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Manfred Mohr - Computer Graphics, Une Esthétique Programmée, ARC - Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (MAM/ARC) 1971

Layout and Detailed History of the Exhibition, May 11 - June 6, 1971

click to enlarge

Some details about the exhibition as I remember them.

  • The artist Ruth Francken, a friend and for whom I had designed and built the sound and electronics in her sculptures, spoke to Pierre Gaudibert (director of ARC) about my drawings generated and drawn by computer, which I had been doing since 1969.
  • He contacted me and I invited him to visit the National Meteorological Institute in Paris where I was using the computer (CDC 6400) and plotter (large Benson flatbed plotter 1284) to plot my drawings.
  • He was very interested and invited me to show my computer generated drawings at ARC.

People at the museum with whom I had contact during the show:
  • Pierre Gaudibert: Director of ARC and curator of my exhibition
  • André Berne-Joffroy: Art critic and curator of the Museum of Modern Art Paris, who was interested in novel projects of art. He wrote in the catalog.
  • Suzanne Pagé: Assistant of Pierre Gaudibert at ARC at that time. She later became director of ARC, then director of the Museum of Modern Art Paris, and then artistic director of the Fondation Louis Vutton.
  • Employers of the museum helped me to install the exhibition.

  • Animation-Recherche-Confrontation (ARC) at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris - now abbreviated MAM/ARC
  • ARC had exhibitions of the most contemporary and experimental art work at the time.
  • There were several one person shows at ARC at a time, each with its own space and invitation, when I exhibited there. The four other artists who had one-person exhibitions at ARC at the same time as I did: Ruth Francken, Jiri Kolar, Jean Rustin, Tisserand.
  • From the official pages of Paris Musées:

The Location:
  • ARC was located on the lower level of the museum at that time - see diagram above
  • The left side of the staircase entered into the ARC exhibition spaces.
  • The right staircase was separated by a wall from the ARC space and entered into the rooms which were part of the Museum of Modern Art.
  • My space was the room at the bottom of the left staircase.
  • The space was large enough to accommodate the large Benson flatbed plotter (more than 800 Kilos) and the magnetic tape drive connected to it. The tape drive sent the data generated from my programs to the plotter. The plotter and tape drive were placed at one end of the room.
  • There was a very long wall where I hung all (or almost all) of the computer-generated plotter drawings shown in the catalog.
  • The panel was hung on the wall of the staircase (opposite the long wall), with two catalogs hanging from either side.
  • There was a door on the left of the long wall which was the passage to the other ARC exhibitions.

The Drawings:
  • Mr Gaudibert and I decided which drawings to display in the exhibition. These were all or almost all of the drawings which were in the catalog (20+ drawings).
  • The drawings were mounted between 2 sheets of glass, held together by four clips, and hung with a nylon thread.
  • They were hung on the long wall opposite the staircase.
  • The drawings were generated on the equipment at the Meteorological Institute. I used the the CDC 6400 computer into which I fed punched (Hollerith) cards on which I had typed my computer programs that I had written in Fortran IV. The results were written on magnetic tape and then plotted on the large flatbed Benson plotter with black ink on white paper.

The Flatbed Plotter and Magnetic Tape Drive:
  • At one point I suggested to Mr Gaudibert that maybe we could get Benson to loan us a plotter for the exhibition. Mr Gaudibert was very enthusiastic about that. I contacted the director of Benson (in Montreuil) Mr Mourier and with an official letter from the museum, they agreed to install the equipment during the show.
  • I plotted on the plotter at the opening and for 2 hours a day thereafter, 3-5 PM in the afternoon.
  • The plotter received its information from a tape mounted on a magnetic tape drive. At that time, 1971, computers were so large that they required special air-conditioned rooms. Plotting was relatively very slow with respect to the calculations. Thus plotting was done off-line. The computer wrote the data on a magnetic tape and a second magnetic tape drive was connected to the graphic screen or plotter to render the data.
  • A rapidograph pen filled with ink was placed into the holder on the plotter to plot the drawings.

The Panel:
  • At the last minute while installing the show, I decided to put the panel up since there was a wall on the side of the staircase covered in burlap which wasn't suitable for hanging drawings.
  • The panel was like a guest book where people could write what they felt.
  • I got a piece of sprocketed plotter paper (3 feet by 9 1/4 feet) from Meteo which was used by the Benson technicians to test the flatbed plotter.
  • On this paper, I wrote along the top "Que Pensez-Vous De La Recherche Esthetique Faite A L'Aide D'Un Ordinateur" ("What do you think of Esthetique Research Done with the Aid of a Computer"). My friend Raine Mürle, a graphics designer, saw the writing before the show and said my handwriting was inadequate. I gave him some drawing paper on which he wrote the title in large graphics letters. This we placed over my original lettering. The graphics paper, which was used for the title, was not long enough, thus it is in 4 parts. The panel itself is one long sheet of paper. This is how the panel was presented at the exhibition.
  • The panel was stapled to a board, which was then hung on the burlap wall.
  • Surprisingly, the panel was a big hit and many people wrote on it, in many languages.
  • The scribbling on the lower right, was done by a child in the arms of his father, one weekend during the exhibition. My wife saw this happening and asked him to stop.
  • The panel reflected the anxiety and aggressions about the computer at the time. It also reflected responses from people who were positive to my work.
  • Thus is has become an important document reflecting the dawn of the computer art era.
  • A photo of the panel was taken on the last day of the exhibition (with 2 examples of the catalog hanging on the sides). This photo was most likely taken by a professional photographer at the museum, at my request.
  • The photo of the panel and some closeups of it

The Catalog:
  • A catalog was made for the exhibition.
  • Mr Berne-Joffroy wanted to write an article for my catalog. I was introduced to him and he interviewed me for the article.
  • Two copies of the catalog were hung on the sides of the panel.
  • The catalog was sold at the bookstore in the museum during the show.
  • In the catalog, some of the images of the drawings were photographically reversed - white on black. This was done as a graphics design decision. All the drawings shown were black ink on white paper.
  • Catalog
  • Also a Poster was made for the exhibition.

Interaction with the Public:
  • A friend from my home town Pforzheim, Raine Mürle, came to the opening in Paris and took some photos of the people around the plotter - his wife, my wife, Pierre Barbaud, and me etc.
  • I plotted at the opening and every afternoon from 3 - 5 PM.
  • I prepared a demonstration plot with text and 5 small drawings. Most of the time I plotted this demonstration plot at the museum and gave them away to whomever wanted it.
  • Since I was plotting each day for a couple of hours, I took the opportunity to plot some of my new developing drawings. I would write the data for the drawings on magnetic tape and bring it to the museum the next day. A magnetic tape could have multiple drawings on it, each separated by end-of-file indicator.
  • The press came and wrote articles about the exhibition. The articles were from both the art world and the computer world, written in newspapers and magazines.
  • If I remember correctly the French Television (TF1 - information regionale) came to the museum and filmed the show. They had previously come to Meteo and filmed me there.
  • There were always lots of people who came to the exhibition. In fact, thousands of people saw the show.
  • There were people who watched me plotting who were very anxious and aggressive. They thought I was using a military instrument and insulted me.
  • In general, the young and the old loved to watch the plotting. The old because they had nothing to loose. The young because of their curiosity. It was some of the 30-year olds (just starting their career) who were the most aggressive. They saw the writing on the wall "COMPUTERS" and realized they would have to re-educated themselves.