March 30, 2008
The art of Gordon Pask

The Colloquy of Mobiles

It’s difficult to separate Pask’s theories and art however thats what I’m going to do across this and the next post.

The Colloquy of Mobiles (image above, diagram below and two videos here and here) created by Pask for the 1968 exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity held at the ICA in London is to date one of the earliest interactive / networked art works, along with Heart Beats Dust by Jean Dupuy, that I have managed to find. According to the cross print / web publication Media Art Net The Colloquy of Mobiles:

was a reactive, educable, computer-based system composed of five mobiles. By way of light and sound, the rotating elements suspended from the ceiling communicated with each other, independent of external influences. Using flashlights and mirrors, the people at the exhibition could nevertheless take part in the conversation between the machines. With this installation, Pask brought to a conclusion his idea for an “aesthetic potential environment”. To give significance to the communication between the machines, Park designed the “Colloquy of Mobiles” as a social system.

The Colloquy of Mobiles diagram

The work alludes to a small ecosystem of creatures, male and female, within their environment. These creatures interact with each other both directly and through their environment yet can also be acted on from outside their environment by us, the user. This type of idea, an interactive and networked programmed ecosystem, would later become very popular with new media artists in the 80′s and 90′s such as Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, Ken Rinaldo and even very recently Scenocosme.

The Universal Constructor

The Universal Constructor (image above of an early version) consisted of ‘intelligent’ cubes which could learn about their position in relation to other cubes, their overall configuration:

Each cube in turn examines each of its faces, and if another cube is found a message is sent back and control is transferred from cube to adjacent cube until an exhaustive search is completed…This meant that it was possible to build an architectural model with toy bricks and to interrogate it by means of a controlling processor: the result was a virtual model from which complete drawings, perspectives and calculations could be produced.

Pask stated that here he was:

not interested in the argument about whether computers are actually intelligent, alive or conscious, but as a mental exercise it it interesting to consider a building to be conscious at least in the sense of being able to anticipate the implications of its actions, as any good environmental control system should be able to do.

It seems appropriate to be revisiting Pask’s work for numerous reasons:

  • The series of exhibitions over the last year on Pask.
  • The excitement during the 60′s around exhibitions and events such as the Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition, the numerous Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) events which formally started two years previous to this in 1966 and the Software exhibition at the Jewish Museum in 1970
  • The re-emerging interest in these initial endeavours recently added to by the announcement on numerous weblogs and mailing lists about the Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T) Revisited exhibition, panel, performances and screenings.

More information about The Colloquy of Mobiles here, on the Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition here, information on the documentation produced by the Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T) here and on the Software exhibition here.

    Posted by: Garrett @ 1:18 am

    1 Comment / Ping about “The art of Gordon Pask”

    1. Network Research » PCMs by Alan Sondheim Says:
      April 9th, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      [...] It’s worth noting how cutting edge the PCM discussed was through comparison with similar contempory ideas such as Gordon Pask’s Universal Constructor. [...]

      Pingback by Network Research » PCMs by Alan Sondheim — April 9, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

    RSS feed for Comments / Pings on this post.

    Don't know what this is? Click here.
    This is a QR Code, it's a printed link to this webpage on Network Research!

    Using a web-enabled mobile phone with built-in camera and QR Code reader software you can photograph this printed page to display the original webpage. For more information on how to do this please see the short article here:

    and download a reader application for your mobile device.
    Creative Commons License
    Except where otherwise noted, all works and documentation on the domain are copyright
    Garrett Lynch 2021 and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. is powered by WordPress