Science Artist

The apple does not fall far from the tree, but it is always a unique apple.

My father was an epistemologist, a very successful anthropological management consultant, who relentlessly tested his theses on me as a child by rehearsing his upcoming lectures with me during walks. This made me aware of my brain at a very young age and I began to look outward as much as inward.

Having started school at the age of 5, always the youngest in the class, my circle of friends was very, very manageable, and it has remained that way to this day. What do you do then as an adolescent?

I began to browse the non-fiction sections of bookstores and libraries in Munich and found a lot of things I didn’t understand, which is exactly why I read them. At 17, I graduated from high school and began to study biology and physics in order to pursue my core interest further and more academically, at which time my interest developed first in Einstein’s theories and then in the exciting, counter-intuitive results from quantum physics.

In 1980 I discovered the Gödel Escher Bach book by Douglas Hofstadter in the original English version and it laid the foundation for my attempt to create my own conscious world view from all the building blocks, which I am still working on today. Hofstadter was concerned, among other things, with the question of how it can be possible for a physical brain to develop something like a conception of the self or a soul (the ego), a sense of consciousness.One of the questions was whether it is possible within a system to have the overview to judge about the system, or to grasp it entirely.Another question involved the area of self-reference, which basically means reverse neural flow direction or excitation conduction.

I was by then a self-taught programmer, or what you might call it at that early stage. I understood how computers worked and how fragile working with them was.At that time, “debugging”, finding and fixing bugs was very tedious, but led to a way of looking at things that is unfortunately still common today, that you can get to the bottom of bugs and thus find and correct them. I don’t see it as that simple now.

From my understanding of man-machine cooperation I developed a very early music composition program called “OSCOMP”, the debugging described above took a lot of time and effort, the improvement under the few commands available and above all very limited memory was a mammoth task.

The results of the resulting computer-generated musical composition were primitive from today’s perspective, but challenging at the time and a glimpse into a future that is now, 40 years later, rapidly unfolding.

I was increasingly fascinated by the idea of discovering the machine mind, starting “generative” creative processes, and using them to create works. Through a little booklet I bought as a teenager in what was then the GDR, it was clear to me that the best way to solve the tasks at hand was through sub-units that somehow worked together. Like a team of developers, in automata theory they were called “agents”. Marvin Minsky from MIT thought through this direction with his “agent” system and published “Mentopolis” in the 90s, which sounded familiar to me and spoke from the soul, but for the first time it clearly formulated and classified everything.

The whole topic about automata, agents or the first neural networks developed tangibly slowly, it seemed to take an infinite amount of time and became a side task for me.

At that time, I was not convinced that intelligent automatisms or networks would play a role in my lifetime, or at least in my professional lifetime, and I was right for many years. About 20 years ago, however, the scene began to pick up speed. First slowly, then faster, then rapidly, and today breathtakingly fast.

When I finished my professional life in 2014 and dedicated myself exclusively to private art, I could observe that more and more papers (publications) on the subject came in through my channels from research and science. One knows today that the Pandora’s box was opened at the latest with the software/hardware combination DeepBlue, which beat Gary Kasparov in chess. It became significant for me with AlphaGo and the later approach of not memorizing the games and forming patterns from them, but rather mastering the rules of the game and playing millions of games against yourself to get better and better. Machine learning was now possible on standard PCs on a small scale.

The breakthrough that was perceptible to the public then came around 2021 with imaging artificial intelligences (AIs) such as Dall-E and around 2022 with text AIs such as ChatGPT.Before that, there were many intermediate steps and now not a day goes by without new sensational news in the field.

In the 1980s I worked for a while with the probably first “intelligent” computer language LISP, calculated swarm simulations with it in computer animation with software of the company Symbolics. Again and again, intelligent automation touched my life and professional career.I followed the results and findings, but they were hardly usable in my professional environment. When I developed my “FaceTracker” in 1994, I tried to use neural networks to track facial movements, but they were far too cumbersome and slow, so I resorted to assembler, the fastest and very machine-oriented programming at the time. With the soccer robots I developed and distributed in research robotics around the year 2010, things picked up again, here it became increasingly necessary to get as clear a picture as possible of the ball and its position or movement, then of the field, the direction of the goal, and possibly even of other players. The results were now getting better, more reliable and running on smaller computers.

In 2017 I applied the strongly hallucinating Google software DeepDream for the first time, a TV image of the last flight of AIRBERLIN, dreamed the future, testifies to it.

In 2021 I started with my “scenographies”, the AI supported scenic images, which I create until today (2023). At that time I used the rather stubborn software Disco Diffusion on cloud servers from Google. That became far too expensive in a short time, so I configured a home AI machine and became independent of purchased computing time from Google.I was also able to install AI software on my computer, since then I work offline from the net, meanwhile using Stable Diffusion.

In my works I try to present questions of our world in a new way and make them experienceable, like an immersive observation.I have been doing this for many years already in installation art. There is a concept behind all my works, nothing is improvised. That’s why I take my cue from the great role models in conceptual art and have studied them intensively to get to the bottom of their way of thinking. Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, Steve Reich, René Magritte, Marcel Duchamp, Ryoji Ikeda immediately come to mind and many more. Each one has broadened my horizons for me and sharpened my view of the world and of art.

My methods to express and create art almost always spring from modern technologies, science. My representation is not on the canvas with paint, but with apparatus and electronics, with light and sound, with steam and ice.

