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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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uncovering code in materials, space, and form – work in progress

uncovering code in materials, space, and form – work in progress
  • On July 20, 2018

There is a pervasive mythology that the keyboard and the camera will one day replace the hand and the eye. The basis of digital interaction relies on the idea of a seamless translation from the real to the virtual, glossy and lossless, in a touchless ether. I seek to create kinetic art which disturbs the translation from reality to simulated fantasy.  By using only analog materials–brass, string, rocks, crumbled cement found in an abandoned lot–the pendulum is a statement against perfection and immateriality.

The interaction which takes place between the viewer and the art is purely physical, unmediated by a digital platform, and unable to be surveilled, it’s only traces recorded on the wear of the wood.  Its visual symmetry is not birthed from a copy and paste function–each wooden component is assembled by hand. Each rock contains a history of the forces which have acted upon it.  The interaction is not achieved by computer vision but by human contact.

Sarah Lever

Those who dream of the smart city or an internet of thing believe that information can only be found in objects which have been instilled with a coded presence: artificial intelligence, digital sensors, computer automation, networked devices, LED displays, etc. The pendulum asks the viewer to contemplate whether agency can also be found in objects which have not been engineered by a digital touch. Each wooden panel is encoded by its length, the precise positions of holes and hinges which govern its unique parameters for movement through space and the speeds at which it rotates in each position.  The counterweights are hung to complement the force applied through the mechanism as a function of mass and the acceleration of gravity, having been calculated with the length of the driving armature and its distance from the fulcrum.  The maximum and minimum amplitudes of a swing must conform to these calculations, as must the displacement of each string, and the reactionary forces at each fixed point.  This analog information contained in space and form – on a mathematical level – is infinitely more rich than any binary simulation of the same processes.

My art does not question the utility of digital technology, which has great potential in our contemporary moment to solve a number of specific human challenges.  Instead, it examines whether the virtual can ever truly and fully replace the real. Degrees of error are increasingly invisible, masked by sanitization and erasure, and fail to mirror the glitches seen in the human world. In its mechanical excess and explicit imperfection, the pendulum is a literal interruption of the holistic cybernetic dream.

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