Cybernetic Serendipity was a pioneering international exhibition held in London devoted to the relationship between the arts and new technology.
Mounted at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in the summer of 1968 this cultural event dealt with the relationship of the computer and the arts. It was the first exhibition to attempt to demonstrate all aspects of computer-aided creative activity: painting, music, poetry, dance, sculpture, animation. The principal idea was to examine the role of cybernetics in contemporary arts through compositions that included: robots, poetry, music, painting machines, as well as all sorts of works where chance was an important ingredient.
The matemathician Norbert Wiener defined cybernetics in 1948 as “the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine”. Therefore as we can read in the official catalogue for Cybernetic Serendipity: “the exhibition was concerned with the exploration and demonstration of connexions between creativity and technology the links between scientific or mathematical approaches, intuitions, and the more irrational and oblique urges associated with the making of music, art and poetry”. Once again we encounter ourselves with a romantic view of creativity as an irrational force exclusively designed for human beings whose job is to create artistic artifacts. A common perspective that does not take account of other types of innovation like those adaptive behaviour adopted by resilient people or the inventiveness of the always loving caregivers who find infinite solutions to problems like feeding a hungry family in the face of food scarcity…
Anyway, if we truly want to design machines that exhibit creative outcomes -or at least that function as an enhancement of our own originality- a divergent state of mind will be needed. And many times artistic processes are really helpful specially if we learn to distance ourselves from a romantic and idealized view of creativity, because there is not hidden “magic” in the cognitive processes behind the creation and design of new ideas and objects!