It is science art to which I feel I belong and in which I work. I’m going to let an AI (ChatGPT) talk about science art now:

Science Art (Science Art) is a relatively new genre in art that deals with the combination of science and art. It emerged in the 1960s and since then has become a part of the art scene that has not received much attention, but is important to me. The origin of Science Art lies in scientific visualization, which emerged as early as the 18th century. The few actively working Science Art artists used new technologies to transform scientific concepts and data into artistic works. This has resulted in a variety of impressive artworks that show the beauty and complexity of science in a striking way. Science art thus offers new opportunities for society.

On the other hand, Science Art can help to increase the comprehensibility and accessibility of scientific concepts. Science Art also has a high value for society. It can help strengthen the relationship between science and art and increase understanding of the importance and role of science in our daily lives. In addition, Science Art can contribute to the promotion of creative thinking and the development of new ideas, which can be of great benefit to society as a whole. It is an exciting and dynamic genre that is constantly evolving and offering new perspectives and ways of looking at things.

That’s perfectly fine but my view goes far beyond that. I don’t care about the proximity to an explanatory exhibit in a technology museum, that would only be a pleasant side effect.Such a point of view leads to the “playing” with my robot installations that I have experienced many times at my exhibitions. These are viewers who do not understand the depth of the installation. That is why the explanation and introduction to my work are very necessary.

I try here a better representation:

Science Art does not yet appear as a term but as “Intermedia” art first arranged systematically with other art movements by Dick Higgins in 1965, which he published in a very descriptive account.

The connection of science and art has always been nothing unusual, but it came to the fore only with special talents, take Leonardo da Vinci or Albrecht Dürer, up to Goethe and many others. The advantage of the connection of science and art, or art and science, is to remain in the realm of the sensory world, which is not possible in science alone, because it leads out of it.

Production techniques in art are described in detail, so an artistic work can be classified into an art form when viewed, such as painting, printing, sculpture, photography, digital art and many more. Furthermore, the work can then be assigned to an era and a style. These classifications allow the work to be classified in terms of craft, content, and time within the artistic creation, and thus provide the basis for a currently steadfast evaluation of its significance.

The more modern the art form used, the more imprecise the description becomes, since no fixed terminology has yet been formed here in the literature and, above all, in the minds of the viewers. Thus, media art, mixed-media art, installations, digital art and the like are blurred and sometimes misleading as classifications.

This also applies to the relatively new art form of science art just described. In most cases, the work itself is made of scientific materials, because this art form requires the scientific apparatus in order to formulate its message.

Here no pretty prepared scientific laboratory utensils are meant, but the artist usually makes use of technical aids from science and uses them to express his artistic idea (often also with scientific reference).

What for a painter is the canvas, is for the scientific artist the total object, the installation of his work. What for the painter are his colors and brushes, is for the scientific artist the technical apparatus, which he builds or takes from science, in order to produce with it the artistic statement. What the painter brings to the canvas with his means, with his craft and his talent, the science artist creates with his apparatus, his installation. This can be light, sound, fog, traces of bacteria and much more.

The technology is here only “painting means” not an end in itself. Often one sees in Science Art only technical or biological-chemical processes.

Here, the apparent effort and fascination of technical or laboratory apparatus is dazzled, modern charlatanry. Scientific phenomena that seem like a miracle to the observer, because the process is not known or seen through, are not art in themselves, but rather fairground effects. Just because something is miraculous does not mean I have to adore it. Phenomena in the sense of phenotypical as a form of appearance are not art.

Moreover, the use of technical-scientific means is not about the use of a supposed, often quoted authority of science. The concept of the “authority” of science and not of art is questionable. In my eyes, especially science is not constant, because science renews and overtakes itself continuously by new findings, whereas art can create timeless works that cannot be displaced by anything. Thus authority of science for the moment yes, authority of art for the duration also. They are equal to each other, each in its own way.

At the turn of the 19th to the 20th century science was already once a driver for the emergence of new art movements.

The discovery of relativity led to an opening of dimensions and the inclusion of time in art, the transparency of X-ray photography and the collapse of Euclidean geometry, Newton’s cause-and-effect principle and the hitherto simple calculation of space and time, all led to the opening of new horizons and unleashed the imagination of many artists worldwide. Marcel Duchamp presented his scandalous cubist oil painting “Nude Descending the Stairs”, in which he depicted several phases of a movement of a stylized body simultaneously (kinetic painting), as in the phase photography of Eadweard Muybridge. He was excluded from exhibitions and also attacked because of the title, because a nude has to be pleasingly at rest. Science inspired Picasso, Braque and him to the cubist representation of the motion sequence. This work cannot be understood without knowledge of science. In Duchamp’s work science was part of the content, in modern science it can be, but it does not have to be.

The question is whether science is represented with art, that would be too little for me, or whether art is created with science. It is the story that can be built and told with these scientific instruments. For this, as an artist and also as a viewer, you need another level of abstraction in the way you look at things.

As an artist, I develop a concept to design and shape the apparatus to be the best possible representation for the storytelling. The concept can only be developed from a deep understanding of the technical and sculptural relationships, the condensation to the essential message. This is comparable to the artistic high quality canvas painting, which consists of canvas and paint, but only becomes a masterpiece through craftsmanship with talent and all artistic skills.

I would be pleased if you can approach my works with this approach and perhaps discover something for yourself.