Nicolas Shöffer’s tower
father of Cybernetic Art, an architect, visionary and artist. He is famous for his enlightened way of thinking and for being decades ahead of his own times.
We talk about a cybernetic construction when the system under scrutiny is involved in a closed signal loop, where action by the system in an environment causes some change in the environment itself which change is then transmitted again to the system via feedback. The feedback makes the system to adapt to new conditions. It changes its behaviour in an interactive way. This circular causal relationship is necessary and sufficient for a cybernetic perspective.
Schöffer adapted this cybernetic principle when he realised his spatiodynamic and luminodynamic sculptures consisting of moving and turning modules and mobiles, using light and mirrors to create constantly changing forms and effects. His work opened totally new horizons in art history during the 50s and 60s and inspired many enthusiastic followers. He continued working fervently and elaborating his constructions until his death in 1992 in Paris. His spirit is still living with us, his memory is vivid. His work is displayed in many museums over the world. There are several museums carrying his name and showing exclusively his artworks.
Schöffer’s chief achievement was the Tower of Light that he designed for the city of Paris, where it should have stood in a special surrounding to be seen from far away.
He used mirrors and lights to create the illusion, specially at night, that the tower was floating in the air. Dematerialization of the artwork was one of Schöffer’s main concerns that he wanted to realize by using immaterial media such as light and sound.
Inside the tower all kind of exhibitions, theatres, cinemas, restaurants and shops would entertain the visitor. Rotating floors would give spectacular views and on certain times a lightshow would transform the tower into a performance of its own.
Schöffer prepared a blueprint of his ‘Tour Lumière’, he built several maquettes, he painted and drew the tower many times. He was however too visionary and ways ahead of his times. The tower could not be built at the technical level of his era. It would be though not impossible but still a difficult task even with our much more elaborate and energy saving lighting and controlling technology to build such a huge and complicated tower in real life. Consequently Schöffer’s plan has remained on paper until recently.
Schöffer’s widow, Eléonore de Lavandeyra Schöffer has kept his heritage. She is still working with all her enormous strength to keep Schöffer’s memory alive and vivid by numerous openings and exhibitions showing his work. She has even organised an exhibition on SL with her friends, Àgota and Mária Nagy. She became with her avatar very soon absorbed by the virtual art world. She visited many exhibitions in Second Life. On one of her trips into the virtual world she got to know Velazquez Bonetto and the CARP (Cybernetic ARt Project) team. The work of Velazquez and his team caught Eléonore’s attention at once and she returned several times to follow the development of the ongoing projects. As soon as she realised what Velazquez was capable of, a new dream began to take shape.
Velazquez Bonetto is László Ördögh’s avatar in SL. His artistic activity is an integrated part of a wider carrier. It is nourished by more than thirty years of professional experience gathered in such different fields as industrial design, computer graphics, virtual reality and ergonomics. It has multiple influences on his art. Owing to years in software production he has developed several new techniques that can be roughly classified as mixed media and he is a high-profile creator in virtual artistic scenes.
The acquaintanceship with Eléonore de Lavendeyra Schöffer became more and more friendly and one day Velazquez got a letter from her:
‘Àgota told me that you could be interested in building the TLC on SL. It is a marvellous idea. I thought about it a long time ago. It would be fantastic if it could be done for the 100th anniversary of N.S. birth, and 20th anniversary of his death. 2012.
If you decide to do it, and I agree to the principle, (the modalities would have to be clearly precised together) their previous work could be of some help, and a meeting with you and them should be arranged as a second step. The first one being your trip to Paris, contact me, visit the atelier, and try together to put a wonderful dream into reality.
So, you have to tell me if you can come to Paris one of these days, and when. Propose to me different dates, so that I can find one fitting with my work.
I am very VERY happy with your idea. No one could be able to realize it properly except you. I already thank you.
Eléonore de Lavandeyra Schöffer’
After a short while Velazquez Bonetto, his daughter Caravaggio Bonetto and his wife Mirabella Infinity went to Paris in RL. They spent several days in the atelier and home of Schöffer with Eléonore explaining the tower and Schöffer’s work. After getting the blueprints and taking many pictures they went back home and started to build the Tower.
THE FIRST PRESENTATION OF THE TOWER takes place on Saturday, 9th October 2010 in the framework of the Imagine Festival as a symbol of a new world announced by the famous song of John Lennon. It is a great chance to see it and to make your own experience walking inside in SL, to look around and to feel what it could have been like if it had been built in Paris according to Schöffer’s plans.
The tower has been built on scale 1:1 in Second Life to be as true to the original as it was possible. To build something on scale 1:1 is not usual in SL. In the virtual world everything should be built on a larger scale because the avatars are bigger and taller as normal humans. ( at about 2 meters tall) There is one other major difference to real humans regarding the realisation of vision as well. The eye of an avatar is interpreted as a camera. We would normally think that this camera should be placed on the head where we see the eyes of a human. It is not the case though. The avatar should see himself or herself from behind on the monitor of the PC to enhance their ability of orientation. The camera is placed 3 meters behind the head and a bit higher than the head. It is why the main dimensions of the tower could be kept the same as they were planned by Schöffer but the number of the levels must have been reduced. If the original height of the levels had been kept, than the eyes of the avatars would have been one story higher than the avatar itself. According to the properties of vision in SL some walls must have been opened to secure good camera viewpoints. Staircases could have been eliminated, because the common means of transport is teleport in SL. A staircase would be absolutely obsolete here. Despite of the inevitable modifications the main aim was to be as true to the spirit of Schöffer as it could be possible amidst the technical conditions of SL. It is the spirit of experimenting and stretching the advantages of new technologies to the limits. It is the spirit of development beyond our most daring dreams . It is the spirit of interactions even by using immaterial media.
Three thousand two hundred active scripts and controllers let all the lights, reflectors and particles react to special events and perform a lightshow automatically or on command.
Seats of the audience are going to fly around with built in cameras that offer spectacular views, because the tower is too big to be taken in as a whole by any camera. Elevator seats bring you to the floor you choose. Exhibitions of historic pictures and cybernetic art make the event unforgettable. Great artists have been invited to create elaborated interactive, and scripted sculptures specially for the tower. Josina Burgess has created immersive particles and lots of cybernetic sculptures. Exhibiting artist are:
Special performances and shows will be offered for your entertainment.
Schöffer’s dream was to build the tower in Paris in RL. It has been built on a place he could not have dreamt of. It has been built in the virtual world not to be seen from a couple of kilometres away from the spot where it stands, but to be seen from all over the world. It has been built to be a symbol of development, innovation, true spirit of discovery and delight taken in work and wisdom.