The Heidelberg Manifesto – 1982

Germany-Heidelberg-mWith great concern, we observe the infiltration of the German Volk [with] an influx of millions of foreigners and their families, the infiltration of our language, our culture, and our national traditions by foreign influences. Despite the recruitment ban, the number of registered foreigners rose by 309,000 in the year 1980 alone; 194,000 of these foreigners are Turks. A little more than half of the number of children needed to maintain our [German] population are being born each year. In their neighborhoods and workplaces, many Germans already feel like foreigners in their own land.

The federal government promoted the influx of foreigners on the basis of [a policy of] unbridled economic growth that is now recognized as questionable. Up to this point, the German population has not been informed of the significance and consequences of these actions. For this reason, we are calling for the establishment of a politically and ideologically independent coalition whose task is to preserve the German Volk and its spiritual identity on the basis of our occidental Christian heritage. Standing firmly on the foundation of the Basic Law, we oppose ideological nationalism, racism, and every form of right- and left-wing extremism.

In biological and cybernetic terms, peoples are living systems of a higher order with distinct system qualities that are passed on genetically and through tradition. The integration of large masses of non-German foreigners is therefore not possible without threatening the preservation of our people, and it will lead to the well-known ethnic catastrophes of multicultural societies.

Every people, including the Germans, has a natural right to preserve its identity and particular character in the place in which it resides. Respect for other peoples also necessitates their preservation, not their assimilation (‘Germanization’). We perceive Europe as an organism of peoples and nations that are worthy of preservation and that share a common history. ‘Every nation is one unique facet of a divine plan’ (Solzhenitsyn).

The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany is not based on the concept of a ‘nation’ as the sum of all peoples within a state. It is based instead on the concept of a ‘Volk’ [people], and of a German people at that. The federal president and the members of the federal government take this oath of office: ‘I swear that I will dedicate my energies to the good of the German Volk, advance its interests, and protect it from harm.’ In this way, the Basic Law prescribes the preservation of the German people.

The preamble of the Basic Law prescribes the goal of reunification. How is this to remain possible when the two parts are becoming ethnically foreign to each other? The current policy on foreigners, which promotes the development of a multiracial society, contradicts the Basic Law, which obliges all Germans of the Federal Republic to preserve and defend the living rights of our people.

What hope for the future do the hundreds of thousands of [guest-worker] children have if they are illiterate in both their native tongue and in the German language? What hope for the future do our own children have if they are being educated in classes with a preponderance of foreigners? Will the billions spent for the defense of our country have been worth it at the end of such a development?

Only active and viable German families can preserve our people for the future. Our own children alone are the sole basis for the German and European future.

Since technical advancement offers options (and will continue to offer more options) that make the employment of foreigners superfluous, the highest principle of economic management must be: do not bring people to machines, but machines to people.

Attacking the problem at its roots means offering focused development aid to improve the living conditions of guest workers in their home countries – and not here in our country. For the Federal Republic of Germany, one of the most densely populated countries in the world, returning foreigners to their ancestral homelands will not only provide social relief but environmental relief as well.

In order to achieve a broad public echo, we are calling upon all organizations, associations, citizens’ initiatives, etc., that are dedicated to the preservation of our people to found an umbrella organization open to cooperative and individual membership. Every group shall retain its full independence and autonomy. An academic advisory board shall ensure that the work of this coalition remains politically and ideologically independent.

A press office shall assume the public relations work.


Prof. Bambeck, Ph.D.; Prof. Fricke, Ph.D.; Prof. Karl Götz; Prof. Haberbeck, Ph.D.; Prof. Illies, D.Sc.; Prof. Manns, Th.D.; Prof. Oberländer, Ph.D., ret. Federal Minister; Prof. Rasch, Ph.D.; Prof. Riedl, Ph.D.; Prof. Schade, M.D.; Prof. Schmidt-Kahler, Ph.D.; Prof. Schröcke, D.Sc.; Prof. Schurmann, M.D.; Prof. Siebert, Ph.D.; Prof. Stadtmüller, Ph.D.

Source: “Heidelberger Manifest” [“Heidelberg Manifesto”], Frankfurter Rundschau, March 4, 1982.

Translation: Allison Brown



Greenpot Bluepot

Mark Dagley interview with Natalie Rose Lebrecht

This interview was first published in Dream Magazine Issue #8, 2008

Natalie Rose LeBrecht, who released her first albums under the name Greenpot Bluepot, lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

MD: Could you tell us something about your life? Where did you grow up and how did you first start playing music?

NRL: I grew up in Denver, Colorado and a few places in Iowa.  I always loved music and as a child would sing into a hand held tape recorder, then play it on a stereo and record myself singing along with that, and repeat the process until I had a multi-layered piece with many vocal arrangements.

