About Herbert W. Franke

Herbert W. Franke is a scientist, writer and artist who has made major contributions to computer graphics and early digital art, both as an artist, theorist, and curator. In 1971 he wrote the first comprehensive history of computer art, Computergraphik-Computerkunst.

Exploring the work of a pioneer of digital art

On the occasion of the 95th birthday of media art pioneer Herbert W. Franke, OÖ Landes-Kultur GmbH is honouring his life and extraordinary work with an exhibition at the Francisco Carolinum Linz.

Herbert W. Franke is a pioneer in many worlds, a border crosser between art and science who made very early and decisive achievements in numerous disciplines. As a computer artist of the first hour, he first experimented with generative photography in 1952, but as early as 1954 he first used an analogue computer and then, from the 1960s onwards, the first mainframe computers for his abstract “algorithmic” art based on mathematical principles. In 1979 he was a co-founder of Ars Electronica and in the 2000s a mastermind of the metaverse, with his 3D world “Z-Galaxy”, built and operated with Susanne Päch, an area of changing exhibitions on the internet platform Active Worlds.

Franke’s writing career as well as his visual art work began at the end of the 1940s deep underground, in the caves of Europe. He explored numerous large caves in the Dachstein massif for the first time and remained internationally active into old age. As a theoretical physicist, he was not only concerned with the formation of dripstone caves, but also with questions of cybernetics and with processes of perception, which led to his rational theory of art. In addition to numerous technical and non-fiction books, he also wrote award-winning science fiction stories and novels.

His life and extensive oeuvre are based equally on the rationality of the researcher and the creativity of the artist. The exhibition Herbert W. Franke – Visionary is dedicated to this extraordinary bridge between art and science and the enormous power of imagination – from art to science fiction literature, from the beauty of mathematics to cave exploration.

Herbert W. Franke, Dance of the Electrons, photograph, 40 x 30 cm, 1961/62

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