HEINRICH HEIDERSBERGER | BERLIN
EXPANDED.ART is pleased to present the solo exhibition ESCAPE THE DARKNESS. RHYTHMOGRAMS, 1953–1965 by Heinrich Heidersberger in collaboration with the Institute Heidersberger. On view will be a selection of RHYTHMOGRAMS the artist has created since the early 1950s using a self-built drawing machine. He had an influence on the history of generative photography and algorithmic art with his RHYTHMOGRAMS which are, among others, in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and influenced contemporaries such as Jean Cocteau and Herbert W. Franke.
In 1962, Jean Cocteau, the French poet, artist, critic, and one of the foremost voices of the surrealist, avant-garde, and Dadaist movements, wrote a letter to Heidersberger.
"Heidersberger’s admirable RHYTHMOGRAMS are proof that chance does not exist for the poets. Or better yet, give it a different name.
The link of man and machine seems to be a sign of our time.
Looking at these frozen oscillations, mysterious as the disguise of animals or plants, one can ask if not an enormous cosmic act influences our artist and brings us a music of silence in his work, a silence that is nothing but a sequence of notes that our imperfect ear cannot perceive.
I want to compare Heidersberger’s ouevre with the rebellion of an insect or a flower, tired of observing the laws of their kind. It happens that spiders change the structure of their nets under the influence of drugs and threads become dangerous snares.
Let’s admire even if we cannot understand! That’s the only way to escape the darkness of the cartesian philosophy."
– Jean Cocteau, 1962
At the same time as Heidersberger did contract work for well-known architects of the Braunschweig School, who appreciated his use of light and the lens in particular, he also began to experiment with luminography—the recording of a source of light in motion—at the beginning of the 1950s. He was fascinated by the idea of letting light itself become the object.
The invitation in 1955 to create a mural for the newly constructed School of Engineering in Wolfenbüttel was a welcome occasion for Heidersberger to become more involved with luminography. He began to build a device that he could use to record traces of light directly on photographic material. The artist named the pictures he created RHYTHMOGRAMS and continued to pursue his experiments with great enthusiasm. The name he chose was the first indication of the uniqueness of his results.
The RHYTHMOGRAPH, as Heidersberger called his device, was redesigned several times and perfected. The larger version, which was made of conventional scaffolding, still stands fully functional in the exhibition room of the Heidersberger Institute today and takes up close to twenty square meters of floor space. Using four harmonically muffled pendulums, it creates traces of light on photographic material via a mechanically linked mirror and a point source of light. Three-dimensional images are produced by controlling the frequency, phase difference, amplitude, and transmission of the pendulums—two drive the mirror vertically and two horizontally.
Different from the constructive work of his contemporaries, who were following similar ambitions, Heidersberger's light images have a three-dimensional aspect and also include coincidence as a principle in their design. Heidersberger found the inspiration for the multi-dimensional solution in reading a book on PHYSICS IN GRAPHICAL PICTURES. There he discovered the figures of the physicist Jules Antoine Lissajous, and they challenged him to get similar results in photography. From that time on, he called these pictures RHYTHMOGRAMS.
With each structural alteration, the machine became more complex, and its use became more skilled and effortless at the same time. By extinguishing the light for a short period of time, for example, Heidersberger discovered new traces and also began to work on the negatives. As a result of inversion, multiple exposures, and sectioning that led to extensive compositions and solarizations, he created a completely new picture language.
His 'machine', as he liked to call it, was paramount to the synthesis of his artistic and scientific interests and still commands an imposing presence in the Wolfsburg Castle today.
In addition to the personal interests described here, the RHYTHMOGRAMS must also be viewed in their contemporary context. They were very topical at the time of their creation. If we call to mind Applied art—exemplified by wire and wicker furniture—in the decades after the war or the graphics at that time, the parallels are striking. Heidersberger had his finger on the pulse of the age.
From 1956 to 1968, for example, a RHYTHMOGRAM was used as the broadcasting symbol of the Südwestfunk Baden-Baden, a regional German television station. Some say that the old national evening news logo was produced by him, a rumor that has not been substantiated to date. In addition, one of Heidersberger's light images received the silver medal at the 11th Triennale di Milano, a very important international exhibition of applied art and architecture at that time.
Contemporaries perceived the works as an adequate expression of modern living conditions: "[a rhythmogram] is able to put space-time relationships into a picture chronographically, lending a temporal process to the elements of space and quantity to produce a great metaphor of our newly won physical view of the world, in which space and time merge to form a uniform continuum at the speed of light." Such comments as this made by Lufft breathe the spirit of the 20th century and underscore once again the fact that Heidersberger is a representative of the modern arts.
HEINRICH HEIDERSBERGER: ESPACE THE DARKNESS. RHYTHMOGRAMS, 1953-1965
29 AUGUST - 9 SEPTEMBER 2023
OPENING: 29 AUGUST 2023 | 6-9 PM CEST
Friedrichstraße 67, 10117 Berlin
Monday - Saturday: 11 AM - 6 PM CET