MD: How old were you then?

NRL: About 11.  I remember now that I wrote a “Weird Al” Yankovic inspired parody of Brian Adams’ “Run to You” when I was 6 or 7.  It was about doing laundry.  There was a joke in it that cracked me up, and I thought it was clever, but my Dad and sister didn’t get it.  I wrote some other song about being trapped in space, too.

MD: What about your cultural heritage? Where are your parents from?

NRL: My mother is from China and Taiwan, and my Dad is from Los Angeles and Chicago.

MD: Did your parents encourage you in any way?

NRL: I have a very private personality and tried to keep what I did to myself… I never really shared these tapes with my family or other people, so I suppose there was nothing noticeable to encourage.  But, yes, they were nice parents.

MD: What artists got you interested in making your own music?

NRL: As a child I didn’t need outside inspiration.  I had a lot of free time, and I played.  It came natural.

MD: Did you ever study music, in high school or privately?

NRL: I had piano lessons for a year or two when I was about 11 or 12, but got kicked out of them cause I was apathetic towards my teacher and never did what she wanted me to.  I also played trumpet and bells in middle school band, but again, was kicked out of the band for sabotaging a concert where we played Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera.  Then I took singing lessons for about one month when I was about 12 ’cause I loved to sing, but the teacher was totally showbiz and told me the most important thing was to always sing with a big smile on my face no matter what.  Needless to say I didn’t keep coming back to her.  I was in a very Waiting for Guffman kind of context.

MD: That’s great! Do you play the trumpet on any of your releases?

NRL: No, the trumpet player in WARRAW is so much better than me – Pasquale Cangiano.  Also, I gave away my old trumpet and am extremely rusty.  It wasn’t good to practice living in apartments in the city – trumpet is a loud instrument, and I didn’t want to piss off the neighbors.

MD: When did you first start composing on the piano?

NRL: I had a synthesizer keyboard since 1996 or so and played that for years so I have been familiar with the keyboard layout for a while.  But it’s not until recently (a few months ago) that I actually played a real piano, something which is quite different and amazing!

MD: I would have thought you had always played and grew up around the piano. Your compositions seem so wide in scope and centered around the tonalities of a piano.

NRL: Well, we did have a piano growing up, but it gave my sister and mother a headache when I played, so I kind of stopped.  I suppose I felt oppressed back then, but now I totally understand and don’t blame them – my playing would be very atonal and dissonant and their taste is more for easy listening. Plus, I’m sure it’s quite annoying to have a kid banging on a piano while you’re tying to clean the house.

MD: What about vocalists? Were there any vocalists early on that influenced you?

NRL: As a child I definitely liked Debbie Harry. Even now, I think she’s such an awesome vocalist.  I saw her perform a few years ago at Tonic with The Jazz Passengers, and it was a magical show.  I mean, she’s got “It”!

MD: Debbie seems to be a huge influence for many female vocalist of your generation. How do you feel about mainstream pop these days? Anyone out there that is even remotely interesting to you? I’m curious what you think of someone like Norah Jones for example or the American Idol spectacle?

NRL: I don’t have TV reception and don’t listen to the radio much.  Usually I find pop music very irritating and mostly hear it in stores or restaurants, but today I was in a drugstore and heard an R&B song and the singer was really singing from her heart!  It might have been Mary J. Blige, but I’m not sure. Anyhow, it opens my heart a bit when I hear someone playing music using theirs.

MD: What is success to you?

NRL: Pure unconditional love and a peaceful mind.

MD: Did you go to Art School?

NRL: I got a BFA in Intermedia Art from the University of Iowa.

MD: What is “intermedia art”?

NRL: Whatever it wants to be.

MD: That covers a lot of ground.  Is it something like a cross-disciplinary approach for visual art, music, fashion, and performance?

NRL: I don’t even know.  I studied it so long ago, and I’m not at all invested in the semantics of the Art world.

MD: What do you feel your practice is, then? Should we consider you a performance artist or a musician/vocalist?

NRL: I want artistic freedom from the confines of categorization.  I am just doing my thing.

MD: Was your exposure to the historic avant-garde at the University of Iowa? Or earlier?

NRL: At the University.

MD: Was there anyone teaching at the University who had an impact on what you are doing now?

NRL: Professor Stephen C. Foster – a Dada and modern art scholar – was my primary teacher.  I even assisted him for a while.  Also, Estra Milman – a Fluxus and Alternative Traditions in Contemporary Art scholar.  I assisted her, as well.  I’m not sure what they are doing now.  Last time I saw them they were living a seemingly fairy tale existence in a breathtaking Chateau in New England. They taught me a lot about historiography and Art Institutional theory (how the machine works), so that is part of the history of my process.  But I am not working from an academic place at the present time.

