Following back the path in history of art, the third exhibition of the series Sculpting (Virtual) Realities is dedicated to one of the most influential pioneers in the field of computer graphics and digital art: Herbert W. Franke. Besides this passion, he is well known as science fiction author and scientist. Franke studied physics, mathematics, chemistry, psychology and philosophy in Vienna and received his PhD in electron optics in 1950. Twenty-nine years later he co-founded the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz.
Already in the 1960s Herbert W. Franke sought to expand the boundaries of sculpture towards the virtual space: Could the computer lead us also in new areas of sculptures? A way to find an answer is to ignore the mentioned conditions for physical realization and try to design not realizable 3D- forms. By using the computer as a tool for art, it became possible to enlarge the repertoire of forms and create mobile, non-static, partly interactive virtual sculptures that were no longer tactile in the classical sense, but remained corporal and visible from all sides. His first works are written in QUICK BASIC, presented on a monitor or on a television screen. Before early computers were available he made experimental and generative photographs in the 1950s which were followed by a series of oscillograms produced with the analogue technique of a cathode ray oscillograph. During 1971-1973 and 1979-1985 Franke curated the exhibition Wege zur Computerkunst (Engl: Ways to Computer Art) which was then exhibited in different Goethe institutes internationally.
In TRAFO, the works Orchid, Tropic, Abroll3, Rahmen4 (1984–1992) have been selected for exhibition. They have been accessible for the first time in the show Digital Art Works. The Challenges of Conservation (2011/2012) at the Media Museum of the ZKM, Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe and since then belong to its collection. All four pieces are shown with the original monitor, underlining the aesthetic historicity of the composition and becoming part of the work itself. They are computer animations in which single geometric elements continually change their shape through programmed movements and the variation of parameters such as size and color. Among the artworks, Orchid is interactive; the triangular color patches can be shifted to the top or bottom by the viewer using the computer keyboard. Mathematics and arts meet in a close relationship insofar as the formal language of the abstract, geometric images is able to describe mathematical correlations and vice versa, and its calculation of aesthetic information through certain formula. Franke's last works are interactive sculptures, programmed with the software Mathematica of Wolfram Research. Because the virtual reality will become increasing meaning in the art of tomorrow, the question of construction with material will become negligible. As this quote demonstrates, since the early beginnings Herbert W. Franke recognized the growing importance of VR, which is why today he also focuses on virtual exhibitions in the Internet such as his Z-Galaxy (at Active Worlds) and therefore represents an important link to our current generation of contemporary artists.