Frieder Nake


Frieder Nake, Dagstuhl 2001.

Born 1938-12-16 in Stuttgart, Germany.

Frieder Nake belongs to the founding fathers of (digital) computer art. He produced his first works in 1963. He first exhibited his drawings at Galerie Wendelin Niedlich in Stuttgart in November 1965. His early work was influenced by Max Bense’s Information Aesthetics. Until 1969, he went through a succession of increasingly complex programs, from machine language to PL/I. His main work phases are identified by the collection of programs, compArt ER56 (1963-65), Walk-through-raster (1966), Matrix multiplication (1967/68), Generative aesthetics I (1968/69). He declared not to continue producing computer art in 1971 when he published the note, There should be no computer art in page, the Bulletin of the Computer Arts Society. His reasons were mainly of political origin: He did not see how he could actively contribute to computer art and, at the same time, be a political activist against capitalism. He resumed publishing on computer art in the mid 1980s with the break-down of the radical left. With the start in 1999 of project »compArt: a space for computer art«, Nake returned to his roots as a theoretician, writer, creator, and teacher in the domain of digital art and way beyond. He is head of »compArt: Center of Excellence Digital Art«.

Frieder Nake has been a full professor of computer science at the University of Bremen, Germany, since 1972. Since 2005, he has also been teaching at the University of the Arts, Bremen. His teaching and research activities are in computer graphics, digital media, computer art, design of interactive systems, computational semiotics, and general theory of computing. Nake was represented at all important international exhibitions on computer art. He has published in all the areas mentioned above, with a preference for computer generated images.

“The drawings were not very exciting. But the »principle« was!“ (Nake 2004/2005).

Member of institution(s): DGP(Dynamic Graphics Project)
Part of artist groups(s): The Algorists
Hardware used: ER 56
Programming languages/software used: ALGOL ER 56 Machinecode FORTRAN

1938 born in Stuttgart, Germany.

1958 – 1964 Student of mathematics at the Technical University of Stuttgart, Germany. Graduation with the degree of a Diplom-Mathematiker (equivalent to an M.Sc.). During this time attending Max Bense’s lectures on philosophy, semiotics, and aesthetics.

1959 First encounter with a computer during an internship at IBM Germany, Computing Center in Böblingen.

1963 First computer drawings at Technical University of Stuttgart. The Computing Center (where Nake was hired as a research assistant) had ordered one of the first Drawing automata, the ZUSE Graphomat Z 64. Nake’s job was to develop the basic graphics software to connect the Graphomat to the Center’s SEL ER56 computer. His combined interests in probability theory, information aesthetics, and software merged in generating computer art.

1965 First exhibition of computer art, November 5 to 26; Computer-Grafik Programme at the Wendelin Niedlich Galerie in Stuttgart, together with Georg Nees.

1966 15 Jan. to 15 Feb., exhibition at Deutsches Rechenzentrum Darmstadt, with computer drawings by Nake, generative texts by Herd Stickel, and computer Music by Ben Deutschman, Lejaren Hiller, Max V. Matthews. This exhibition gained reactions from the national press. One report about it caused Otto Beckmann in Vienna to start his computer-supported work phase.
First prize of the computer art contest of the US magazine Computers and Automation for his drawing Komposition mit Quadraten (Verteilungen von elementaren Zeichen) (composition with squares – distributions of elementary signs).

1966-1972 Contributions to many exhibitions, both solo and group shows. Among these were the influential Cybernetic Serendipity, London 1968, Proposal for an Experimental Exhibition at Venice Biennale 1970, Tendencies4 & 5, Zagreb 1968-72. Several portfolios, with other artists and solo. The exhibition Geplanter Zufall at Galerie im Hause Behr in Stuttgart (22 Feb. to 20 March, 1967) ended abruptly on March 8: Everything burned down, but not the programs. End of work in computer art.

1967 Feb. 4, defense of doctoral thesis (Dr.rer.nat. in mathematics) at the Technical University of Stuttgart, Germany. Title of the dissertation: On the number of solutions of random systems of equations.

1968-1969 Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, Ont., Canada, invited by Leslie Mezei. Research in computer art and graphics.

1970 – 1972 Assistant Professor in computer science at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

Aug. 1972 Full Professor of computer science at University of Bremen, Germany. Research in computer graphics, digital media, computer art, interactive systems, computational semiotics, human-computer relations, and theory of computing science.

1988 etc. Visiting professor at University of Vienna (1988), University of Oslo (1995), University of Colorado at Boulder (1997, 1998), Northwest Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Xian, Shaanxi, China (2000), University of Aarhus, Denmark (2000, 02, 04, 05), International School of New Media at Lübeck (2003, 05, 06, 07), University of Basel (2007), Donau-University Krems (2007, 09), University of Costa Rica (2009).

1996-2001 Chief designer for three hypermedia installations including virtual reconstructions of historic sites, on display in the Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum, Hannover, and the Stadtmuseum, Delmenhorst, Germany.

1997 Award for excellence and innovation in teaching, University of Bremen.

1999 Start of project compArt: a space for computer art (with Susanne Grabowski and Matthias Krauß).

2004 Frieder Nake: Die präzisen Vergnügen, solo show at Kunsthalle Bremen (9 Nov. to 16 Jan., 2005). Retrospective of early works and new interactive installations (developed in cooperation with compArt and a group of students). This show went to ZKM Karlsruhe (18 Feb. to 10 April, 2005). International and national shows have followed since.

since 2005 Lecturer in Digital Media at the University of the Arts, Bremen.

2005 Several new versions of Walk-Through-Raster (with Matthias Krauß).

since 2007 Head of compArt: Centre of Excellence Digital Art, a project on the archaeology of digital art. Subprojects are a data base of (early) digital art, various interfaces to the data base, theory of images and art, and the Aesthetic Laboratory.

Frieder Nake lives and works in Bremen, Germany.

(Nake 2004)
(Adopted from Herzogenrath & Nierhoff-Wielk 2007:422-427)


Frieder Nake, Dagstuhl 2001.


Frieder Nake with Zuse Graphomat Z64 at computing centre Stuttgart 1966


Frieder Nake with his works of art, Stuttgart 1966


Frieder Nake, working on a program, Stuttgart 1966.


Aufschwung der Geometrie In frei, Falls Betrug abschwächt darauf dieser, möglich, ist besser, nicht lenkt dieser screen, derartige Art klopft L knipst progressions ab Gelegenheit zu Gelegenheit.

I am uncertain about the "subject" field above. Must I fill it out so that the comment is associated to the source it refers to?

The third image should have the following caption:
"Frieder Nake showing his work, The occasion is an auction by 40 Stuttgart artists in support of the Vietcong. Stuttgart Waldheim Gaisburg, 1966

The second caption should be:
"Frieder Nake with Zuse Graphomat Z64 at Computing Centre, University of Stuttgart, 1966"