MD: Was WARRAW your first CD-R release?


NRL: No.  There were three before, and they are all out of print.  And WARRAW was not a CD-R; it was an officially burned,  high-quality CD with handmade packaging.  I also released a full-length vinyl record album called Daymares and Nightdreams back in 2001.

MD: You seem to surround your artistic practice with word play. The best example is the palindrome found in the title of your CD, WARRAW. You reinforce that word play by switching the ‘R’s around and by the use of mirrors on the cover art. This creates a false doubled mirrored palindrome. The use of a mirror again in the cover art for Imagining Weather is once more very intriguing. Where does this interest in reflection, doubling and word play come from?

NRL: Gee, I’ll have to reflect on that!

MD: I wanted to talk about your vocalization pieces. Not surprisingly they seem to refer back to the first multi-layered recording experiments you mentioned at the beginning of this interview. Is this something you have consciously gone back to exploring?

NRL: No, I never thought in a linear fashion: “I did this when I was a kid, I should do it now, too,” but I suppose it is interesting that I am doing the same thing as I was when I was 11.  My friend Eugene used to always say that who we really are is who we are when we are five years old.  I don’t agree or disagree and, if I think too much about a statement like that, it becomes so abstract it means nothing.  But, on the other hand, it’s fun to think of everyone you are relating to as a five year old relating to another five year old – well, it’s only fun if you’re having a good time with someone.

MD: When you perform these works they appear to be improvisation; are they? Are they non-verbal; is there a text? Both?

NRL: The vocal loop pieces so far have been improv.  I enjoy performing them very much so long as no feedback begins to occur which it sometimes does.  It’s nice to just be focusing on the voice and not playing an instrument, although it’s also very nice to play instruments.  Sometimes I can really get lost in the vocal loop and that’s when I dig it the most- when I can get into a trance with it.  But it doesn’t always happen, especially when there’s a lot of light shining on me.  It’s easiest in the dark.  I feel like doing a vocal loop performance right now…

MD: Do you see yourself as someone working in a modernist avant-garde tradition along the lines of someone like Meredith Monk or Joan La Barbara? Are you familiar with their work?

NRL: I have much respect for Meredith Monk.  I look forward to hearing Joan La Barbara.

MD: But do you see yourself as someone also exploring the inherent parameters of a specific medium, abstractly exploring the elements of text and sound, or should your practice be considered more holistic, emotive and/or internalized?  Explain.

NRL: Well, I did get a formal education in art and the Western avant garde, so I have that language (and the language of categorization) embedded into my system.  However, back when I was in school, I remember so many of the grad students and professors saying with a depressed tone that you learn Art, and then you have to unlearn it.  The idea being that learning Art strangles your inner creativity (because your creativity becomes institutionalized).  It’s not that I “unlearned” it, but I just stopped caring a long time ago about the institutional “dialogues,” “discourses,” expectations, categories, and structures of Art. Right now I’m more into beauty, the visceral, and creative outputs that strike at the primal level. I love to hear an intellectual mind express itself so long as it’s bullshit free – unless the BS is funny and intentional of course (like Colbert). I love to laugh!  The problem is, in my opinion, art school teaches you to BS until you don’t even know that’s what you’re doing, and you’re just an automaton with a formula climbing the ladder of Creativity.  Right now, I’m not so interested in playing Ivory Tower games – they don’t end suffering, they temporarily ease boredom.  Now, I’m not saying that beauty ends suffering either – beauty is subjective and a dualistic concept.  But geez, life is so hard for almost everyone I know, and I live in what is still considered a wealthy country that is not in a war zone.  I mean, we all deal with so much oppression on a daily basis.  Even billionaires can’t buy themselves and loved ones a longer life forever – yes, they can get the best medicines and doctors, but that still doesn’t make for immortality and the end of their suffering.  Our bodies fail us, our healthcare systems are corrupt, unexpected bills come up, we loose friends and loved ones, we have to struggle with power, nagging bosses, the mortgage, husbands and wives and friends that drive us crazy yet we are too attached to sever ties, loneliness, boredom, anger, depression, addictions, the phone company, Apple not sending us our money after completing the mail in rebate, computer upgrades, car repairs, violence, etc.  I was watching a documentary on insects yesterday, and they have so many struggles too! It seems like nature on Earth is a state of war, with a survival-instinct seed dominating every being.  Sometimes the only non-destructive thing that can revive a person from the most existentially-tormenting of days is beauty or good comedy.  Unfortunately, my sense of humor hasn’t been that great since the Bush administration went to war on Iraq – not that I’m directly blaming Bush for my not being funny anymore – perhaps it’s just a coincidence.

