Physics, art and science fiction: mourning the loss of an erudite

Herbert W. Franke died
Physics, art and science fiction: mourning the loss of an erudite

Author: Cordula Dieckmann, dpa

Art and computers are no longer opposites today, also thanks to Herbert W. Franke, who became creative with the help of technology several decades ago. In addition, he was a science fiction writer, researcher, physicist, and more. Many mourn his death.

Herbert W. Franke described himself as a “computer art dinosaur”.

(Photo: Herbert W. Franke website

While technology has long overwhelmed others in retirement age, Herbert W. Franke was still involved in the NFT hype at 95. He published 100 such non-convertible tokens or digital certificates of authenticity on June 1 for works of art in his “Math Art” series – and sold them within 30 seconds. Success, like many things in the life of an outstanding scientist and computer artist from Austria, who died on July 16, 2022 in a foster home in Upper Bavaria in Egling (Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen district), a few weeks after his 95th birthday on May 14, she announced on Twitter, his wife Susanne Päch.

“The term polymathologist is rarely used – Herbert W. Franke was one of them,” Austrian Secretary of State for Culture Andrea Mayer (Greens) paid tribute to the deceased. “He combined physical, mathematical, philosophical and chemical knowledge and was ahead of his time in many ways.” In 1979 he was also one of the co-founders of the Ars Electronica festival. In 2007, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Culture awarded him with the Austrian Honorary Cross in the field of Science and Arts, 1st class.

Pioneer of computer art

Indeed, Franke’s talents varied widely. After graduating from high school in his native Vienna, he studied physics, chemistry and mathematics, with juvenile psychology and philosophy. He wrote science fiction books, conducted research in the field of electrical engineering, was fascinated by artificial intelligence, lectured, among others, at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He was also fascinated by the exploration of caves and the dating of stalactites.

Along with all science, he was considered a pioneer of computer art and graphics. “Technology is usually neglected as an element hostile to art. I want to prove that it is not so, that it opens up even an unimaginable new artistic territory for us, ”wrote Franke in 1957 in his book Art and Construction. A kind of leitmotif for the curious who experimented with photography early and created works of art using computers. In 1970, he was even at the Venice Biennale with screen printing.

Departure into endless spaces

In fact, it was obvious that Franke wasn’t happy with the real world anymore. So he entered the virtual kingdoms and was soon recognized as the founder of the Metaverse, a collective digital space. Here in the late 2000s, together with his wife Susanne, he opened the Z-Galaxy on the Active Worlds platform, a three-dimensional exhibition space with his, but also others’ works.

In 2010, Franke described his fascination with these worlds in his book “Die Zukunftsmaschine” with science fiction stories: “There are fantastic possibilities for art, thanks to which the artist becomes a creator who, if he wants to, in addition to landscapes and architecture, also changes basic physical laws. He creates worlds in which he levitates weightlessly, becomes invisible or passes through walls – and he can take the audience into these worlds. “

In 2017, he handed over to the Arts and Media Center in Karlsruhe huge amounts of documents, books, sketches, letters, photos, sound and image recordings, and radio plays. A legacy of a successful life that Franke treated with slight irony, as suggested by his wife’s tweet on her husband’s account after his death: “Herbert liked to call himself a computer art dinosaur,” wrote Päch. The wit, coupled with the sharp tongue, is also reflected in his poems, for example in the two-line Geist: “Whoever has the spirit makes use of it. Those who don’t usually try to do this.

(ID: 48482900)

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