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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Richard Brown

  • On March 24, 2008

I’m currently over in Vienna settng up my work for the upcoming Pask Present Exhibition which opens tomorrow. If your in the area feel free to join us for the opening night tomorrow (25th March). One of the artists exhibiting is Richard Brown, so I thought I’d show a taste of his work. Richard Brown has a BSc in Computers & Cybernetics and an MA in Fine Art and works as a hybrid artist, inventor and entrepreneur creating interactive and mimetic experiences using a wide variety of media, including the digital, the analogue and the chemical. His works explores the perception of space, time and energy encompassing ideas from cybernetics, artificial life, interaction design, emergence, complexity and alchemy.

richard brown
Static Machine

Between 1995 and 2001 Richard was a Research Fellow at the Royal College of Art where he created and exhibited three major interactive works Alembic (ICA 1998), Biotica (Siggraph 2000) and the Neural Net Starfish (Millennium Dome 2000). Whist at the RCA Richard also published the book “Biotica: Art, Emergence and Artificial- Life“. He has been an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Victorian College of Art, Melbourne University, and artist-in-residence at CEMA (Centre for Electronic Media Arts), Monash University.In 2006 Richard was invited by Edinburgh Informatics to be their first Research Artist in Residence. In this role, he has developed projects combining art, informatics and communications research.

Here are a selection of projects of his but you can see many more at the Pask Present Exhibition.

Electromagnetic Time Machine 1983

An electromagnetic kinetic sculpture using the cybernetic principle of regulatory feedback to generate complex oscillatory behaviour. Each electromagnetic relay is physically coupled to a vertical pendulum and electrically influenced by its immediate neighbour. When a relay closes it causes the relay in front to close only if the relay behind is open, thus creating a regulatory feedback loop with unstable oscillations due to the differing physical weightings of the vertical pendulums. A simple PIR sensor activates the work, the pulsing lights indicating the closing and opening of each relay.

richard brown

Cybernetics concerns itself with any type of system that involves sensing and feedback, biological, ecological, mechanical and chemical. Gordon Pask created cybernetic feedback mechanisms using electromechanical and analogue components in his works, such as “Colloquy of mobiles” in the same vein, Time Machine represents an alternative paradigm to the digital.

Dendritics I, II and III

richard brown

The Electrochemical System is inspired by Gordon Pask’s early experiments with electrochemistry. The central negatively charged copper electrode of each glass is surrounded by four positively charged copper electrodes. Copper dendrites grow from the central electrode reaching out to the outer electrodes. The plates are connected so that each glass is in competition with the other, more charge being consumed by the fastest growing dendrite. Each outer electrode is connected via an LED whose brightness indicates the voltage difference.

richard brown

This work represents an experiment in using dendritic growth as self regulating switching mechanisms, as a dendrite grows, it consumes more potential in competition with other dendrites trying to grow from the same power source. Pask describes the possibilities of chemical computing, the energy systems involved and illustrates a number of circuit possibilities for dendritic circuits on pp 105—108 in his book “An approach to Cybernetics”, Pask 1961.


  1. John

    What a bunch of crap.
    This is the art of B.S.
    There is practically no natural phenomena that doesnt involve conservation ( a ballance of energy or matter).
    The crystals are not competing. They don’t care if the win or loose the race. They are simply ballancing, like EVERYTHING does.
    The one that grows the longest is probably the one that is closest to the copper electorde, or the one that for some reason has better conductivity than the others.
    Typical pho-science from artists who are not disciplined in science, but know how to sling the B.S.

  2. richard

    What an aggressive ill informed comment – peppered with spelling mistakes and scientifically inaccurate statements!

    The dendrites are not crystals they are copper depositions.

    To use the word competing doe not imply sentience or emotional terms such as caring. Programs that emulate survival of the fittest involve competition for resources do so without the agents having the emotions of caring.

    Yes the conservation of energy is pretty much accepted as a scientific principle, no debate there.

    Though it is not clear in this post there are in fact 3 glass plates (not simply one glass plate as shown above) each having its 4 electrodes wired in parallel to a separate voltage source. As a dendrite grows in a glass it effects the potential difference across the 4 electrodes in ALL the glass plates, each growing dendrite effecting the direction and rate of growth of the other two dendrites. Its a complex cybernetic system involving feedback and competition for resources.

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