So to sum up a long ramble which I wonder if anyone is still reading, I hope to help people experience some majestic beauty through my music.  I know, beauty is subjective so not everyone will think my music is beautiful, and that’s ok – some will find it abrasive even, but I know that some will find beauty in it, and that is what I hope to offer as a service to others (since I’m not funny anymore ’cause of President Bush).

MD: Can you mention some of the books or writers you responded to early on?

NRL: I didn’t develop a taste for literature until my early 20’s.  Andy Kaufman wrote a brilliant work of fiction but died before it was finished.  The book came out nonetheless around the same time as Man on The Moon with Jim Carrey but is out of print now.  It is called The Huey Williams Story, and it is my favorite book.  Of course, I haven’t read it since I was 22, but, when I read it, it was the best thing ever! I cried when I finished it for two reasons: I was intoxicated and my supply ran out, and Andy died and didn’t get to finish his vision.  He was such a master of form and would really pull the veil from your face over and over, so I was upset that I didn’t get to know what he had planned. I only know one other person who has actually read the whole book (an ex-boyfriend I gave a copy to) – it’s kind of obscure, I guess.  I love Andy Kaufman! I also really like the writing of Paul Bowles.  His writing is very musical.  It makes sense that he was also an accomplished musician.

MD: Indeed, and critic and painter.  Your recent CD, Imagining Weather, contains a two part song called “Sahara”. This piece contains some very specific imagery. As it seems the centerpiece of the release, could you explain this song in more detail?

NRL: The song and music explain themselves.

MD: But for someone reading this, and not having the music to reflect upon, how much of an element of fiction is involved in the text to this piece? And how much room is there for, say, surrendering to a more psychedelic textual experience?

NRL: That depends on the subjective experience of each individual listener.

MD: When did you move to the East Coast?

NRL: The year was 2000.  I moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn (corner of Roebling and Grand), and my rent was $275 a month.  I bet now it would be $800 for the same closet-sized room.

MD: Where were the first places you performed here on the East Coast, and what was the response?

NRL: My first performances were at the Knitting Factory, and the response varied depending on the individual audience member.

MD: But you felt it was a positive experience or…

NRL: I remember polarizing people.  I did much more ballsy performance art back then.  People would respond by saying, “That was bold.”

MD: Do you feel part of any musical community?

NRL: My friend Kristen and I hang out sometimes and sing and play instruments.  We also play solo shows together and plan to tour later this year in Japan. She is very supportive and helpful and nurturing.  I look forward to making more and more friends like Kristen – she’s a gem!  I do have random great friends who are also extraordinarily talented musicians, but I don’t usually join forces with them directly through music.  I definitely look forward to building more music community as time goes on.

MD: What would be the main difference between those early shows to what a listener would hear now seeing you live?

NRL: Oh, they were very different.  I’ve gone through a few different phases, but the early NYC performances were multi-dimensional Andy Kaufmanesque trickery exercises.  They often would start out so intense, political, and dramatic and then unravel into complete absurdity and mass laughter.  My performances were a lot funnier back then (before the war).  My most recent performances have been devoid of shenanigans, razzle dazzle, hand made gifts, audience participation, and show-womanship.  But I think my work is really maturing, and I feel great about that.  I’m mostly giving intimate music concerts where I sing my heart out and play piano, harmonium, maybe nylon guitar, and then do vocal loop stuff.  The pieces are usually long (10 to 35 minutes), so the listener can go deep in, as they don’t have A.D.D.  I’m also winging it much more.  I don’t have a completed plan for what I’m going to do or play, and then I just get on stage and see what happens.  That’s what I’m up to now.  I’ve always tried to challenge myself as a performer or else I get too bored to perform.

MD: What is you ideal performing situation?

NRL: For the kind of performances I’m doing now, my ideal is a comfortable, warm, intimate yet formal, clean, non-smoking place with great acoustics and a great sound system.  The sound is the most important thing to me.  If I hear myself sounding good, then that enhances the performance and I can get lost in it… if I think the sound quality is poor, then I cut the performance very short.  I also want an audience that truly wants to be there specifically to receive music because they have a capacity to appreciate the experience.  And I want the space to be very comfortable and non-distracting for the audience.

MD: Have you ever performed in Europe?

NRL: Yes, I went there to perform in 2005 and 2006.  I really like playing in Europe!  It’s exciting to meet people from other countries and hear their perspectives on the world.  I find it very educational and look forward to going back to Germany this summer.  I think I’m going to play a show in Hamburg and do some video work with a good friend.  There’s just one big problem for me, and it’s that I’m allergic to cigarette smoke.  It’s harder for me on a physical level to go out there.  Even the health-conscious ayurvedic restaurant in Hamburg was full of smoke!  Also, I can’t perform in a smokey environment, so it takes careful planning to play concerts in most of Europe.

