Georg Nees

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Georg Nees (born 1926 in Nürnberg, Germany) is a pioneer of computer art, an honorary professor of computer science at the University of Erlangen, Germany.[1] Nees and his fellow pioneers Frieder Nake and A. Michael Noll have been called the "3N" of computer art.[2]


Nees began programming computers in 1959.[3] Circa 1965, while working at Siemens in Erlangen, Germany, he began writing programs in ALGOL that used random number generators to generate drawings automatically by controlling a Graphomat Z64, a primitive flat-bed pen plotter designed by Konrad Zuse.[3][4] In order to create this art, Nees also wrote some of the world's first graphics libraries, packages named G1, G2, and G3 that extended the ALGOL programming language by adding commands for controlling a plotter and generating random numbers.[5]

In Nees' work "Locken" (1965), the path of the plotter's pen follows a sequence of circular arcs whose lengths and radii are randomly generated, subject to the constraint that they remain within the rectangular frame; however, Nees intervened manually in the production of the artwork by determining when the image was complete.[6] Another piece, variously called "Schotter", "Gravel Stones", or "Cubic Disarray" and created by Nees between 1968 and 1971, depicts a transition from order to chaos: a regular grid of evenly-spaced squares at the top of the image is randomly turned and displaced until, at the bottom of the image, the grid is completely disrupted.[7][8][9][10][11]

Nees's artwork "Sculpture" (1968) was one of the world's first computer-generated sculptures; it was exhibited at the 1970 Venice Biennale[12]. It takes the form of a set of square indentations in a square wooden board, created by a computer-controlled automatic milling machine.[5][13] Some of Nees' works, including "Gravel Stones" and a two-dimensional pattern for "Sculpture", are in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.[11][14][15] A retrospective exhibition of his works was shown at ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany in 2006, in honor of his 80th birthday.[3]

Academic career[edit]

In 1968, Nees earned a Ph.D. from the University of Stuttgart under the supervision of Max Bense; his doctoral dissertation was the first to focus on computer art.[2][16] In 1977, he became honorary professor at the University of Erlangen.[17]



  1. ^ Faculty listing, Erlangen Computer Science Department, retrieved 2011-01-13.
  2. ^ a b "Ex Machina: Algorithmisches Flimmern", Der Standard, April 29, 2008 .
  3. ^ a b c Georg Nees – The Great Temptation: Early generative computer graphics, ZKM, retrieved 2011-01-13 .
  4. ^ Reichardt, Jasia (1971), Cybernetics, Art, and Ideas, New York Graphic Society, p. 60 .
  5. ^ a b Franke, H. W. (1971), "Computers and visual art", Leonardo 4 (4): 331–338, doi:10.2307/1572504, JSTOR 1572504 .
  6. ^ Schwab, Michael (2003), Early Computer Art and the Meaning of Information, pp. 11–12 .
  7. ^ Drucker, Johanna (2001), "Digital ontologies: the ideality of form in/and code storage—or—can graphesis challenge mathesis", Leonardo 34 (2): 141–145, doi:10.1162/002409401750184708, JSTOR 1577017 .
  8. ^ Krawczyk, Robert J. (2002), "A Shattered Perfection: Crafting a Virtual Sculpture", Sixth International Conference on Information Visualisation (IV'02), pp. 771–776, doi:10.1109/IV.2002.1028867 .
  9. ^ McManus, I. C. (2005), "Symmetry and asymmetry in aesthetics and the arts", European Review 13 (Supp. 2): 157–180, doi:10.1017/S1062798705000736 .
  10. ^ Meiller, Dieter (2010), Digital reconstruction of "Gravel Stones", .
  11. ^ a b Schotter, Victoria and Albert Museum, retrieved 2011-01-13.
  12. ^ Nierhoff-Wielk, Wulf (2007), Ex Machina – Frühe Computergrafik bis 1979, Deutscher Kunstverlag, p. 429, ISBN 3422066896 
  13. ^ Giloth, Copper; Pocock-Williams, Lynn (1990), "A Selected Chronology of Computer Art: Exhibitions, Publications, and Technology", Art Journal 49 (3): 283–297, doi:10.2307/777121, JSTOR 777121 .
  14. ^ Sculpture 1 (Plastik 1), Victoria and Albert Museum, retrieved 2011-01-13.
  15. ^ Works held by the Victoria and Albert Museum, retrieved 2011-01-13.
  16. ^ Nake, Frieder (2002), "Personal recollections of a distant beginning", in Candy, Linda; Edmonds, Ernest A., Explorations in art and technology, Springer-Verlag, pp. 6–7, ISBN 978-1-85233-545-8 .
  17. ^ Jahresbericht 2003 der Informatik, University of Erlangen, 2003, p. 6, Prof. Dr. G. Nees (Honorarprofessor seit 1977) .

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