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Exhibition at the Museum Leopold

Otto Franke, professor at the Vienna University of Technology, was nicknamed the “Electron Pope” by his students. A photograph of his son Herbert from the 1950s.

Opening today at Vienna’s Leopold Museum is the exhibition “Ludwig Wittgenstein. Photography as Analytical Practice”. The exhibition deals with a hitherto lesser-known facet of the philosopher’s life’s work: with Wittgenstein the artist and photographer, who was also concerned with aesthetic issues. The exhibition focuses on Wittgenstein’s own photographs, some of them previously unpublished, as well as his theoretical reflections. The two curators Verena Gamper and Gregor Schmoll also relate these to works by contemporary artists. One of these representatives is Herbert W. Franke with his early photographic work from the 1950s. “In Wittgenstein’s work, we find, among other things, considerations for a scientifically experimental photographic practice in which a kind of vector graphic is created by means of direct transfer of light dots onto photographic plates

Herbert W. Franke: Oszillograms (series 1954-58)

Franke’s entire oeuvre, bridging the gap between science and art, is in the tradition of the Vienna Circle. He studied theoretical physics in Vienna at the former chair of Ludwig Boltzmann. He took his philosophical viva, which was required at the time at the University of Vienna for students of physics, with the science theorist Victor Kraft, himself still a member of this scientific circle, which in the first half of the 20th century shaped the world of thought in science far beyond the borders of Austria. It can be found in Franke’s artistic works as well as in the theoretical considerations of information aesthetics, and can also be recognized in his extensive literary work: with the critical examination of the field of tension of the individual on the one hand and with the state, society as well as the scientific-technological complex on the other.

At the Leopold Museum in Vienna, an example of a work from the series Oscillograms (1954-58) is on display. It was created with a self-built analog computer whose oscillations were visualized on an oscillograph and then photographed with a moving camera at open aperture. The oscillograms are thus among the earliest examples of algorithmic machine art by Herbert W. Franke.