MD: You have mentioned pure unconditional love as an ideal of success. Is this a spiritual condition? Can it be found in the here and now?

NRL: Better to ask someone omniscient.  I’m still trapped in a neurotic ego mind.  Tension swells in my body, and I develop health problems. I get in irritable moods. Let’s just say I’m not yet evolved enough to be preaching about anything, and I hope I’m forgiven if I ever do.

MD: Should we consider your music spiritual?


NRL: If it strikes you that way, then yes.  If it doesn’t, then no. (Although I hope it does.)  More recently, I’ve been getting audience responses saying they felt the music was very spiritual, and I take that as a very good sign to keep on keeping on ’cause my own vanity is not enough fuel to keep me working like it did when I was younger.

MD: It’s a tradition in DREAM Magazine to ask the artists being interviewed if dreams or dreaming have an influence on their work or life. You mention in the liner notes to your release WARRAW, that it is one very long song (like an epic dream). Tell us how dreams continue to influence your artistic production.

NRL: I love to dream!  Many times I prefer dreaming to being awake.  Since a baby, I’ve always wanted to get a lot of sleep and found it exciting to dream.  I remember many dreams from years ago just like I remember experiences from waking life.  I have many different kinds of dreams.  Some of them are the personal ego, Freudian dreams that are obviously just about my outerself, ego, experiences and daily life.  But other dreams really feel beyond the ego stuff, and that’s when I really love it – even if it’s creepy – I feel like I’m picking up on information I wouldn’t receive when I’m awake.  Dreams speak the language of archetypes, and I love that.  I think that kind of symbolic language is influencing my new direction of lyrics.  I’m very interested in dreams and usually enjoy hearing about others’ dreams – particularly when they are surreal and wild.

MD: Do you have a ghost story?

NRL: I’ve had my share of supernatural encounters, especially right after I moved to the country into this 200 year old church recreation hall.  That place turned out to be a very bad experience, and there was definitely a lot of intense psychic residue there – in fact, I was kind of scared to be alone there at night.  The first night me and my boyfriend were there, I woke up to the sound of a grand event happening in the main space.  It sounded like a crowd of 150 people hanging out.  There was a window from our bedroom to the main space, and I had to psychically block it so no spirits would come into the bedroom (some were trying to get in).  I didn’t want to wake my boyfriend up cause I thought that might induce a hysteria between us, so I let him sleep, listened to the party, and firmly told the spirits they were not allowed in the bedroom.  Soon after that night, I consulted with a man I respect a lot – the man who wrote the films Ghost and Jacob’s Ladder and is also a meditation teacher – and he told me I did the right thing by firmly blocking the spirits from the bedroom.  He then instructed us to open up all the doors and windows and demand all the spirits leave.  So we did that.  I think it helped a lot, but I still had a few more unpleasant numinous encounters before we finally had to leave – skunks moved under the foundation and sprayed us out.  Looking back I think it was a blessing.  I’d probably be insane if I still lived there.  It was one of the worst times of my life, and I think the heavy psychic residue there really affected me negatively.  And I still have a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder around skunks.

Photographic images of Natalie Rose LeBrecht by Mark Dagley

Hans Strelow : the frontiers of post-war art


Transcription of an interview with Hans Strelow, the Düsseldorf art dealer, who was an art critic between 1960 and 1971, before opening his gallery.

In May 2014, Hans Strelow was kind enough to share some considerations about the dissemination of art movements after World War II. Two hours were recorded, and a brief selection is presented here.
(Rachel Stella)

Hans Strelow : the frontiers of post-war art

Structuralism in Morellet’s and Sýkora’s Structures

Jan Andres
Faculty of Science, Palacký University, Olomouc


Structures can be seen, examined and created, but they can also be ignored, changed and destroyed. Every structuralism that studies structures always emphasises the whole over individual sections (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts), with a crucial role ascribed to the organisation of structures and the functional relationships between their elements (constituent parts). The same principle forms the basis of Hermann Haken’s (1927) synergetics1 and my fractal analysis2 of structures in quantitative linguistics – which, like the majority of structuralist movements, was preceded by Swiss linguist and semiotician Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913). However, this approach deliberately highlights the inadequacy and limited applicability of Descartes’s analytic method (Discourse on the Method, 1637).

