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Virtual Exhibition Z-Galaxy

The Z-Galaxy is an exhibition area by Herbert W. Franke on the Internet on the interactive platform of active worlds, which opened its doors on the Internet in 1995 and requires a separate browser to be downloaded for use. Unlike most other worlds on active worlds, the Z-Galaxy shows visitors, who can move through the world as an avatar, building structures and plants that were not put together from modular elements but were created with the help of mathematical structures. They show picture galleries and a sculpture park at the interface between art and maths. The Z-Galaxy was documented in a series of photographs.

Botanical garden with synthetic trees by Herbert W. Franke
Rolling Globe by Herbert W. Franke and Hoops and Rings by Derrick Woodhamodh
Crystal and gravity balls by Herbert W. Franke

Franke came into contact with active worlds through Professor Derrick Woodham, who taught at the University of Cincinnati before retiring, an artist friend in the USA who had set up a sculpture park on the platform with his art students. He invited Franke to design some sculptures for it, for which Franke was happy to develop works. He was fascinated by the possibilities of this virtual exhibition world and acquired his own piece of virtual land on active worlds in 2005. The Z-Galaxy was created there, where Z stands for “Zuse”, the German pioneer of computer technology.

View of the exhibition hall with pictures by the constructivist Eugen Roth
Hoops and Rings, a sculpture by Derrick Woodham
Hall with Hiroshi Kawano’s early computer art from the sixties

From 2005, the Z-Galaxy was initially conceived as an exhibition space for the artist’s own works. Since 2008, it has also featured works by invited artists and scientists, which were to be shown in the pavilions with changing exhibitions. However, the platform, which can claim to be by far the earliest 3D platform on the Internet, was not able to develop as successfully as second life, for example, which was only established in 2003 and experienced extreme hype in the short term. In the meantime, active worlds – like second life – has been transformed into an interactive gaming platform.

Franke’s work on the Z-Galaxy was dormant for several years and was partially destroyed by unauthorised access. However, the historical world of the Z-Galaxy was restored at the end of 2021 in a complex reconstruction process and has been accessible again since 2022. This was made possible thanks to the active support of Derrick Woodham, who deserves special thanks at this point. In addition to Franke’s own works, the exhibition includes works by some of Franke’s good friends such as space artist Andreas Nottebohm, abstract computer art by Hiroshi Kawano and Eugen Roth as well as sculptures by Derrick Woodham.

Unfortunately, the Z-Galay is currently offline, but is to be reconstructed in a future foundation project.