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Computer artist explores space

Taking a walk in space. Max Grüter

A Swiss artist who blends science with art is staging his first exhibition in the United States, entitled "My Private Space Program".

This content was published on December 31, 2003 - 10:51

From his Zurich studio, Max Grüter explores outer space in his imagination then uses 3D digital imaging to transfer to the computer screen what he sees there in his mind.

These animated pictures are now the centrepiece of an exhibition in Washington DC which also includes his video installations and sculptures.

Grüter studied art at Zurich’s graphic design school and says this provided the foundation for his future career. He created paintings and sculptures before making what was for him an unexpected decision – to use the computer as his medium.

It was unexpected because until then Grüter knew little about computers: “But I wanted to become a sculptor using virtual clay,” he told swissinfo.

What is all the more surprising when observing him at work today on his high-tech Power Mac G4 is that Grüter is entirely self-taught as a computer artist.

Perfect world

“I chose outer space as a motif because having been born in 1955 I grew up with the start of manned space exploration,” he said, “and ever since have been fascinated by it.

By using computer manipulation I can create my own perfect world in which anything goes.”

The animated pictures are astonishingly clear, featuring among other things astronauts taking walks in space.

In a forthcoming book entitled “Bits of Life: Media Studies and Science and Technology Studies”, Professor Lisa Parks of Santa Barbara University of California notes that Grüter uses 3D imaging techniques to take him beyond “an astronautic aesthetic”.

She adds: “In Grüter’s virtual playground astronauts are human – they can be seen lounging in the living room watching television, ejecting from their spacecrafts for amusement, or just sitting melancholic, contemplating the passage of time.”

Each series of animated space pictures takes Grüter about five years to complete from its conception, but he says the end result is worth all that work: “It’s like hanging your own movie on the wall.”

The exhibition is at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington DC and is co-sponsored by the Swiss embassy, the Swiss Science Agency and Presence Switzerland. It ends on March 1.

swissinfo, Richard Dawson in Zurich

In brief

Max Grüter was born near Zurich and studied at the city’s school of graphic design.

Originally intending to be a painter and sculptor he taught himself to use computers and now creates his works with digital imaging.

He works on a Power Mac G4 computer from a studio in Zurich.

My Private Space Program is the title of an exhibition at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington DC.

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