Frieder Nake - Ex-Machina: A History of Generative Art London Wednesday, July 13, 2022 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Nine states of a sequence of "powers" of an initially randomly determined so-called stochastic diagonal matrix are drawn and shown in Matrix Multiplication Series 34. A matrix is a rectangular  array of numbers. The array can also be square, e.g., have 20 rows and 20 columns. You can multiply matrices together, resulting again a matrix. If you multiply two square matrices, you get a square matrix again. This is the mathematical basis of the artwork. A square matrix chosen at random by the programme, (let's call it A), is multiplied by itself. We get A2. If we multiply this result by A again, we get A3. We continue this simple principle: we thus form the powers of A, one after the other. The matrices of the programme are also of a special kind: they are so-called "stochastic" matrices. This means that all the numbers lie between 0 and 1, and that the sum of the numbers in each of the rows is 1.


    In order to create the picture, some of the matrix powers are selected (here there are nine). So that the nine matrices selected for the picture are no longer number schemes but become visible picture components, the numbers matrix must be translated into colours. In concrete terms, colours are assigned to intervals of numbers. This is done as follows. If, for example, six colours are to be used, the number interval from 0 to 1 is divided into six intervals. This can be done in many ways: from 0 to 0.2, from 0.2 to 0.3, from there to 0.45, then to 0.6, to 0.8, finally from 0.8 to 1.0. The number 0.512, for example, is then in the fourth interval (from 0.45 to 0.6). One colour is assigned to each number interval. Our number 0.512 lies in the fourth partial interval, so the fourth colour is assigned to it. At the point in the square number scheme where the 0.512 is located, a small square is then filled with the fourth colour.


    According to the algorithmic scheme indicated here (which becomes the "pro- gram"), the selected powers (we can say "the states") of the sequence of matrices are translated into small images that appear materially arranged in the graphic. A purely mathematical process becomes the source and cause of an image process. We could say that the mathematically determined sequence of "stochastic" matrices is "visualised". The visible appearance of the visualisation is strongly influenced by the determination of the intervals in the division of the entire interval from 0 to 1 into its sub-intervals. The artist's contribution to this drawing shrinks to this arbitrary division and the selection of colours. Of course, these two specifications could also be programmed. The artist would then hand over even more of their decisions to the machine, the computer. Even more of their own work would have to be incorporated into the programmed specifications. We can mark the pictures of the programme "Matrix Multiplication" like this:

    Strictly determined but only weakly transparent translations of a mathematical process into an aesthetic one. —Frieder Nake

    • Provenance

      The artist


Matrix Multiplication Series 34

inscribed, dated and titled '-KE/TR4/Z64 1968 MATRIZENMULTIPLIKATION SERIE 34' lower left; signed, titled and dated again 'Nake Matrizenmultiplikation 34 1968' on the reverse
computer-generated ink on paper
50 x 50 cm (19 5/8 x 19 5/8 in.)
Executed in 1968, this work is unique.

Full Cataloguing

£20,000 - 25,000 

Contact Specialist

Benjamin Kandler
Project Lead for Digital Art, Phillips
+44 7393 141 146

Alexis Chompaisal
NFT Manager

Ex-Machina: A History of Generative Art

Online Auction 13-20 July 2022