Gordon Pask

The Colloquy of Mobiles


Werk - The Colloquy of Mobiles
Artist / Artist group
Gordon Pask
The Colloquy of Mobiles
installation, computer-based, Sound installation, Light installation
Material / Technique
interactive, computer-based Installation; aluminum, fabric, plastic, fiberglass; 6 gears, 9 servo motors, 11 photocells, 5 microphones, LED lights, 5 speakers with amplifier; 6 control units: Arduino Pro Mini 16MHz and OpenCM 9.04, software: Processing, Arduino, OPEN CM driver

Reconstruktion: Paul Pangaro, TJ McLeish
Dimensions / Duration
ca. 300 x 305 x 366 cm
ZKM | Center for Art and Media, gift of Paul Pangaro

The »Colloquy of Mobiles« was created in 1967–1968 on the occasion of the legendary computer art exhibition »Cybernetic Serendipity« at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. The British cybernetician Gordon Pask conceived the work as a social system of five computer-controlled mobiles that converse with each other via light and sound.

The interactions between the mobiles can be seen as chit-chat at a cocktail party or as a stylized courting ritual of a strange animal species. The ‘males’ emit a beam of light with the goal of finding a ‘female’ whose mirror reflects the light back to the ‘male.’ Visitors can engage in the conversation with the help of flashlights and mirrors.

The historical significance of the »Colloquy of Mobiles« is that it is the first example of machines conversing with machines. It originated from Pask’s cybernetic framework that explains learning in both living organisms and machines. The fundamental idea of his later “conversation theory" is that learning occurs through conversations that lead to shared understanding.

The »Colloquy of Mobiles«, now in the ZKM collection, is a replica that recreates the appearance and behavior of the original using modern digital technology. The reconstruction was initiated in 2018 on the occasion of the work’s 50th anniversary by Paul Pangaro and realized together with TJ McLeish.

Author: Margit Rosen

About the artist/s