Artist Interview
From the series Artificiata II (in collaboration with Estarose Wolfson)
Traces – capturing a history of n-dimensional rotations

pigment-ink on paper, 80cm x 80cm

Manfred Mohr, example from computer-generated real-time algorithmic animation, Artificiata II - traces, P2210, 2014-2015. 

P2210, 2014-2015
Artificiata II – traces, a computer-generated real-time algorithmic animation

P2200_4570, 2014-2015 is the visual representation of a computer algorithm generated from the Artificiata II program Traces – capturing the history of n-dimensional rotations. The solid, black background plays host to a thick white line that represents a rotated diagonal path of an n-dimensional hypercube. The color lines are a visual record of that rotation as it moves through the confines of the 2D rectangular space. This multiple-segmented line passes through a randomly selected dimension (between eleven and fifteen) with each change in direction. The horizontal lines move with the structure when the diagonal path (white line) is in slow motion (rotating in hyper-dimensional space and then projected into 2D), as seen in the computer animation of P2210, 2015. 

Manfred Mohr, example from computer-generated real-time algorithmic animation, Artificiata II - parity, P1680, 2014-2015. 

P1680, 2014-2015 is an algorithm animation created as part of Artificiata II. This particular work demonstrates the fracturing or breaking up of the diagonal path (black line) into even and odd numbered line segments. Created while using the Parity – Fracturing n-dimensional diagonal paths program, this work shows the attachment of the diagonal path to its horizontal lines.

ZS: Is there a particular reason why you’ve introduced color in some works and others remain black and white?
MM: Generally, I can say, there are things you can answer artistically with yes and no: black and white is therefore the strongest answer. Other ideas, which don’t show their complex content with black and white need a different approach. In 1999, the use of color became a necessity in my work in order to visualize the very high complexity of the spatial relationships in the hypercube. The only way to transmit this is to use random colors, as distinctions, for the generated space and forms: thus creating a visually more understandable artistic statement.
Artificiata is an investigation into the geometries of sound…the musical threads instruct and live on through his contemporary investigations (of Artificiata II) now exploring color and movement with animations that capture calculated journeys through multiple dimensions. They are flickering geometrics that may make mathematical sense but cannot quite be followed by the eye.” Longstreth, Helen. (2016, February 26) Musical Dimensions – Jagged Musical Scores Fall Apart and Come Together in Digital Art Pioneer Manfred Mohr’s new Solo Show at Carroll/Fletcher Gallery


In the late 60s Mohr published his first book, Artificiata. This would also be his last artwork drawn by hand. Artificiata II has come almost 50 years later and is based exclusively on algorithms calculated and drawn by computer. Artificiata, derived from the term “artificial sonata,” was once described as ‘visual-poetry’ where Artificiata II is often referred to as ‘visual-music’. In 2012, Mohr’s artwork animations began to visually resemble the flow of musical scores. This is not unusual given his background as musician.

ZS: What are the inspirations that lead to the development of the works? 
MM: My inspiration for Artificiata I and Artificiata II, is mostly from modern classical music and jazz. Since I was an active musician, I always imagine a visual music, i.e. a visual creation of lines and forms associated with a development in time.
ZS: Artificiata of 1969 is similar to Artificiata II, however Artificiata II is computer generated not hand-drawn. How was the experience as an artist different for you with each project?
MM: The first difference is that the two works are almost 50 years apart and therefore not really comparable. Drawing by hand was the way of expressing myself at that time. Integrating algorithms as my artistic expression changed my thinking and using a computer/plotter device to realize my work became my new way of expression. 

Manfred Mohr "P2210-B," 2015 iMac, metal case, custom software 25.6 x 17.8 x 4.4 in / 65 x 45 x 11 cm

The Artificiata II algorithm animations contain variations in speed and are often interrupted by still frames captured during animation. This provides a rhythm and cadence to the artwork; a musicality that transforms the 2D shapes. These complex works are created through intensely interwoven mathematical computations and developed as part of a collaboration between Mohr and computer scientist and mathematician, Estarose Wolfson. 

