Cybernetic Drawing. A Unifying Language of Pask’s Cybernetics and Computer Art in Germany

  • Liss C. Werner Institute of Architecture, Technical University Berlin
Keywords: Cybernetics, Gordon Pask, Frieder Nake, Georg Nees, Computer Art, Germany


The essay provides an overview of relationships between the cybernetics with a special emphasis on the British cybernetician Gordon Andrew Speedie Pask and the computer art developed in Germany in the 1960s-70s with an introduction to the artists Frieder Nake and Georg Nees. In the 1960s, early computer artists, such as the Max Bense, Vera Molnar, Georg Nees, Frieder Nake and others, began to explore the relationships between art, design, science and the cybernetic principle of feedback. Their computer art investigated esthetics of computer languages for automated process of generative iterations away from the fixed states of pre-determined formalism. In the meantime, in the UK, Gordon Pask developed Conversation Theory, a formal model applied in his cybernetic ‘machines’. The networks and conversation diagrams that described CT represented possibilities of interaction between actors resulting in emergent forms of behavior. Both, the early computer art and Pask’s logic can are based on cybernetic foundations, as a unifying language. The fields’ concerns have expanded significantly and partly merged since then. The discussion still lies in the dichotomy between the urge for control and authorship over form and method of creation, and the approach of understanding form and its aesthetics as result of an activated dynamic systemic pre-programmed set of rules rather than states –all under the wings of a unifying language, namely cybernetics.


Bense, M. (1965). Aesthetica Einführung in die neue Aesthetik. Baden-Baden: Agis Verlag.

Bush, V. (1931). The Differential Analyzer, A New Machine For Solving Differential Equations. In Journal Franklin Institute, 212, 4, pp. 447-488.

Cube, F. v. (1967). Was ist Kybernetik? Grundbegriffe, Methoden, Anwendungen. Bremen: Verlag Schünemann.

Davies, B. (1974). The Experimentors - Gordon Pask 1974. London: BBC .

Döhl, R. (2012). Der Kreis um Max Bense. Als Stuttgart Schule machte.

Fasol, K. H. (2002). Hermann Schmidt: pioneer in control and cybernetics. In IEEE Control Systems, 22 2, pp. 24-28.

Frank, H. (1966). Kybernetik Brücke zwischen den Wissenschaften; 29 Beiträge namhafter Wissenschaftler und Ingenieure. Frankfur t/Main: Um-schau Verl.

Klütsch, C. (2007). Computergrafik: ästhetische Experimente zwischen zwei Kulturen; die Anfänge der Computerkunst in den 1960er Jahren. Cham: Springer.

Nake, F. (2009). The semiotic engine: notes on the history of algorithmic images in Europe. In Art Journal, 68, 1.

Nake, F. (2012). Information aesthetics: An heroic experiment. In Journal of Mathematics and the Arts, 6, 2-3, pp. 65-75.

Pask, G. (1958). Physical Analogues to the Growth of a Concept. Paper pre-sented at the Mechanization of Though Process Conference, Symposium held at the National Physical Laboratory.

Pask, G. (1959). The Natural History of Networks. Paper presented at the Self-Organizing Systems: Interdisciplinary Conference.

Pask, G. (1961a). An Approach to Cybernetics (3 ed.). London: Hutchinson & Co Ltd.

Pask, G. (1961b). An approach to cybernetics. London: Hutchinson.Pask, G. (1978). A conversation theoretic approach to social systems. In Sociocybernetics, pp. 15-26. Cham: Springer.

Pask, G. (ca. 1976). Future Prospects of Cybernetics. Paper with handwritten notes, Gordon Pask Archive, Vienna.

Pask, G., de Zeeuw, G., Nov, L.E. (1992). Interactions of actors, theory and some applications. In OOC/CICT/Universiteit Amsterdam, 1.

Pias, C. (2016). Cybernetics: the Macy-Conferences 1946-1953. Zürich u.a.: Diaphanes.

Reichardt, J. (1969). Cybernetic serendipity: the computer and the arts. New York-Washinghton: Frederick A. Praeger.

Schmidt, H. (1941). Regelungstechnik. Die technische Aufgabe und ihre wirtschaftliche, sozialpolitische und kulturpolitische Auswirkung. In Zei-tschrift des VDI, 85, 4, S. 81-S. 88.

Scott, B. (1982). The Cybernetics of Gordon Pask, part 1. In International Cybernetics Newsletter, 17, 21.

Scott, B. (1987). Human systems, communication and educational psycho-logy. In Educational Psychology in Practice, 3, 2, pp. 4-15.

Stewart, D. (2000). An essay on the origins of cybernetics. In Retrieved February, 22, 2008.

Van Alstyne, G. (2006). Biomedia: Past, Present and Future. <> (accessed 2018, October 25).

Walter, W.G. (1950). An imitation of life. In Scientific American, 182, 5, pp. 42-45.

Werner, L.C. (2017). Cybernetification I: Cybernetics Feedback Netgraft in Architecture. 10.14279/depositonce-6121, 1, 16. doi:10.14279/deposi-tonce-6435.

Werner, L.C. (2018). Cybernetification II: toward a sixth ecology. In A. Graafland, D. Perera (eds.). Architecture and the Machinic: Experimental Encounters of Man with Architecture, Computation and Robotics, pp. 58-71. Dessau: Anhalt University Dessau.

Werner, L.C. (forthcoming). The Origins of Design Cybernetics. In C.M.H.T. Fischer (ed.), Design Cybernetics: Navigating the New. Cham: Springer.Wiener, N. (1948). Cybernetics: or the Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Paris: Herman & Cie.

How to Cite
L. C. Werner, “Cybernetic Drawing. A Unifying Language of Pask’s Cybernetics and Computer Art in Germany”, diségno, no. 3, pp. 109-118, Dec. 2018.