The French today understand structuralism or post-structuralism primarily as a monumental philosophic movement represented by Michel Foucault (1926–1984), Roland Barthes (1915–1980), Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007), Gilles Deleuze (1925–1995), Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) and others. In Czech circles, structuralism is justifiably often associated with the Prague Linguistic Circle, whose core members were Roman Jakobson (1896–1982), Jan Mukařovský (1891–1975) and Vilém Mathesius (1882–1945). The Prague structuralists’ aesthetics evaluated a work semiotically as a sign whose parts and whole are bearers of meaning.3

In no way is my aim here to evaluate. However, I would like to proceed from a mere description of structures to at least an introduction to possible perceptions of structures. It is not important to understand the technical principles in this regard. My approach could be called radically “anti-Bernsteinian”, as the final goal is everything and the means are nothing – a concept that was once calculatedly attributed to the Jesuits. Recognising this risk, I will use an analytical approach in an attempt at describing the structures of François Morellet (1926–2016) and Zdeněk Sýkora (1920–2011) in as “structural” a manner as possible.

For me, the French tradition of visual, combinatorially-variable structure does not start with philosophers or linguists, but perhaps surprisingly with the Carmelite Order, which gave rise to two remarkable figures: Sébastien Truchet (1657–1729) and Dominique Douat (1681– date of death unknown). In addition to fulfilling their monastic obligations, they both worked with different, primarily practical disciplines. In 1704 Truchet published a study6 on creating patterns out of tiles split by a diagonal line into two differently-coloured triangles. Instead of combinatorial patterns, the arrangement options are demonstrated on lovely copper-plate engravings with the use of symmetry. Since 1987 Truchet’s studies have been available in English translation by Pauline Boucher with additional modern commentary provided by Cyril Stanley Smith.7

Truchet’s monastic brother Dominique Douat built on his studies in 1722 with a book8 in which Douat works with the simple concept of successively rotating each tile by 90°. In so doing he codified the four basic “Truchet tiles” for a gridded field. Naturally, the patterns that arose were again consciously chosen based on symmetry. Douat’s book can be considered a period manual for the purely deterministic production of predominantly (but not necessarily) symmetrical structures.

Fig. 1: Truchet’s graphic breakdown of reductions from a total of 64 possible pairs

Fig. 2: Four “Truchet tiles” and 16 possible variations with repeating pairs from Douat’s book

François Morellet did not develop his compatriots’ work any further; in fact, he did not even know about it. 9 Instead, he relied more on the opposite principle of stochasticity, which I will hereinafter refer to as randomness.10 Into his best-known structures, Morellet encoded numbers from the phone book11 and the decimal expansion of the Ludolphine number π = 3.14159…,12 expressing the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. As coding means creating a bijective (one-to-one) assignation (in this case, digits to elements), the specific method of coding depends on the number of selected elements. Morellet then plotted the resulting coded sequence lexicographically on a gridded field (chequerboard).

For his early 1960s binary (digital) structures made using two elements – which had long, yet perfectly fitting titles: Répartition aléatoire de 40 000 carrés suivant les chiffres pairs et impairs d’un annuaire de téléphone, 50 % bleu, 50 % rouge (resp. 50 % noir, 50 % blanc, etc.) – it was sufficient to assign colour to even numbers and another to odd numbers. Different coding for two differently-coloured square elements could be executed, e.g., in a binary system (1 = black, 0 = white), which to a certain extent would today correspond to the increasingly popular use of QR (Quick Response) codes. In the same period, Karl Otto Götz (1914) completed his related binary two-colour structures titled Statistisch-metrische Modulation, Statistische Verteilung and Density. In the 1970s Ryszard Winiarski (1936–2006) created his extensive numbered Area (Polish: Obszar) series based on a similar principle. 13 In 1971 Galerie Denise René in Paris published an album containing eight corresponding Morellet screenprints with the shortened title Morellet, 40 000 carrés.

In 1958 François Morellet created his famous black-and-white structure, titled Répartition aléatoire de triangles suivant les chiffres pairs et impairs d’un annuaire de téléphone, again by encoding numbers from the phone book – but this time he used four Truchet tiles plus white (empty) and black (full) squares. However, I do not know how he assigned the six elements to individual digits. He might have used only the first six digits (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6) and ignored the rest, or perhaps he used dice, but the title of the structure rules out this option.

Fig. 3: A page from the telephone book prepared by Morellet for encoding into the structure

Fig. 4: The first 875 digitally-differentiated (even=white, odd=grey) digits of the decimal expansion of the Ludolphine number π

On several occasions Zdeněk Sýkora provided a detailed explanation of the constructional principle (“My System”) behind his structures himself14 or in conjunction with mathematician Jaroslav Blažek “Computer-aided Multi-element Geometrical Abstract Paintings”, Leonardo 3, 4 (1970), 409–413. These sources clearly indicate that a computer was always used (likely for the first time15 in Europe) as an aid to facilitate technically complex operations. Once again it should be emphasised that Zdeněk Sýkora made sure (perhaps too solicitously) to preserve the “painterly nature” of his works.

It is known that Sýkora learned more about combinatorics and the potential it offered from Hlaváček’s translation of chapter 6 of Werner Haftmann’s The Mind and Work of Paul Klee (Faber & Faber, London, 1954). In the chapter titled “Pedagogical Sketchbook”, Haftmann describes and interprets Klee’s teaching methods from his eponymous brochure,16 which was an official Bauhaus textbook. Sýkora especially connected with a passage about the repetition of units forming a structure: “Since these figure arrangements rest on the principle of repetition, any number of parts can be added or taken away without changing their rhythmic character. Therefore the structural character is divisional.”

Less well known is the fact that Sýkora’s system is essentially deterministic. After making the first well-considered insertions of tiles into a grid (establishing “nests”), subsequent additions are made based on a set of fixed rules. Randomness enters the game only if the instructions are ambiguous – but it is more a question of choosing from several options than randomness per se.

For example, in the 1966 painting Black and White Structure (oil on canvas, 220 × 110 cm) described by Sýkora and Blažek in Leonardo, the restrictive rules of a pre-set scenario would only have led to possible modifications to the original, which my former student Martina Losová was able to computer simulate (see fig. 5–9) using permissible variations (there are four different relational rules).17 The same principle can be applied to practically all of Sýkora’s Structures, including his prints, with the exception of his early attempts (Grey Structure and all of his paintings from 1963).

Fig. 5: Computer simulation of Sýkora’s Black and White Structure
Fig. 6: Another variation based on the same rule #2 (differing red elements)

Fig. 7: Variation based on rule 0

Fig. 8: Variation based on rule 1

Fig. 9: Variation based on rule 3

The rules of Sýkora’s system show a certain formal similarity with the best-known cellular automaton – Conway’s Game of Life.18 This interesting question was already being studied in the late 1940s as part of the exploration of discrete dynamic systems by such brilliant mathematicians as John von Neumann (1903–1957) and Stanislaw Ulam (1909–1984). John Horton Conway’s (1937) Game of Life was first presented in a 1970 article in Scientific American by popular science writer Martin Gardner (1914–2010). Stephen Wolfram brought research into cellular automatons to the next level with his aptly titled A New Kind of Science (Wolfram Media, Champaign, Il., 2002), a 1,200-page book that went on to become a bestseller.

Other interesting comparisons are the prints of Anni Albers (1899–1994),19 who studied at the Bauhaus, or the artist’s books of contemporary young American artist Tauba Auerbach (1981),20 whose work can be found in the collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, among other places – but this would go beyond the scope of this study. In closing, I will limit myself to noting that two of Zdeněk Sýkora’s (combinatorial) Structures and one of his Macrostructures were used for the covers of Czech university mathematics textbooks:

  • G. Kuroš, Kapitoly z obecné algebry (Alexander Gennadyevich Kurosh, Lectures on General Algebra), 1st edition, Academia, Prague, 1968.
  • G. Kuroš, Kapitoly z obecné algebry (Alexander Gennadyevich Kurosh, Lectures on General Algebra), 2nd edition, Academia, Prague, 1977.
  • Ralston, Základy numerické matematiky (A First Course in Numerical Analysis), Academia, Prague, 1973.

More detailed information about the two artists’ structures within the scope presented here, as well as a comparison of their approaches, can be found in my articles:

  • Andres, Tvorba Zdeňka Sýkory očima matematika (The Work of Zdeněk Sýkora through the Eyes of a Mathematician), unpublished, final version from 2008, 15 pages.
  • Andres, Zdeněk Sýkora and François Morellet: Parallels and complementarity. Leonardo, 47, 1 (2014), 2731, 34.