ZS: How did you meet Estarose Wolfson? What did it mean to collaborate with her on this project? How does the process traditionally work between you and your collaborator?
MM: We are married and met in Paris (France), in the fall of 1969, through common friends because of Estarose’s interest in art and my involvement in computer art. Estarose studied mathematics and worked all her live professionally in computer science. Since I write all my programs myself, I occasionally need some help in mathematical questions and she can give me pertinent advice. In regard to the screen based animations and our collaboration: There are several parts in creating screen based animations. First there is the artistic part, which I program myself. (The animation and the stills are created with the same program). Then there is the building of the hardware object and the software interface. You might not realize that both these parts are labor intensive. I do all the hardware implementation. I’ve designed and built computer myself in the past (nowadays there are easier off-the-self solutions). I still design the object and solve all physical hardware problems, of which there are many. Estarose’s contribution is helping me with the software implementation, which has to do with running my programs on a chosen platform for the art work. There are many problems to solve here. Every graphics card and operating system has different and new problems.

The influence of Mohr is clearly seen in the works of Joan Truckenbrod. She also created line drawings by developing computer programs in FORTRAN. Truckenbrod incorporated mathematical formulas that described natural phenomena to develop her visual compositions. She then introduced color to create layered, dimensional 2D drawings. Truckenbrod created one of the first courses in the computer graphics field that combined visual imaging with sound and motion. This resulted in the publication of her book, Creative Computer Imaging, Prentice Hall, 1988.

As an early pioneer in digital art and design, Mohr is no stranger to the struggles of acceptance. Previously accused of using “military equipment to destroy art”, he never lost sight of the possibilities of algorithms within the dimensional space. Mohr has been making algorithmic artwork inspired by the hypercube for decades. When asked what he most like to explore in forthcoming works, 

“As an artist one always has many ideas for future work. Some of them work, some of them I abandon or return to at a later time with different solutions, and for some ideas the technology is not yet invented. I am continually developing my ideas, but don’t talk about them until I find acceptable solutions.” (Mohr, M. (2016, May 19). Email Interview

Mohr remains mysterious and we are undoubtedly intrigued. He was recently featured as part of Whitechapel Gallery’s Electronic Superhighway (January 29 – May 15, 2016) and has an exhibition this month at the Digital Art Gallery in Berlin, Germany. (June 11 – July 30, 2016) 

P2200_4570, 2014-2015 was part of the following exhibition:
Manfred Mohr | Artificiata II
Bitforms Gallery
November 8 – December 27, 2015


Manfred Mohr | Visuell, Musikalisch
DAM Gallery, Berlin, Germany (June 11 - July 30, 2016)

Manfred Mohr | Artificiata II
Carroll/Fletcher Gallery, London, UK (Feb. 12 - April 2, 2016)


Manfred Mohr | Artificiata II - works from 2012 - 2015
bitforms gallery, New York, New York (Nov. 8 - Dec 27, 2015)

Manfred Mohr
galerie mueller-roth, Stuttgart, Germany (Oct 9 - Dec 7, 2015)

Manfred Mohr | Pioneer of Algorithmic Art
Lorraine Walsh, Curator
Simons Center Gallery, Simons Center for Geometry and Physics (SCGP)
Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York (Sept. 10 - Nov. 12)

Manfred Mohr | Works from 2013 - 2015
Galerie Wack, Kaiserslautern, Germany, (April 18 - May 29)


Manfred Mohr | Evolving Geometries: Line, Form, and Color
Margo Crutchfield, Curator
Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, (Sept. 25 - Nov. 20)

Manfred Mohr | Artificiata I + II
Persistent projects, open-ended (hi)stories - practices of four unrelated artists
- presentation/micro-exhibition, OEI Colour Project, Stockholm, Sweden, (March 1 - March 9)


Manfred Mohr | Artificiata II
Dam Gallery, Berlin (14 September - 9 November)

Manfred Mohr | 1963 - 2013, Reflexions sur une esthétique programmée
Art Basel "Art Features" with bitforms gallery NY, Basel, Switzerland (June 11 - 16)

Manfred Mohr | The Algorithm of Manfred Mohr, 1963-now
Margit Rosen, Curator
ZKM | Media Museum, Karlsruhe, Germany (8 June - 1 September)

Manfred Mohr | Artificiata II
Galerie Mueller-Roth, Stutgart, Germany (12 April - 29 June)


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