The Art of Living in Conversation
Portrait of Gordon Pask in front of the Work "Colloquy of Mobiles"
A Conversation about the Cybernetician Gordon Pask
Tue, March 08, 2022 6 pm CET, Talk
Language: English

What if machines and works of art would engage us in conversations? »The Art of...« invites you into the world of one of the most brilliant figures of cybernetics in the 20th century - Gordon Pask (1928-1996), the creator of learning machines and cybernetic artworks.


Gordon Pask (1928, Derby–1996, London) fascinated his contemporaries not only by his appearance – an Edwardian dandy in a bow tie and cape – but also by his pioneering experiments in the field of adaptive teaching machines. As early as the 1950s, he proved that it was possible to build teaching machines that could adapt to the abilities of human learners.

What makes his work unique within cybernetics, however, is its close connection to the arts. Pask was not only a cartoonist, painter, and poet, but also founded a theater company in the early 1950s for which he wrote his own plays and songs. Thus, theaters and music halls became the experimental laboratory for Pask's first cybernetic machines. Among his best-known projects and works are »Musicolour« (1953-1957), the 'moody' light organ, and the »Colloquy of Mobiles« (1968), which he developed for the legendary exhibition »Cybernetic Serendipity« at the ICA London.

Often overlooked when considering Pask is the influence of his cybernetic thinking– his »Conversation Theory« – on 20th-century architecture: Pask collaborated on the conception of the »Fun Palace« (1964), the visionary project of architect Cedric Price and theater activist Joan Littlewod, and taught for many years at the Architectural Association in London. It is also too little known that he served as a consultant to Nicholas Negroponte's Architecture Machine Group at MIT, informing its ideas about the relationship between artificial intelligence and design. 

Pask's work can currently be discovered at ZKM. Reconstructed in 2018 by Paul Pangaro and TJ McLeish, the »Colloquy of Mobiles« is on view in the exhibition »BioMedia«. 

Titled »The Art of Living in Conversation«, Paul Pangaro, President of the American Society for Cybernetics, and historian of science Andrew Pickering, in conversation with Margit Rosen, explore how Pask's machines and his »Conversation Theory« might change the way we think about living with machines. 

»The Art of Living in Conversation« belongs to the online conversation series dedicated to artists and theorists related to the ZKM collection and archives. 


Paul Pangaro, Professor of Practice at the Human-Computer Interaction Institut of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA and President of the American Society for Cybernetics
Andrew Pickering, Sociologist and Historian of Science
Margit Rosen, Head of Collections

The Art of...

A new monthly series of events offering insights into the ZKM's collections, archives, and research in exchange with artists, theorists, curators, and conservators.

Wissen – Collection, Archives & Research

The ZKM's collection as well as its archives are unique in their specific focus on the electronic and intermedial arts of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The Collection of the ZKM

The collection of the ZKM contains works from the 20th and 21th century of all genres of the visual arts - painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, photography, film, video and installation. The stock of computer-based installations, video tapes and video installations is unique worldwide.

The event via livestream
Organization / Institution
ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe