Edward Ihnatowicz

Cybernetic sculptor

Edward Ihnatowicz (1926 – 1988) was a cybernetic art sculptor active in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His sculptures explored the interaction between his robotic works and the audience.


  • Two small and rather unappealing animals possess patterns of behaviour that have great relevance for the student of intelligent systems. These are the wood louse and the maggot of the common housefly, and it is the difference in their behaviour which is so illuminating. It has to do with the way in which they orient themselves to their environment. Wood lice like moist places and succeed in aggregating there by the simple device of slowing down their otherwise random movements as the humidity increases. The maggot, which, during a certain stage of its development needs to come out of the dark, finds light by a slightly more sophisticated system. It has a single, non-directional light-sensing organ at the forward end of its body and as it moves along it swings this end left and right, allowing the amount of light gathered during each swing to determine the extent of its forward motion. In this way it keeps altering its course until the amounts of light sensed are equal for both sides, by which time it must be heading straight for the light.
    • Edward Ihnatowicz. "MAGGOTY INTELLIGENCE," Unpublished. Date unknown: pre 1988. at senster.com, 2015

The Relevance of Manipulation to the Process of Perception, 1977


Edward Ihnatowicz."The Relevance of Manipulation to the Process of Perception," The Institute of. Mathematics and its Applications, May 1977, pp 133-135

  • The idea of making machines that think has an unfailing fascination, not only for science fiction readers, but for all who can see it is a possible way of gaining some understanding of the working of our own minds. Thinking, however, is not an easily defined phenomenon, although it is often considered to be the process of solving problems.
    • p. 133
  • In perception itself, two distinct processes can be discerned. One is the gathering of the primary, sensory data or simple sensing of such things as light, moisture or pressure, and the other is the structuring of such data into information.
    • p. 133
  • I am not really suggesting that we should construct cybernetic cigarette boxes, merely that the situation described contains all the elements which would have to be taken into account in a design of a practical cognitive system. These can be described as:
1. The actual physical system (the box), whose construction is such that conditions hazardous to it can be identified;
2. A disordered and changing environment containing such hazards;
3. A motor ability capable of removing the system from the vicinity of danger;
4. Means of perceiving these aspects of the environment, capable of signalling the danger in advance,
5. A brain or a mechanism for deciding what to do on the basis of the perceived information.
The inclusion of complementary positive elements such as advantageous situations and the desire to seek them, would not affect the general scheme in any essential way.
  • p. 134

Quotes about Edward Ihnatowicz

  • ...three artworks created in the mid and late sixties stand as landmarks in the development of robotic art: Nam June Paik and Shuya Abe's Robot K-456 (1964), Tom Shannon's Squat (1966), and Edward Ihnatowicz's The Senster (1969-1970). While these works are very significant in their own right, they acquire a particular meaning when re-considered today, since seen together they also configure a triangle of new aesthetic issues that has continually informed the main directions in robotic art.
    • Eduardo Kac (1997). "Origin and Development of Robotic Art". Art Journal, Digital Reflections: the Dialogue of Art and Technology, Special issue on Electronic Art, Johanna Drucker, (ed.), CAA, NY 56 (3): 60–67.
  • Edward Ihnatowicz (1926-1988) built one of the world's first computer-controlled robotic sculptures, The Senster, in 1968-70. Rather than concentrate entirely on this groundbreaking and influential piece of work, this paper describes the stages he went through in developing his ideas, as an illustration of how a conventional artist became a cybernetic sculptor.
    • Zivanovic, Aleksandar. "The development of a cybernetic sculptor: Edward Ihnatowicz and the Senster." Proceedings of the 5th conference on Creativity & cognition. ACM, 2005.
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