Abstract- Maude Ligier

How Cybernetics Entered the World of Art? The Case of Nicolas Schöffer

At the beginning of the cognitive science period, Nicolas Schöffer (1912-92) promoted an art and technological culture founded on the burgeoning theories of Cybernetics. From the beginning of the 1950s onwards he elaborated a new artistic language - in which he introduces sensors, electronic brains and random programmes - transforming moving light sculptures into new media of visual, audiovisual and sound signals.
Aided by Norbert Wieners 1952 publication Cybernétique et société, Schöffer based his works on the theories of the man called ‘The Mozart of Mathematics’. Breaking with the traditional forms of artistic creation and directly inspired by the concepts of cybernetics, he defined entirely new foundations of programmable “open-ended works”, replacing the concept of the creator with that of the programmer.
But how could Schöffer, a classically trained artist, acquire this scientific knowledge, and to what degree were these themes propagated in the post-war French artistic community? Schöffer surrounded himself with engineers, scientists and captains of industry in order to establish an art profoundly linked with scientific progress. He refined his vision by creating the NEOVISION movement, which in 1954 gathered together spatial engineer Stephen Gilbert, painter Constant Nieuwenhuys, architect Claude Parent, composer Pierre Henry, engineer Jacques Bureau and art critic Guy Habasque.
The place that Schöffer held in the forefront of the kinetic art movement - created at the frontier between the 'ars machina' and the 'ars electronica' - defines the birth of numerical art. It seems therefore indispensable to reflect on the interdisciplinary exchanges that allowed a link to be established between the technological interface and the work of art, making the dialogue between man and the machine both necessary and possible.