Magazine article Artforum International

Manfred Mohr: BITFORMS GALLERY

Magazine article Artforum International

Manfred Mohr: BITFORMS GALLERY

Article excerpt

Though he is one of the pioneers of digital art, Manfred Mohr has remained on the margins of its histories. This compact exhibition--a retrospective in nuce--goes some way in bringing him to the fore. Roughly forty years have passed since "Une esthetique programmee" (A Programmed Aesthetic)," 1971, Mohr's landmark exhibition of computer-generated art. Held at the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the show featured a magnetic tape drive and computer plotter machine--programmed by Mohr--that executed algorithmically determined drawings in real time. Long before the computer had been rendered personal, Mohr's practice wrested it to new ends.

"What do you think about aesthetic research carried out with the aid of a computer?" prompted a large placard installed in that show, on which viewers were encouraged to record their reactions. The palimpsest of witticisms and quips (on view here) ranges from the bemused to the outraged. The transformation of the French query--"Que pensez-vous de la recherche esthetique faite a l'aide d'un(e) ordina(i)teur(e)--speaks volumes in its own right; if no rendering in Knglish quite translates the mordant elision of ordinateur (computer) to ordinaire (ordinary), the curt crossing-out of "aesthetic" gets the point across. The puns and proclamations are not all negative, however; they register everything from apprehension at the prospect of the human's eclipse to neo-Dada salvos welcoming the perceived de-skilling entailed in Mohr's work. Like many of these statements, the panel's frayed, sprocket-hole-riddled computer paper--a material that decades ago seemed coldly, even threateningly, official--appears quaint with the patina of the outmoded.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

This sprawling register provided an auspicious touchstone for the work on display, from Mohr's early sequential line drawings to his hypercube and graph-theory work to more recent experiments using pigment ink and LCD. In a divided room tightly packed but not cluttered, the scope of media and materials was nothing less than stunning: plotter drawings, etchings, lithographs, collage, sculpture, computer installation, laser-cut steel sculptures, silk screens, and--rounding things out--a few canvases in acrylic. That one of the earliest works on display should be a tempera painting--Schriftbild, 1964--seemed fitting. Its gestural improvisations suggest a kind of exorcism of the spontaneity that, in Mohr's subsequent efforts, seems to have been absented entirely. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.