, Interface, Subface: Three Cases of Interaction and One Concept. In: Uwe Seifert, Jin Hyun Kim, Anthony Moore (eds.), Paradoxes of Interactivity. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, pp. 92–109.
  • Frieder Nake: Zeigen, Zeichnen und Zeichen. Der verschwundene Lichtgriffel. In H. D. Hellige (ed.): Mensch-Computer-Interface. Zur Geschichte und Zukunft der Computerbedienung. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag 2008, p. 121-156
  • Frieder Nake, Susanne Grabowski: Abstraktion, System, Design. Zur Perspektive von Bildung, aus informatischer Sicht. In: W. Sesink et al. (eds.): Jahrbuch Medienpädagogik 6. Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften 2007, p. 300-314
  • Frieder Nake, Susanne Grabowski: The interface as sign and as aesthetic event. In P. Fishwick (ed.): Aesthetic computing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 2006, p. 53-70
  • Frieder Nake: Das doppelte Bild. Bildwelten des Wissens. Kunsthistorisches Jahrbuch für Bildkritik 3,2 (2006) p. 40-50
  • Frieder Nake: There should be no computer-art. Page (Bulletin of the Computer Art Society, London) No. 18, Oct. 1971, 1-2. Rpt in A. Altena, L. van der Velden (eds.): The anthology of computer art. Amsterdam: Sonic Acts 2006, p. 59-60
  • Frieder Nake: Four spaces. A digital media approach to the history of computer art. Special issue „Searching our origins“, Leonardo Electronic Almanac, 13,5 (May 2005)
  • Frieder Nake: Computer art. A personal recollection. In L. Candy (ed.): Proc. Creativity and Cognition 2005. New York: ACM 2005, p. 54-62
  • Frieder Nake: The Display as a Looking-Glass: Zu Ivan E. Sutherlands früher Vision der grafischen Datenverarbeitung. In H. D. Hellige (ed.): Geschichten der Informatik. Visionen, Paradigmen, Leitmotive. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer 2004, p. 339-365
  • Frieder Nake, Susanne Grabowski: Human-computer interaction viewed as pseudo-communication. Knowledge Based Systems 14 (2001) p. 441-447
  • Frieder Nake: form.algorithmus.farbe – Manfred Mohr: Algorithmiker. In P. Volkwein (Hrsg.): space.color. Ingolstadt: Museum für konkrete Kunst 2001. p. 23-35 (German, English)
  • Frieder Nake: Das algorithmische Zeichen. In W. Bauknecht, W. Brauer, Th. Mück (eds.): Informatik 2001. GI/OCG Jahrestagung 2001. Bd. II, p. 736-742
  • Frieder Nake: Kalkulierte und kalkulierende Zeichen. Der Computer als instrumentales Medium. In V. Demuth, R. Wagner (Hrsg.) Vom Sinn multiplier Welten. Medien und Kunst. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann 2000. p. 121-140
  • Frieder Nake: Work.Computers.Design. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems 10, 1&2 (1998) p. 53-59
  • Frieder Nake: Was heißt und zu welchem Ende studiert man Informatik? Ein akademischer Diskursbeitrag nebst Anwendung. In V. Claus (Hrsg.): Informatik und Ausbildung. Berlin, Heidelberg etc.: Springer 1998. p. 1-13
  • Frieder Nake: Der semiotische Charakter der informatischen Gegenstände. Semiosis 85-90 (1997) p. 24-35
  • Frieder Nake: How far away are we from the first masterpiece of computer art? In K. Brunnstein, E. Raubold (eds.): Information Processing 94. Proc. of the IFIP Congress 1994, Vol. II (IFIP Transactions A-52). Amsterdam: North-Holland 1994. p. 406-413
  • Frieder Nake (ed.): Die erträgliche Leichtigkeit der Zeichen. Ästhetik, Semiotik, Informatik. Baden-Baden: Agis 1993
  • Frieder Nake, Diethelm Stoller (ed.): Algorithmus und Kunst. ”Die präzisen Vergnügen”. Hamburg: Sautter & Lackmann 1993
  • W. Coy, F. Nake, J.-M. Pflüger, A. Rolf, J. Seetzen, D. Siefkes, R. Stransfeld (eds.): Sichtweisen der Informatik. Braunschweig: Vieweg 1992
  • Frieder Nake: Künstliche Kunst. In der Welt der Berechenbarkeit. Kunstforum 98 (Jan./Feb. 1989) p. 85-94
  • Frieder Nake (ed.): Graphik in Dokumenten. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer 1986
  • Frieder Nake: Schnittstelle Mensch - Computer. Kursbuch 75. Berlin: Rotbuch 1984. p. 109-118
  • Frieder Nake: Ästhetik als Informationsverarbeitung. Wien etc.: Springer 1974
  • Frieder Nake, Azriel Rosenfeld (eds.): Graphic Languages. Proc. of the IFIP Working Conference on Graphic Languages, Vancouver 1972. Amsterdam: North-Holland 1972
  • Frieder Nake: A proposed language for the definition of arbitrary twodimen¬sio¬nal signs. In O.-J. Grüsser, R. Klinke (eds.): Pattern Recognition in Biological and Technical Systems. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer 1971. p. 396-402
  • Frieder Nake: On generative aesthetics – two picture generating programs. Proc. of the International Symposium Computer Graphics, Uxbridge: Brunel University 1970
  • Frieder Nake: Erzeugung ästhetischer Objekte mit Rechenanlagen. In R. Gunzenhäuser (ed.): Nichtnumerische Informationsverarbeitung. Wien, New York: Springer-Verlag 1968. p. 456-472
  • Frieder Nake: Notes on the programming of computer graphics. Cybernetic Serendipity. Special Issue of Studio International, London 1968. p. 77-78
  • Frieder Nake: Bemerkungen zur Programmierung von Computer-Grafiken. Deutsches Rechenzentrum Darmstadt, Programm-Information PI-21. April 1966

External links

  • Biography at MediaArtNet (English) (German)
  • Google Scholar: numerous links to scientific articles referencing Nake's work
  • Entry about Frieder Nake in the data base of early computer art
  • List of works held by the Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Thomas Dreher: History of Computer Art, chap.II.2.2 Digital Computer Graphics.
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