feCYSP1sm.jpgIn 1956, Philips engineers helped Nicolas Schöffer create CYSP I, which employed an “electronic brain” connected to sensors that enabled the human-scale kinetic sculpture to respond to changes in sound, light intensity and colour, and movement, including that of the audience. The whole sculpture moves on four rollers and its sixteen polychrome plates, which pivot and spin at different rates depending on external stimulus. It premiered in a performance with the Maurice Bejart dance company, interacting with the dancers on the roof of Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse, accompanied by concrete music composed by Pierre Henry.  This early responsive, robotic sculpture is perhaps the first work of art to explicitly incorporate the principles of cybernetics (CYSP is an acronym formed from the first two letters of the words cybernetic and spatiodynamic). It has had an extensive exhibition history and the sculpture survives in the artist’s estate.[1]

The following video, a wonderful period piece in its own right (dig the fashion and music!) demonstrates CYSP in action.  The way it is illuminated suggests strong parallels with fellow Hungarian Lazslo Moholy-Nagy's Light Space Modulator (1923-30).  The video leads one to ask why was it necessary for the mechanical work of art to be paired with a beautiful young woman?  Perhaps it's the Barbarella syndrome...

The video below shows CYSP1 on the streets in Paris.


"In an actual spectacle, it dances in ballets with one or several human partners. It takes its place in motion pictures. An abstract film, for instance, is being planned, using all possible visual effects, such as the stroboscopic effect which occurs when its polychrome plates turn at the speed of light vibrations, giving an effect of immaterial colored blends; its shadow projected in movements gives the spectacle a double effect. Its transparency confers upon it multiple partially arrested aspects. It can adapt itself to the theatre and participate in exhibitions. It constitutes a living counterpoint, a new and harmonious contrast with the articulated movements of the undulating bodies of humans by its evolutions and its transparent, orthogonal and metallic structure. This artificial being is the prototype of a whole series of other spatiodynamics sculptures which could stage a great cybernetic spectacle on the ground and even in the air, thus creating a true synthesis between the most advanced aesthetic conception and the most up-to-date scientific means, capable of multiplying their attractive possibilities tenfold."[2]

[1] Edward A. Shanken, “The History and Future of the Lab: Collaborative Research at the Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology” in A Plohman and C Butcher, eds., Future of the Lab. Eindhoven: Baltan Labs, 2010, 23-40.  Online .pdf 

[2] http://www.olats.org/schoffer/cyspe.htm