Where Time Becomes Nervous: John Mcphee’s Annals of the Former World

Annals of the Former WorldPanorama from Point Sublime [Grand Canyon] – Printed by Julius Bien [1882]

If you want to know about Protoliths, Abyssoliths, Xenoliths and Tectonic Knots, of index fossils, totemic assemblages of ophiolitic Serpentine, of erratic stones and aesthonspheric calligraphy, geochronology, abyssal plains and gravity maps, you might do well to journey with John Mcphee over the coarse of a few decades, and four books, while he traveled with a handful of distinguished geologists across the 50th parallel of the US. His epic account of the geology of North America, in Annals of the The Former World, contains 4.5 billion years of geological history crammed into the 900 pages. Mcphee is well-know as a master stylist. His drama of lithology and stratigraphy relies on the clever interplay between the story the Earth and the life stories and anecdotes of those geologists who helped him unpack the annals of deep time. The author melds metaphors between micro-time and deep time instinctively, juggling time scales of the vast and minute to bring into focus what geologists call the ‘bigger picture’. While examining a rock at the Rawlins Uplift he says ‘we were looking at moments of over half the existence of the Earth… In 1/250th of a second a camera could capture 26 hundred million years’. Later ‘The difference between a human lifetime and 400 Million years would seem to be the difference between time incomprehensible and time infinitesimal, but what brings them together is that the smaller unit – bridging in the mind the intervening aeons – can imagine and virtually see the larger one.

Annals of the Former WorldEngraving of the unconformity at Jedburgh from Theory of the Earth Volume 1 – James Hutton [1795]

The concept of geological deep time was coined by the Scottish Geologist James Hutton, in his treatise Theory of the Earth, in the late 18th century after geochemical inspection of rock in Scotland and Scandinavia. Up until his discovery the religious-centric world-view held that the age of the planet was a few thousand years old. Stratigraphic signatures and compositions of rock gave rise to Hutton’s revised estimation of hundreds of millions years – still quite a way short of the actual 4.54 billions years we now know it to be.

According to James Hall, who popularised Hutton’s work, ‘the mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss…We found no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of end’. Stephen Jay Gould, in his book Times Arrow, Times Cycle commented that these swathes of time are so immense that we can only understand them as metaphors in relation to the time humans have existed in the planet.

Mcphee’s writing is poetic whist still retaining scientific rigour, his stories seem to disclose an immensely slow but purposeful unfolding of tectonic history. We travel with him exploring road-cuts in order to better understand the orchestration of mountain ranges by reading backwards through time. The author reverse engineers the cryptography of geology by examining index fossils, by separating gneisses from schists, and by exploring more recent techniques such as geochronology, thermochronology and acromagnetic mapping.

Annals of the Former WorldGeological Cross Section of Colorado – Josiah Edward Spurr [1898]

‘The writing of Stratigraphy is a cryptic one, but before you have crossed the range you have seen rock of such varied ages and provenance that time itself becomes nervous – Pilocene, Miocene, Eocene, Jurassic here, Triassic there… it seems random, a collector of relics of varied ages’. He reminds us that ‘Nature is messy, don’t expect it to be uniform or consistent’. Lithographic time gaps confuse matters and the cooling of magma can corrupt the chronology, but here and there is some order and the writings of these rocks can decoded to show their past and future intentions. ‘Corrugations of abyssal plains read indefinitely as extending barcodes’ and ‘The structure of the sea floor is a simple set of tree rings…..carrying easily decipherable magnetic structures’. Or according to Anita Harris, his traveling geologist companion in one section, ‘Rocks are books, they have a different vocabulary and alphabet, but you can learn to read them…they tell you about temperature and pressure…the colours, grain, sizes and the ripples give you clues to the energy of the environment of deposition. As you ascend mountains you descend through the layers of the ancient oceans. A road cut to a geologist is the Rosetta Stone to a Egyptologist’.

Leave a Reply

Robert le Ricolais’s Tensegrity Models – ‘The Art of Structure is Where to Put the Holes’

Robert le RicolaisAutomorphic Compression Member & Automorphic Tube Model – Robert le Ricolais

Robert le Ricolais’s wire-frame tensegrity structures may well stand as sculptural artworks in their own right. His finely crafted forms appear to have a remarkable lightness, insinuating objects of flight, part kite, part airship skeleton. Their balanced forms create a meditative aerodynamic aesthetic, implying propulsion or rotation. Some, throwing their graphic wire-frame shadows into space, defy gravity through their nearly-not-thereness.

