Nicolas Schöffer

Artist (1912 - 1992)

In the 1950s Nicolas Schöffer, a multidisciplinary artist and theoretician, a major practitioner of kinetic art, a precursor of electronic art and digital art, was developing his future-oriented ideas, first in painting and then in sculpture, with an aesthetic tending towards Neo-plasticism and close to Mondrian. He quickly broadened his field of research to include the city in all its dimensions, developing from 1948 to 1956 his concept of “spatiodynamics”, first through stable structures, and then through kinetic ones. In his quest to restore art to its primary function in society by enabling humanity to radically modify the conditions of its existence through spiritual enrichment, Nicolas Schöffer attributed a therapeutic role to this new art form. Utilizing his concept of “plasticology”, he was convinced of the impact of the visual ambiance on the retinal image and therefore on people’s behavior and even their morphology. He worked with Claude Parent on spatio-dynamic architecture from 1952 to 1955. Based on the most cutting-edge technologies of the day, his spatial works little by little began to integrate other parameters, such as light, color and sound. After the construction in 1954 of the first Tour spatiodynamique, cybernétique et sonore, in 1956 Nicolas Schöffer created the first freestanding cybernetic sculpture, CYSP, presented on stage at the Sarah Bernhardt Theater in Paris accompanied by the music of Pierre Henry. This piece was followed in 1961 by the Tour Lumière spatiodynamique et cybernétique (52 m) and the Mur Lumière coloré et mouvant at the Palais des Congrès in Liège, both included since 1998 in the Patrimoine des Monuments Historiques (national register of historic buildings), before redirecting his attention to musical projects.

Nicolas Schöffer (Kalocsa, Hongrie, 1912 – Paris, 1992) studied at the Budapest School of Fine Arts and obtained a doctorate in Law. He emigrates to Paris in 1936 and continues his studies at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. In addition to his work as a multi-disciplinary artist, he dedicates himself to teaching, to the creation of several films as well as to the writing of many books on aesthetics and cybernetics (La ville cybernétique, 1969 ; La nouvelle charte de la ville, 1974). Member of the Institut de France, Officer of the Légion d’Honneur, Commander of the National Order of Merit and Officer of Arts and Letters, Nicolas Schöffer received the honors of the Order of the Flag of Hungary, which dedicated a museum to him and was awarded the Franck J. Malina-Leonardo prize (1986) in San Francisco.

Nadine Labedade

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