Nicolas Schöffer

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Nicolas Schoeffer Chronos 10B 1980 Europaeisches Patentamt Muenchen-3

Nicolas Schöffer (September 6, 1912 — January 8, 1992) was a Hungarian-born French artist. He can be considered as the father of cybernetic art.


  • A homeostat constantly seeks to establish a balance which is perpetually disrupted, and performs a statistical exploration of all the possible combinations of inputs.
The actual research on the apparatus is guided by a triple determinism which integrates:
  1. . one element of uncertainty created by an "indifferent cell," which systematically makes use of chance;
  2. . one element of "sensorial reactions" which integrates the effects of the sound atmosphere, of the light atmosphere and of the heat atmosphere;
  3. . an "internal determinism" created by the feedbacks of the various active chains among one another, in order to liberate the machine progressively. Its degree of liberty can easily be modified.
The objective sought is above all of an experimental order. As for electronic animals, the synthesis of the faculties must be effected very gradually, and the behavior of the "models" man makes of himself must be observed. This exploration by the "models" of physiology, psychology and sociology marks the opening of a new path in research.
  • Aesthetic hygiene is necessary for collective societies, for any social group residing together on a large scale. How? By programming environments that obey rigorous aesthetic criteria. Each time the inhabitant walks around in the city, he must bathe in a climate that creates in him a specific feeling of well-being, invoked by the massive presence of aesthetic products in the environment,

Quotes about Nicolas Schöffer[edit]

  • As was the case with other artists, Norbert Wiener's "Cybernetics," published in 1948, was to have great significance for the work of Nicolas Schöffer. On reading it he made his first acquaintance with the science in the making, and he was later to incorporate cybernetic concepts in several of his most interesting works. Schoffer's application of cybernetics — which Wiener defined as "control and communication in the animal and the machine"-postulated that the behaviour of a mobile sculpture would be influenced by the behaviour of the spectator and by the environment in accordance with a fixed pattern and this would in turn influence the spectator.
    • Bo Cronqvist. "Nicolas Schöffer's Cybernetic Tower-Sculptures," in: Aris (1969), p. 69
  • Nicolas Schöffer (1912–1992) formulated his idea of a kinetic art that was not only active and reactive, like the work of his contemporaries, but also autonomous and proactive, in Paris in the 1950s. He developed sculptural concepts he called Spatiodynamism (1948).
    • Phil Husbands, ‎Owen Holland, ‎Michael Wheeler (2008). The Mechanical Mind in History, p. 265
  • In the late 1950s, experiments such as the cybernetic sculptures of Nicolas Schöffer or the programmatic music compositions of John Cage and Iannis Xenakis transposed systems theory from the sciences to the arts. By the 1960s, artists as diverse as Roy Ascott, Hans Haacke, Robert Morris, Sonia Sheridan, and Stephen Willats were breaking with accepted aesthetics to embrace open systems that emphasized organism over mechanism, dynamic processes of interaction among elements, and the observer’s role as an inextricable part of the system. Jack Burnham’s 1968 Artforum essay “Systems Aesthetics” and his 1970 “Software” exhibition marked the high point of systems-based art until its resurgence in the changed conditions of the twenty-first century.

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