Robert le RicolaisDouble Parabolic Trihex Bridge for the Skyrail – Robert le Ricolais

Robert le RicolaisDouble Parabolic Trihex Bridge for the Skyrail – Robert le Ricolais

Robert le RicolaisFunicular Polygon of Revolution Lemniscate – Robert le Ricolais

Robert le RicolaisAleph Bridge – Robert le Ricolais

Robert le RicolaisFunicular Polygon of Revolution Pseudosphere – Robert le Ricolais

Robert le RicolaisOmega Tower for 19 Power Lines – Robert le Ricolais

The models were brought to light in the mid 90′s by one of Ricolais previous students, professor Peter McCleary, for an exhibition of the architects works. They had been grounded and captive in various storerooms for over 20 years. Ricolais [1894-1977], like Buckmister Fuller, was interested in structural morphology defined by tensional integrity of natural structures – the ubiquitous soap bubble and sea shell. Ricolais ‘fantasized of going inside a rope to find a new way to realize his central vision of zero weight and infinite span’ Rather than the accretion of ideas to layer complex forms of analysis, Ricolais preferred to work in the opposite direction, simulating the Buddhist mindset – ‘the art of structure is where to put the holes’.

Robert le RicolaisPolyten Bridge – Robert le Ricolais

Robert le RicolaisRe-tensionned Monkey Saddle – Robert le Ricolais

Robert le RicolaisStarhex Dome – Robert le Ricolais

Related Posts:
Spatiologies – Vittorio Giorgini
Yuri Avvakumov – Agitarch Structures: Reconfiguring Utopia
The Architectural Fantasies of Iakov Chernikhov
Drop City – Colonizing consciousness with abodes of Truncated Icosorhombic Dodecahedra

Leave a Reply

Selected Tweets #22: Sonic Cosmogonies, Sculptural Cartography, Aeolian Speculation….

Noclip Urban Blocks - AlephographNoclip Urban Blocks – Alephograph

Selected tweets from my Twitter stream @MrPrudence [Oct 2013 – April 2014], with occasional addition annotations:

Magical-contamination collects and curates microbiological aesthetics and bacteriopoetics.

Mechanical Seizure – Minsu Kim. Bio-geometric space of electronic components simulates ‘life-like impressions.’

Drawing Machine – Robert Twomey. Precision-controlled CNC device programmed to ‘draw’ technical diagrams.

Typestracts – Dom Sylvester Houédard. Concrete poetry from the ‘cosmic typewriter’ of a Benedictine monk.

Drawing Machine – Robert TwomeyDrawing Machine – Robert Twomey

Xenakis Polytopes: Cosmogonies in Sound and Architecture. Architectural diagrams & mathematical notation.

Tintinnabuli Mathematica – Guy Burkin is programming Arvo Pärt’s Tintinnabuli method. Listen here.

Magnetophone – Aaron Sherwood. Sound sculpture uses electromagnetic fields to generate guitar drones.

An Acoustic Lyrical Mechanism – Basmah Kaki. Speculative therapeutic Aeolian mechanism situated in an Indian quarry.

magicalContaminationMagical Contamination


Graphic scores of Leon Schidlowsky
– who experimented with tonal concepts. (atonal, aleatorical & graphic notation)


The Impossible Music of Black Midi
– midi compositions comprising of several millions notes. A nihilistic hedonism of musical notation!


Sculptural Cartography
: How the Marshall Islands inhabitants used stick charts to map the waves.

Time of the Empress – Aziz + Cucher. Multiscreen architectures ‘rise into ruin’ after being built.

Mechanical Seizure – Minsu KimMechanical Seizure – Minsu Kim

Greg Smith on Mathew Biederman’s Serial Mutations. Necker cubes, isometric illusion & crystallographic indeterminacy

Gaudism – Echoechonoisenoise. Generative/handmade hybrid process to create organic & alien centenary structures.

Noclip Urban Blocks & Colocation Blocks. Isometric fragmentations from Alephograph

The Metropolis of Tomorrow – Hugh Ferriss [1929]. Future of the city: Monolithic skyscrapers and rooftop aerodromes.

One City – Will InsleyOne City – Will Insley

Onecity: Non Utopian Monumental City – Will Insley’s drawings/plans/collages of an immense imaginary city.

Sonia Sheridan was worshiping the glitch in 1982 with EASEL & Cromemco Z2D – Stretching the Grid.

