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  • Salut au Monde!
  • Jürgen Claus

The technicalities matter a lot, but the unifying vision matters more.

ted nelson [1]

FORTY-FIVE—maybe fifty—years ago, I was obsessed with the idea of the Planet Ocean project, published in a book in 1972 and later as a film in 1979. Like many others of my generation, I had been fascinated by a fundamental and necessary change in the arts: Art could now be seen as completing an evolution of humanity, acting as precursor of a new morality, a new ethics. Enthusiastically I embraced the idea of the artist enfolding himself/herself as part of the planet, discovering a planet within, the solar systems and the star web of inner experience.

It was at that time that I lost my standing in the circles of galleries and museums. “We are oriented towards exhibitions like supermarkets. In front of us is the topography of styles, modes, atrophies. Everything might have been done already. Or has it? Planet Ocean will bring evidence to the contrary” [2].

I had worked with multimedia from the late 1960s on. To avoid one-dimensionality I performed in empty rooms, churches and industrial buildings with a plurality of simultaneously projected media: slides, films, music, sound and myself moving with and through them. Then electronic media was used as spacious media, not centered as today into one apparatus—the computer. The same for the audience: no one-dimensional projection—new and old media occupied the space. Yes, even space could be a medium in itself.

Medium for me was double-sided, bilateral: there were the natural media such as air, earth, water on the one side and technological media on the other. I took as serious the ironic sentence, “There should be no computer art,” by one of the pioneers of computer art, Frieder Nake. Yes, even the computer was double-sided (and I don’t refer here to the strong “academic” criticism of Joseph Weizenbaum).

There is no way to formulate it better than another pioneer, Ted Nelson, did in his early book-pamphlet Dream Machines, first published in 1974. “We live in media, as fish live in water. (Many people are prisoners of the media, many are manipulators and many want to use them to communicate artistic visions.) But today, at this moment, we can and must design the media, design the molecules of our new water” [3].

I dove into Planet Ocean as into my own body, not just my skin, my blood, my nerves. I explored strategies of structures, which was what I called the proceedings of the artist, the designer, the urbanist, the architect. The strategy settled between two poles—one being the scientific, following observation or research, and the other being the individual, personal vision. In between these two poles, art happened. Instead of seeing art only as a materialized result, I proposed to break free from the historic horizon.

Here is where Walt Whitman, from whom I borrowed the title of my editorial, comes in. As he begins his “Salut au Monde!, we find ourselves linking together in and through infinite networks. “Such join’d unended links, each hook’d to the next/Each answering all, each sharing the earth with all” [4].

Leonardo Honorary Editor
Email: <>

Jürgen Claus
Leonardo Honorary Editor
Email: <>


1. Ted Nelson, Dream Machines, Introduction to the 1987 Edition (Redmond, WA: Tempus Books of Microsoft Press, 1987) p. 3.
2. Jürgen Claus, Planet Meer. Kunst & Umweltforschung Unterwasser (Cologne: DuMont Aktuell, 1972) p. 45.

Nelson [1].

4. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (New York, London: W.W. Norton, 1973) p. 137. [End Page 378]


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