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“Tribute to Herbert W. Franke”

Herbert W. Franke on May 14, 2022 in his last exhibition “VISIONARY” at the Francisco Carolinum Linz. Photo: FC Linz

From the 1950s until his death on July 16, 2022, Herbert W. Franke connected the worlds of science and art like no other researcher, writer and multimedia artist. The “Tribute to Herbert W. Franke” honors his life’s work with an unusual project involving some 80 artists – old and new friends – from around the world. The project was curated by the foundation’s chairman, science historian Susanne Päch, together with art critic and curator Anika Meier.

On the one hand, “old friends” were invited, i.e. long-time companions of Herbert W. Franke such as Vera Molnár, the grande dame of computer art, and Frieder Nake, pioneer of generative art. They donated physical works to the Franke & Friends Foundation Collection. They were joined by “new friends,” a young generation of crypto-art artists Franke met when he opened a Twitter account in March 2022. The account @HerbertWFranke counted 10,000 followers within only 24 hours. The Crypto artists now invited to the tribute, such as Kevin Abosh, Casey Reas or Deafbeef and Iskra Velitchkova, are among the best-known and most successful artists of this worldwide scene. They have created works for the project NFT, in which they reflect thoughts and ideas of Franke. They have been selling these works since October on different blockchains.  They donate a portion of these proceeds to the foundation.

These donations will be used by the art meets science – Foundation Herbert W. Franke for two projects with partner foundations:

ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe will receive €20,000 to digitize approximately 1,800 manuscripts from the Herbert W. Franke Archive over the course of 2023, making them publicly accessible. The archive has been located at the ZKM since 2017.

The second project is being realized together with the Rütgers Foundation. Starting in 2023, this will develop a curriculum with practical exercises in computer science and robotics for young people with schools in Namibia. The agreement for phase 1 for €50,000 was concluded in December. For Franke and the foundation, the project, which is scheduled to run for several years, supports important components of current education: Imparting knowledge about digital technologies through playful, creative experiences in the classroom.

“I am very pleased that, with these two collaborations in 2023, we will be launching the first two projects of our young foundation,” says foundation founder Susanne Päch, looking ahead to the new year.

As early as 1957, Franke presented the idea that technologies open up “new territory previously unknown to art” in his book Art and Construction (published by Bruckmann). Since that time, Franke has explored this new territory ever more deeply with analytical methods and various machines. Starting in 1953, he experimented with generative photography, used an analog computer starting in 1954, and since the sixties generated dynamic art many times on very different computer systems. Franke was not only a visionary of digital art, however, but also of the metaverse, which he invented as early as the 1960s in his utopian science fiction stories, before he pioneered this development in the 2000s with Z-Galaxy, a three-dimensional exhibition world built on the Active Worlds platform.

Since the beginning of his artistic work in the 1950s, Franke regarded mathematics as the basis of visual art. For him, the algorithmic code formed the experimental heart of every artistic process. He saw the artist as an analytical creator who creates forms and structures with the help of mathematical methods. He gave the computer, which he saw as a “universal art machine” in the role of a partner, the task of modulating these mathematical principles and also using elements of chance.

Franke was not, however, a mere technology optimist. Rather, he also dealt analytically and rationally with the various opportunities and potential dangers in the field of tension between science and technologies or society and the individual. These thoughts are at the heart of his utopian novels and stories, which have won numerous awards.

art meets science – Foundation Herbert W. Franke was officially founded in August 2022. It was initiated in the spring of 2022 by Herbert W. Franke and his wife Susanne Päch. The foundation promotes connections between art and science with publications and exhibitions as well as by supporting projects in science and art.

Longtime companions and friends of Franke
Jürgen Claus, Thomas Franke, Hein Gravenhorst, Heinrich und Benjamin Heidersberger, Karl Martin Holzhaeuser, Gottfried Jaeger, Edgar Knoop, William Kolomyjec, Josef Linschinger, Tomislav Mikulic, Vera Molnár, Frieder Nake, Sylvia Roubaud, Mechthild Schmidt Feist, Reiner Schneeberger, Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau, Anne Spalter, T. Michael Stevens, Derrick Woodham.

New friends
Kevin Abosch, Agoria, Kim Asendorf, Justin Aversano, Loren Bednar, Ryan Bell, Christian Bök, Ana Maria Caballero, Jonathan Chomko, Stefano Contiero, Sofia Crespo, Sterling Crispin, CryptoWiener, Jeff Davis, Brendan Dawes, 0xDeafbeef, Harm van den Dorpel, Figure31/Loucas Braconnier, Fingacode, Julien Gachadoat, John Gerrard, Gin, Eric de Giuli, Alexander Grasser, Andreas Gysin, Leander Herzog, Aleksandra Jovanić, Mario Klingemann, Jan Robert Leegte, Lawrence Lek, Anna Lucia, Jonas Lund, Maya Man, Tim Maxwell, Sarah Meyohas, Operator, P1xelboy, Aaron Penne, Phlins, Casey Reas, Sarah Ridgley, Manuel Rossner, Sylvia Roubaud, Rafaël Rozendaal, Rudxane, Helena Sarin, Marcel Schwittlick, Travess Smalley, Snowfro, Sam Solooki, Marcelo Soria-Rodriguez, Anne Spalter, T. Michael Stephens, Sasha Stiles, Ivona Tau, UBERMORGEN, Iskra Velitchkova, Whistlegraph, Emily Xie, Yazid, Harry Yeff & Trung Bao und Zancan.

All works and texts of the artists:

Press contact art meets science – Foundation Herbert W. Franke

Susanne Paech

Anika Meier