N-light Membrane – Numen. Deforming recursive reflections via flexible foil membranes

Leave a Reply

David Wade’s ‘Fantastic Geometry’ – The Works of Wenzel Jamnitzer & Lorenz Stoer

Plate from Geometria et perspectiva [1575] - Lorenz StoerPlate from Geometria et perspectiva [1575] – Lorenz Stoer

David Wade’s ‘Fantastic Geometry – Polyhedra and the Artistic Imagination in the Renaissance’ is a fascinating entrée into the works of group of artists who published books containing enigmatic and fantastical depictions of geometric forms in Germany during the mid-sixteenth century. Densely illustrated publications by Wenzel Jamnitzer, Johannes Lenker and Lorenz Stoer, combine pedagogical instruction on the nature of perspective drawing with idiosyncratic renderings of symmetrical and complex polyhedra. The book explores many of the influences that converged to trigger this ‘movement’, which centered around Nuremberg, and contains many illustrations from the original manuscripts.

Plate from Geometria et perspectiva [1575] - Lorenz StoerPlate from Geometria et perspectiva [1575] – Lorenz Stoer

Plate from Geometria et perspectiva [1575] - Lorenz StoerPlate from Geometria et perspectiva [1575] – Lorenz Stoer

Plate from Geometria et perspectiva [1575] - Lorenz StoerPlate from Geometria et perspectiva [1575] – Lorenz Stoer

Wenzel Jamnitzer, printmaker and inventor of the Perspectograph, equated the five regular platonic solids with the five Greek vowels – this lead him to create meticulous variations of complex polyhedra relating to the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet. His Perspectiva Corporum Regularum [1568] synthesises a metaphorical and symbolic alphabet of complex solids in increasing complexity based on this personalised ideographic system of correspondences.

Plate from Perspectiva Corporum Regularum [1568] - Wenzel JamnitzerPlate from Perspectiva Corporum Regularum [1568] – Wenzel Jamnitzer

Plate from Perspectiva Corporum Regularum [1568] - Wenzel JamnitzerPlate from Perspectiva Corporum Regularum [1568] – Wenzel Jamnitzer

Lorenz Stoer presents a series geometric fantasies in his Geometria et perspectiva [1575] where scenes are composed of architectonic structures strewn in landscapes of ruins and overgrown forests. Wade comments that these apocalyptic landscapes, devoid of people, may bare testament to the era of the plague which would have been in full swing during both Stoer’s and Jamnitzer’s lifetimes – infact Jamnitzer succumbed to the disease in 1585. Both Jamnitzer’s and Stoer’s books were sufficiently popular to be pirated during their lifetimes.

Plate from Perspectiva Corporum Regularum [1568] - Wenzel JamnitzerPlate from Perspectiva Corporum Regularum [1568] – Wenzel Jamnitzer

Plate from Perspectiva Corporum Regularum [1568] - Wenzel JamnitzerPlate from Perspectiva Corporum Regularum [1568] – Wenzel Jamnitzer

Plate from Perspectiva Corporum Regularum [1568] - Wenzel JamnitzerPlate from Perspectiva Corporum Regularum [1568] – Wenzel Jamnitzer

Plate from Perspectiva Corporum Regularum [1568] - Wenzel JamnitzerPlate from Perspectiva Corporum Regularum [1568] – Wenzel Jamnitzer

Perhaps the painter of ‘metaphysical’ landscapes Giorgio de Chirico might have been influenced by Stoer’s work as his scenes also deal with a kind of ‘melancholy of the eternal’ as represented in the imagination by pure mathematical forms and geometric archetypes. In de Chirico’s works people are also conspicuous by their absence, being replaced by draughtsman tools and chalked diagrams. It is hard to tell if the emptiness had just occurred, or if the people have been lost for many years, only leaving behind, in the words of Lautréamont in Maldoror ‘the glittering revelations of eternal axioms and hieroglyphs which existed before the universe and will remain after the universe has passed away’.

Thanks to Rohit Gupta for alerting me to ‘Fantastic Geometry’

Further Reading & Viewing:

Wenzel Jamnitzer’s Perspectiva Corporum Regularum online

Bibliodyssey on the work of Wenzel Jamnitzer (plus a Flickr set of plates)

The Perspective Treatise in Ruins: Lorenz Stoer, Geometria et perspectiva, 1567 – Christopher S. Wood

Lorenz Stoer: Geometria et perspectiva (Colour Scans)

Bibliodyssey on the work of Lorenz Stoer

Related Posts:

John A. Hiigli – Layering the Isotropic Vector Matrix
Primal Generative: Form Constants & Entoptic Geometry

Leave a Reply

Encoding Process – Robert J Lang’s Origami Crease Patterns

Salt Creek Tiger Beetle - opus 484 - Robert J LangSalt Creek Tiger Beetle – opus 484 – