Gordon Pask

The Colloquy of Mobiles


currently on display

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.


• Gordon Pask, „The Colloquy of Mobiles“, in: Jasia Reichardt (Ed.), »Cybernetic Serendipity. The Computer and the Arts. A Studio International Special Issue«, Studio International, London, 1968, 34–35.

• Gordon Pask, „A Comment, a Case History and a Plan“, in: Jasia Reichardt (Ed.), »Cybernetics, Art and Ideas«, Studio Vista Limited, London, 1971, 76–98.

• Paul Pangaro, „Gordon Pask Obituary“, in: »The London Guardian Newspaper«, April 1996.

• Paul Pangaro, „Pask as Dramaturg“,in: »Systems Research«, Vol. 10, Nr. 3, 199.

• Margit Rosen, „Gordon Pask. The Colloquy of Mobiles“, in: »MedienKunstNetz«, 2005.

• Andrew Pickering, „Ontological Theatre. Gordon Pask, Cybernetics, and the Arts“, in: »Cybernetics And Human Knowing«. Vol. 14, Nr. 4, 2007, 43–57.

• Margit Rosen, “‘The control of control’ – Gordon Pasks kybernetische Ästhetik”, in: »Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften«, Jg. 19, Heft 2, 2008 as wekk as in:   Ranulph Glanville, Albert Müller (Ed.), »Pask Present«, Vienna: Edition Echoraum 2008

• Andrew Pickering, »The Cybernetic Brain. Sketches of Another Future«, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago und London, 2010, 309–377.

• Margit Rosen, “The Delights that Twentieth Century Technology Owes Us. The Adaptive Machines of Gordon Pask”, in: »Casco Issues XII. Generous Structures«, September 2011, 210–233.

• Hugh Dubberly, Paul Pangaro, „How cybernetics connects computing, counterculture, and design“, in: exhib. cat. »Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia«, Walker Art Center, 2015.

• Margit Rosen, “Gordon Pask's Cybernetic Systems: Conversations after the End of the Mechanical Age", in: Samuel Bianchi, Erik Verhagen (Ed.), »Practicable. From Participation to Interaction in Contemporary Art«, The MIT Press, Oktober 2016, 25–38.

• Paul Pangaro, TJ McLeish, „Colloquy 2018 Project", in: »AISB 2018 Symposium: Cybernetic Serendipity Reimagined«, April 2018.

• Karen Kornblum, Paul Pangaro, „The Bauhaus, the Colloquy of Mobiles, and the Meaning of Interaction“, in: Forlano, Steenson, and Ananny (Ed.), »Bauhaus Futures«, MIT Press, Cambridge/Mass., 2019.

• Paul Pangaro, »Less Interference / More Dance! – Interpreting Gordon Pask / 50 Years after Colloquy of Mobiles«, presentation at the »Living Architecture Systems« Symposium, OCADU, Toronto, March 2019.

• MFA Interaction Design Students, Paul Pangaro, and TJ McLeish, College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan, USA, website about the history and the reconstruction of the »Colloquy of Mobiles« [https://www.colloquyofmobiles.com], 2017–2021.

• Arnauld Pierre, „Accouplements électroniques: The Colloquy of Mobiles de Gordon Pask (1968), in: Emanuele Quinz (Ed.), »Le comportement des choses«, Les presses du réel, Dijon, 2021, 138–146.

Author: Margit Rosen

About the artist/s