Frieder Nake | i |
last name: Nake
first name: Frieder
birthday: December 16, 1938
birth-place: Stuttgart (Germany)

Frieder Nake belongs to the founding fathers of digital or, better, algorithmic art, which was called “computer art” when it emerged in the first half of the 1960s. He produced his first works in 1963. He first exhibited his drawings at Galerie Wendelin Niedlich in Stuttgart from 5 to 26 of November, 1965.
His early work was influenced by Max Bense’s Information Aesthetics, an approach to the field of traditional aesthetics that was based on the mathematical concept of “information” as in the theory of Claude E. Shannon and others. From 1963 until 1969, he went through a succession of increasingly complex programs, using technical support from machine language via Fortran IV and Algol 60 to PL/I. His main work phases are identified by collections of programs called “compArt ER56” (1963-65), Walk-through-raster (1966), Matrix multiplication (1967/68), Generative aesthetics I (1968/69). He declared not to continue producing computer art in 1971 when he published a note under the title, There should be no computer art in page, the Bulletin of the Computer Arts Society. His reasons were mainly of political origin: He did not see how he could actively contribute to computer art and, at the same time, be a political activist against capitalism. He resumed publishing on computer art in the mid 1980s with the break-down of the radical left in Western Europe. With the start, in 1999, of his project »compArt: a space for computer art«, Nake returned to his roots as a theoretician, writer, creator, and teacher (and artist) in the domain of digital art and way beyond. He was head of »compArt: Center of Excellence Digital Art« until the end of this very lively and successful group on art, science, and technology (until 2016).

Frieder Nake has been a full professor of computer science at the University of Bremen, Germany, since 1972. From 2005 to 2019, he has also been teaching at the University of the Arts, Bremen. His teaching and research activities are in computer graphics, digital media, computer art, design of interactive systems, computational semiotics, and general theory of computing. Nake was represented at all important international exhibitions of early computer art. He has published in all the areas mentioned above, with a preference for computer generated images.

His position and approach may be characterized by the sightly ironic statement "The drawings were not very exciting. But the »principle« was!“ (Nake 2004/05). Or by, “Think the image, don’t make it.”


1938 born in Stuttgart, Germany.
1958 – 1964 Student of mathematics at the Technical University of Stuttgart, Germany. Graduation with the degree of a Diplom-Mathematiker (equivalent to an M.Sc.). During this time attending Max Bense’s lectures on philosophy, semiotics, and aesthetics.
1959 First encounter with a computer during an internship at IBM Germany, Computing Center in Böblingen.
1963 First computer drawings at Technical University of Stuttgart. The Computing Center (where Nake was hired as a research assistant) had ordered one of the first Drawing automata, the ZUSE Graphomat Z 64. Nake’s job was to develop the basic graphics software to connect the Graphomat to the Center’s SEL ER56 computer. His combined interests in probability theory, information aesthetics, and software merged in generating computer art.
1965 First exhibition of computer art, November 5 to 26; Computer-Grafik Programme at the Wendelin Niedlich Galerie in Stuttgart, together with Georg Nees.
1966 15 Jan. to 15 Feb., exhibition at Deutsches Rechenzentrum Darmstadt, with computer drawings by Nake, generative texts by Herd Stickel, and computer Music by Ben Deutschman, Lejaren Hiller, Max V. Matthews. This exhibition gained reactions from the national press. One report about it caused Otto Beckmann in Vienna to start his computer-supported work phase.
First prize of the computer art contest of the US magazine Computers and Automation for his drawing Komposition mit Quadraten (Verteilungen von elementaren Zeichen) (composition with squares – distributions of elementary signs).
1966-1972 Contributions to many exhibitions, both solo and group shows. Among these were the influential Cybernetic Serendipity, London 1968, Proposal for an Experimental Exhibition at Venice Biennale 1970, Tendencies4 & 5, Zagreb 1968-72. Several portfolios, with other artists and solo. The exhibition Geplanter Zufall at Galerie im Hause Behr in Stuttgart (22 Feb. to 20 March, 1967) ended abruptly on March 8: Everything burned down, but not the programs. End of work in computer art.
1967 Feb. 4, defense of doctoral thesis (Dr.rer.nat. in mathematics) at the Technical University of Stuttgart, Germany. Title of the dissertation: On the number of solutions of random systems of equations.
1968-1969 Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, Ont., Canada, invited by Leslie Mezei. Research in computer art and graphics.
1970 – 1972 Assistant Professor in computer science at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
Aug. 1972 Full Professor of computer science at University of Bremen, Germany. Research in computer graphics, digital media, computer art, interactive systems, computational semiotics, human-computer relations, and theory of computing science.
1988 etc. Visiting professor at University of Vienna (1988), University of Oslo (1995), University of Colorado at Boulder (1997, 1998), Northwest Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Xian, Shaanxi, China (2000), University of Aarhus, Denmark (2000, 02, 04, 05), International School of New Media at Lübeck (2003, 05, 06, 07), University of Basel (2007), Donau-University Krems (2007, 09), University of Costa Rica (2009).
1996-2001 Chief designer for three hypermedia installations including virtual reconstructions of historic sites, on display in the Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum, Hannover, and the Stadtmuseum, Delmenhorst, Germany.
1997 Award for excellence and innovation in teaching, University of Bremen.
1999 Start of project compArt: a space for computer art (with Susanne Grabowski and Matthias Krauß).
2004 Frieder Nake: Die präzisen Vergnügen, solo show at Kunsthalle Bremen (9 Nov. to 16 Jan., 2005). Retrospective of early works and new interactive installations (developed in cooperation with compArt and a group of students). This show went to ZKM Karlsruhe (18 Feb. to 10 April, 2005). International and national shows have followed since.
2005-2019 Lecturer in Digital Media at the University of the Arts, Bremen.
2005 Several new versions of the program Walk-Through-Raster (with Matthias Krauß).
2007-2016 Head of compArt: Centre of Excellence Digital Art, a project on the archaeology of digital art. Sub-Projects are this data base of (early) digital art, various interfaces to the data base, theory of images and art, and the Aesthetic Laboratory.
Artist Groups
Member of institutions
posted over 8 years ago
Hallo Herr Nake, ich habe sie letzten Sonntag im Radio gehört. Ich sehe es genauso wie sie mit den Patenten. Ich bin der Meinung, man sollte ein Patent beantragen und dann sollten trotzdem andere Firmen/Menschen weiter dran entwickeln. Wie sehen sie das? Mit freundlichem Gruß Thomas Lehmann
posted over 8 years ago
If you have a newsletter or something similar, please include me. I will send more in the future. Jay Hueser
posted about 4 years ago
Hello Frieder, I would like to talk to you about your art. Can you write me please at this adress:
posted over 3 years ago
Hello dear Frieder Nake, while following my interest to see your „Illustrations“ this information appeared instead: „ We're sorry, but something went wrong. We've been notified about this issue and we'll take a look at it shortly. (If you're the administrator of this website, then please read the log file "production.log" to find out what went wrong.)“ Please let me know in return, if/when the announced 5 Illustrations might be visited again.— Thank you )
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