Hiroshi Kawano | i |
last name: Kawano
first name: Hiroshi
birthday: April 14, 1925
birth-place: Fushun (China)
death date: December 18, 2012
died in: Kobe (Japan)

Hiroshi Kawano was among the very first in the world who experimented with a computer to generate works that could enter the domain of visual art, and be accepted as such. His pioneering position is exceptional insofar as he approached the field of “digital art” from philosophy, i.e. neither from mathematics/engineering (like Nees, Noll, Nake) nor from fine art (like Csuri, Mohr, Molnar, or Cohen and others). (http://www03.zkm.de/kawano/)

In 1964, he published first designs that had been calculated at the University of Tokyo with the help of a digital computer: it was an OKITAC 5090A. These works were shown in Europe in 1968 at the Tendencies 4, Computers and Visual Research exhibition in Zagreb, most likely the first of Kawano’s participations at exhibitions.

At that time, Kawano was teaching aesthetics at the Metropolitan College of Air Technology. He developed his own programs to compute arrangements of colored, axis-aligned rectangles. He used the (line-printer) output of such calculations to realize colored images by hand. He had people to help him do this.

Kawano also experimented with texts, sculpture, and music.

Kawano says that Max Bense was an important source of inspiration for his algorithmic art. His approach was strongly influenced by cybernetics and Bense’s information aesthetics. (Kawano read, spoke, and wrote German. His archive, now at ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany, contains many of Bense’s publications.) He participated in the Tendencies 4 and 5 symposia and exhibitions at Zagreb, Croatia. He published many articles on the relation between aesthetics, art, and Artificial Intelligence. Theories of the mind as information processor have interested him greatly.

Kawano is one of the most important pioneers of computer art, with his first publication dated September 1964 (in Japanese in the IBM Review). In 2010 the Center for Art and Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany, acquired most of his works and his archive. A first retrospective exhibition was arranged at ZKM by curator Margit Rosen (from 24 Sept. 2011 to 8 Jan. 2012). http://on1.zkm.de/zkm/stories/storyReader$7106.

The materials now at ZKM comprise about 80 works of art, all his programs and studies, documents and audio recordings (literary and musical computer experiments), documentations of his exhibitions, correspondence with important protagonists from the heroic phase of computer art, all his publications, as well as a large collection of computer art and aesthetics publications from Japan, Europe, and the USA.

He donated these items to a museum in Germany to honor Max Bense for the inspiration from this philosopher and theoretician of aesthetics.

" … a computer artist should be a programmer who can teach his computer to produce works of art by itself, and furthermore know about the digital computing behavior of his computer in detail. It is never a computer artist, but a computer itself that produces works of art; a computer artist only helps his computer acting as a programmer.

… computer art should not be confused with a style or a school of the modern art using a computer as an innovative tool of an artist who has been tired of traditional techniques of art. As the latter usually seems to be called ‘computer art,’ I would like to call the former art of computer ‘art computer.’ "

Quoted from Artist and Computer


14 April 1925 Born in Fushun, China, to Japanese parents
1935 Family moves to Japan
1948-1951 Studies philosophy and aesthetics at University of Tokyo, graduates from the department of philosophy. Specialty: aesthetics
1951-1955 Graduate school, the University of Tokyo. Majoring in aesthetics, also philosophy of science
1955-1961 Research assistant at the Department of Aesthetics, University of Tokyo
1961-1972 Lecturer and Associate Professor at the Tokyo Metropolitan College of Air-Technology
1967 Max Bense visits Japan, lectures in Sendai, Hirosaki, Tokyo, where Kawano meets him at Waseda University
1968 Participates in exhibition of first Japanese computer art contest at Sankei building in Tokyo (initiated by Shigeru Watanabe)
1972-1988 Professor at the Metropolitan College of Technology, Tokyo
1986 Ph.D. from Osaka University (Computer and aesthetics: searching for the art of Artificial Intelligence, in Japanese, 1984 publ. as book)
1986-1990 Professor of Science of Art, Infprmation Science, and Computer Graphics at the Metropolitan Institute of Technology, Tokyo
1990-1994 Professor at the Nagano University
1994-1996 Professor at the Tohoku University of Art and Design
1995-2006 Lecturer of aesthetics at the Department of Philosophy, Nihon University
1997-2001 Visiting Professor, Tama Art University
1990 onwards Professor Emeritus, Metropolitan Institute of Technology
1996 onwards Professor Emeritus, Tohoku University of Art and Design
1968 First Japanese Computer Art Contest, Sankei Bldg, Tokyo.
1968 Nove Tendencije 4: Computers and Visual Research, Center za kulturu informacije, Zagreb.
1969 Nove Tendencije 4: Computer and Visual Research, Galerija suvremene umjetnosti, Zagreb.
1970 Solo show: Computer Art, Plaza DIC, Tokyo.
1973 Cybernetic ARTRIP: Computer Art Exhibition ’73, Sony Bldg, Tokyo.
1974 Computer Art Exhibition ’74, Sony Bldg, Tokyo.
1975 Computer Art Exhibition ’75, Sony Bldg, Tokyo.
1976 NCC ’76 Exhibition, Rhinelander Gallery, New York Hilton, NYC.
1985 Künstliche Kunst, Siemens Museum, München.
2000 I am Still Alive, PM gallery, Zagreb.
2006 20th Century Computer Art: Beginnings and Developments, Tama Art University Museum, Tokyo .
2007 bit international, [Nove] tendencije – Computers and Visual Research, Zagreb 1961-1973, Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz, Austria.
2008 bit international, [Nove] tendencije – Computers and Visual Research, Zagreb 1961-1973, ZKM, Karlsruhe.
2009 Best of Digital Art, DAM Berlin.
2011-2012 Hiroshi Kawano – Der Philosoph am Computer, ZKM, Karlsruhe, September 24th, 2011- January 8th, 2012.
1950s Studies of semiotic aesthetics (Susan Langer, Charles Morris)
1960s Analytic Aesthetics and Information Aesthetics (Max Bense, Abraham A. Moles). – Computer Art Experiments: Markov chains for picture production. Tanka (Japanese 31 letter poem) production by Markov chains and generative grammars
1970s Picture production by PDL (Picture Descriptive Language). – Music composition and performance experiments. Theoretical Research for Post-Markov model. Chomsky’s Generative Grammar and PDL. Artificial Intelligence
1980s Theoretical Research for Post-AI. The Society of Mind Theory (Marvin Minsky, Seymour Papert and others). The Frame Theory of semantics and pragmatics. KSOM (Kawano Society of Mind) by LOGO. DORAEMON: Pragmatic Frame Programming
1990s Theoretical Research: from sequencial to parallel computation. Folk theory for post-computational aesthetics
2000s New Paradigm for Art Revolution — parallel distributed processing aesthesis and art. Physical and mathematical foundations of the New Aesthetics.
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