Otto Beckmann (1908-1997) was an Austrian sculptor and pioneer of the use of computer technology in the arts.
Born on May 5, 1908 in Russian Vladivostok, Beckmann fled with his parents to Vienna in 1922. There he first attended the Höhere Technische Lehranstalt (HTL) Mödling and then studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. After graduating in 1941, he became a teacher at the State School of Applied Arts in Krakow. From 1945 he lived in Vienna as a freelance artist and joined the Professional Association of Austrian Fine Artists. In 1951 he became a member of the Vienna Secession. In 1958 he was awarded the title of professor by the Austrian Federal President.
Through his son, Oskar Beckmann, who studied communications engineering at the Vienna University of Technology, Otto Beckmann became aware of experiments with Markov generators that were carried out at the Institute of Low Frequency Technology at the Vienna University of Technology. From 1966 Beckmann, supported by the engineer Alfred Graßl, used one of the Markov generators to generate sound sequences and visual structures.
In 1969 Oskar Beckmann began to design a »studio computer« or »art computer« for his father. The hybrid computer, constructed in June 1970 in the basic design stage, was completed in 1971 under the name »a.i.70/71«. Until 1979, son and father were supposed to develop this computer further and construct several versions. At the end of the 1970s, Oskar Beckmann considered the decisive success of the project to be the fact that the computer made real-time communication between man and machine possible.
In his experiments with computer technology, Otto Beckmann cooperated with various experts: the engineers Alfred Graßl and Gerd Koepf as well as the cameraman Gerhard Schedl. At the beginning of 1969 at the latest, Beckmann called this group »Experimental Group ars intermedia«. Otto Beckmann's cooperation with Gerhard Stickel, whose computer-generated »Autopoeme« Otto Beckmann edited for an experimental film, should also be mentioned in this context.
The photographs, graphics, objects, sculptures and films generated with the help of Markov generators and the studio computer were presented worldwide from 1968 onwards. Particularly noteworthy are the exhibitions » Elektronische Computergrafik und cinematrische Abläufe (Visual Research)« (Vienna Secession, Vienna, March 1969), »tendencies 4. computers and visual research« (Galerija suvremene umjetnosti, Zagreb, May 1969) and the retrospective »Otto Beckmann. Zwischen Mystik und Kalkül« (Neue Galerie Graz, 2008).
Otto Beckmann's works can be found in numerous collections, including the Albertina in Vienna, the Federal Ministry of Education, the Museum of Lower Austria, the MUSA Museum Startgalerie Artothek Vienna, Neue Galerie Graz, Kunsthalle Bremen, ZKM | Karlsruhe, Centre Pompidou Paris, and several private collections.
In 2005 his son Richard Beckmann founded the Archives Otto Beckmann in Vienna.
Since 2012, Otto Beckmann's correspondence from the years 1950-1980 is located at the ZKM. The holdings »Otto Beckmann« in the ZKM | Archive comprise the Austrian artist's correspondence with numerous artists, theorists, and institutions (including Kurd Alsleben, Max Bense, Herbert W. Franke, Günther Kraus, Lothar Limbeck, Franz, A. Melzer, Georg Muche, Frieder Nake, Georg Nees, Günther Pfeiffer, Käthe Clarissa Schröder, SIGMA, Gerhard Stickel, Konrad Zuse).