The Ghost of Machines Pask


Gordon Pask (1928-1996) was a British renaissance man. The eminent scientist was an artist, engineer, and cultural organizer around whom a sphere of creative growth swirled and who was a key figure in the development of cybernetics, "the study of systems of communication, control mechanisms and feedback." The current exhibition at Vienna, Austria's Atelier Färbergasse (March 25-April 4), entitled "Pask Present," explores the ongoing influence of this luminary figure upon the fields of art and design. In some ways, the works selected are a touchstone for the growing field of contemporary robotics--ranging from simple and functional to outlandishly dramatic. But true to the field of cybernetics, each work offers commentary ranging from subtle to explicit on the relationship of consciousness to machines. Curators Richard Brown, Stephen Gage, and Ranulph Glanville offer "dancing robots which interpret viewers' expressions to decide on the most amusing routine, 'singing' sculptures which change the noises they produce depending on other sounds in the area around them and giant metal tentacles growing in electrified liquid." Participating artists include ArtStation, Richard Brown, Rob Davis & Usman Haque, Paula Friar, Gage & Leung, Ranulph Glanville, Ruairi Glynn, Omar Khan, Roman Kirschner, Harry Parr, Richard Roberts, and Rion Willard. "Pask Present" follows in the the footsteps of last year's "Maverick Machines" exhibit at the University of Edinburgh. It coincides with the 19th EMSCR Conference (European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research at the University of Vienna), where many of the artists are giving presentations, and it's a shame that it's up for such a short duration. Nevertheless, the organizers have posted a fair amount of documentation online and they have also published a catalogue, which can be ordered through the site. - Marisa Olson

Image: Paula Friar, Feedback Vessels, 2008