  1. See H. Haken, An Introduction. Nonequilibrium Phase Transitions and Self-Organization in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Third Revised and Enlarged Edition, Springer, Berlin, 1983.
  2. Andres, “On de Saussure’s principle of linearity and visualization of language structures”, Glottotheory 2, 2 (2009), 1–14.
  3. An engaging book that focuses on the semiotics of images is Peter Michalovič and Vlastimil Zuska’s book Znaky, obrazy a stíny slov, published by AMU Press, Prague, in 2009.
  4. Measuring the aesthetic value (quality) in quantitative terms can be tricky and misleading. However, a whole range of evaluation criteria is available based primarily on the concept of Shannon entropy. This type of aesthetics is associated with names such as George David Birkhoff (1884–1944), Abraham Moles (1920–1992), Fred Attneave (1919–1991), Herbert Werner Franke (1927) and others. In the Czech Republic, Jaroslav Nešetřil (1946) has systematically explored the topic of mathematical aesthetics.
  5. The opposite of Eduard Bernstein’s (1850–1932) motto: “The movement is everything, the final goal is nothing.”
  6. Sébastien Truchet, Mémoire sur les combinaisons, Mémoires de l’Academie Royale des Sciences, 1704, 363–372.
  7. S. Smith, “The tiling patterns of Sébastien Truchet and the topology of structural hierarchy”, Leonardo 20, 4 (1987), 373–385.
  8. Dominique Douat, Methode pour faire une infinité de desseins differens, avec des carreaux mi-partis de deux couleurs par une ligne diagonale: ou observations du pere Dominique Douat, religieux Carme de la province de Toulouse, sur un memoire inseré dans l’Histoire de l’Academie royale des sciences de Paris l’annee 1704, presente par le reverend pere Sébastastien Truchet, religieux du même ordre, academicien honoraire, Florentin de Laulne, Claude Jombert, André Caillau, Paris, 1722.
  9. Confirmed in a private discussion with the artist in February 2010.
  10. In mathematics these two concepts differ; in the 1950s, the Prague school of probabilists led by Antonín Špaček made a fundamental contribution to the study of random processes in connection with probabilistic generalisation of deterministic operator theory. Neither of these concepts can be mistaken for another important mathematical concept, deterministic chaos, which in a certain regard can be understood as a higher (dynamic) form of order.
  11. The first four digits, which represented the city code, were always omitted.
  12. A 40,000 decimal expansion of π to 40,000 digits is available online. The world record for calculated digits exceeds this limit many times over and is continuing to rise. See, e.g., R. P. Agarwal, H. Agarwal, S. K. Sen, “Birth, growth and computation of pi to ten trillion digits”, Advances in Differential Equations 2013, 2013:100, 1–59. Morellet also used the coding of the decimal expansion if π for his lines. See François Morellet, Konstruktionen mit der Zahl π, Chorus-Verlag, Mainz and Munich, 2001.
  13. See J. Grabski (ed.), Ryszard Winiarski. Prace z lat 1973–1974, IRSA, Krakow, 2002.
  14. See Kappel, L. Sýkorová: Zdeněk Sýkora – 90. Verzone, Prague, 2010, pp. 64–71. It was first formulated in 1967 at the request of Umbro Apollonio from Archivio Storico delle Arti Contemporanee in Venice; see Lenka and Zdeněk Sýkora Archive, Louny.
  15. Sýkora’s first Structure created with the support of a computer in the sense described here is Black and White Structure (oil on canvas, 100 × 100 cm) from 1964, originally titled Variation I VI E. In addition, similar structures were created (but not in the manner described here) in Czechoslovakia in the early 1960s – such as an illustration by Miloš Noll (1926–1998) on the last page of J. R. Pick’s book Monoléčky (Mladá fronta, Prague, 1961) Jiří Krejčí’s illustration on the cover of J. Oliverius and R. Veselý’s conversational Arabic book Egyptská hovorová arabština (Státní pedagogické nakladatelství, Prague, 1965). Both structures were composed of Truchet tiles.
  16. A Czech translation was published in 1999: Paul Klee, Pedagogický náčrtník, Triáda, Prague, 1999 (translated by Anita Pelánová from the German, which had been published in 1925 as the second in a series of Bauhaus books).
  17. Losová, Matematické aspekty výtvarného díla Zdeňka Sýkory (Mathematical aspects of the work of Zdeněk Sýkora), thesis, Palacký University, Faculty of Science, Olomouc, 2010.
  18. The Game of Life is described in a broader context in the book by Z. Neubauer and J. Fiala Střetnutí paradigmat a řád živé skutečnosti, Malvern, Prague, 2011, pp. 39–49.
  19. Fox Weber, B. Danilowitz, The Prints of Anni Albers. A Catalogue Raisonné, 1963–1984, The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Editorial RM, Everbest Printing, Co., Panyu, Guangdong, 2009.

Prof. RNDr. Dr. Hab. Jan Andres, DrSc. studied Numerical Mathematics at the Faculty of Science, Palacky University in Olomouc, where he also serves as head of the Department of Mathematical Analysis and Mathematical Applications. He has been a visiting professor at American and European universities, particularly in Rome and in recent years at the Sorbonne in Paris. He gained the highest scientific rank not only in the Czech Republic but also in neighboring Poland.

Professor Jan Andres is also a member of many professional scientific journals around the world. He specializes in mathematical methods of exploring nonlinear dynamics and fractals and their applications in quantitative linguistics.


Many thanks to Professor Andres for allowing Kulturebite to post this text.

Pro. Andres, Lauri Bortz, Mark Dagley
Ars Combinatoria exhibition, Galerie Caesar,
Olomouc, Czech Republic, November 2015