Monday, February 16, 2009


"Seek" 1970 Nicholas Negroponte with Architecture Group Machine M.I.T. Originally shown at the "Software" exhibition, Curated by Jack Burnham for the Jewish Museum in New York 1970. This piece consisted of a Plexiglass environment full of small blocks and inhabited by gerbils, who continuously changed the position of the blocks. Following instructions programmed buy the authors the robotic arm automatically rearranged the blocks in a specific pattern.

- The exhibit is also referred to sometimes as Blocksworld.

Translated Version

SEEK: cybernetic world behavioral model and experimental laboratory

One of the main attractions of the exhibition but the installation was "SEEK", which at MIT by students of the Architecture Machine Group, headed by Nicholas Negroponte was developed and built. The group belonged to the "Laboratory for Urban Systems" and was extended from the Ford Foundation.

SEEK was a machine that can run either as a "cybernetic world model" as a "behavioral observation and experimental laboratory" was conceived. SEEK was designed by a small general-purpose computer-controlled, and in contrast to a simple Ein-/Ausgabe-Peripherieger├Ąt was Seek a mechanism to meet the physical environment, they affect and beyond should try with unexpected events in their local environment to cope.
SEEK installation by Nicholas Negroponte and the Architecture Machine Group at MIT, 1969-70, in the exhibition
"software", Jewish Museum, New York, 1970

A computer-controlled robotic arm was the master of a small city blocks, in a given floor plan were arranged in the computer of SEEK was saved. The cubes formed at the same time, the action field and the habitat of a small group of Mongolian gerbils. The animals came against the cube, destroyed their building and construction and brought the dice towers to collapse. The result was a substantial difference between the three-dimensional reality and stored in ground Seeks Tax computer. Seeks task was now to analyze these variations, and this model for predicting the behavior of the mice to develop.

The machine was funny and scary at the same time, but she was playful and artistic simulation of a future model, whose implementation is already on the horizon had guessed. The curator Jack Burnham, formulated in the interview for the movie "The Net", as follows:

It was somehow like H.G. Wells, it was somehow futuristic ... they know that we stood before that something in the future, perhaps this could happen. And with people, not rats.

One of the participating artists, the German Hans Haacke, expressed the sense of indefinite, and the uneasiness of some of the exhibition of participating artists on the blending of art, powerful staatstragenden institutions and public relations as follows:

... it was possibly on something, what you lost control, and where perhaps even your own name has been used for something with which you either do not agree, or one whose scope could not be overlooked.

That provoked a beautiful and sinister picture: The Artist as critical laboratory mouse in the wheel of the system, in the belief that with [systemtheoretischem Besteck?] not only analyze but even to change them. This blind to the fact that involuntary agent for perfecting the same system.
Exhibition "Re-reeducation", Berlin 2007, Lutz Dammbeck c / Photo: Bertram Kober

The most striking exhibition object in the exhibition “Software” was SEEK by Nicholas
Negroponte and his colleagues from the Architecture Machine Group of the M.I.T. This
machine was conceived as both a “cybernetic world model” and a “behaviourist laboratory
for observation and experimentation”. SEEK was controlled from a small all-purpose
computer. A robot arm operated by this computer ruled over a small city made of cubes,
arranged according to a specific ground plan that was stored in SEEK’s computer.
At the same time, the cubes represented the field of action and living space of a small group of Mongolian desert gerbils; a “biological system”. The animals bumped into cubes,destroyed their arrangement and construction, and caused towers to collapse.
intention was then for the mechanism of SEEK to sense the physical environment, influence it, and attempt to come to terms with unexpected local events within this environment. The computer-operated robot arm was to learn to “read” the unpredictable behaviour of the gerbils from the alterations in the location of the cubes, analysing it and thus developing patterns with which to predict the future behaviour of the living creatures (gerbils).

However, this was only a success on a metaphorical level.

In 2007 Professor Lutz Dammbeck re made "Seek" as part of seems to be a research project. He has also used his findings to make some sort of film.
Both of these things I do not have much information about but here is some of the stuff I found...
This appears to be the site that goes with the film. You can find a trailer on here but they are speaking German so I don't know what they are talking about.
However, after a little searching I think I found what the voice over in the trailer is saying.... I may be wrong though "Pop and Op Art, Mixed Media, Happenings, artists like John Cage, Nam June Paik and Andy Warhol, bands like the Grateful Dead and The Velvet Underground - that was a cocktail of revolt, rock and pop, which fascinated me. The message was: everything is possible, reality is arbitrarily changeable. You are what you want! On closer inspection seemed to me this mix, but only part of a much more complex "meta-system" to be art and which is included with the computer, but much more involved. Initially I was one of at least equal role of art in relation to science and new technologies is assumed. But the more I researched, the more faded, the image of a modern multi-media with the aura of the critical "others". It seemed to me that this art is not noise, but rather amplifier system was, and that long before "from the counter-culture was the culture," as Stewart Brand in "The Net" formulated. So I started more and more for architects and designers of this scientific and technically based "meta-system" to be interested - and for their clients. My research led me to the beginnings of cybernetics, systems theory, bionics, the parallel computing, artificial intelligence, the construction of computers and the constructivism than thought. Soon I came to the legendary Macy conferences, where from 1946 to 195
3 elite scientists, science managers and officials of various U.S. agencies (sometimes even the CIA) participated, and the ground for a symbolic world as an "open system" developed. In retrospect appear Macy Conferences as the place where "a theory Does the enforcement could be observed."
You can also find a short interview with Jack Burnham on here.
This has a few images of the "Seek" replica. But not much information on the actual replica.

An image from "seek" replica.

Nicholas Negroponte

Interesting guy... here is a sexy picture of him.

Founder of M.I.T and also the founder of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC).

I feel a bit YUCK about this whole OLPC thing. I am torn between whether I think it is a good or bad thing.
Is it just a sugar coated sheep's dropping made to look like a crispy M&M?
When you go to the website you are greeted with pictures of happy children in developing countries with their lovely green laptops.
The question you ask yourself is, do these children actually need fancy laptops or do they need clean water and sufficient health care? Is Negroponte trying to convince us that a laptop is just as much of a need as clean water.....?
Mmmmm not so sexy after all Negroponte.

1 comment: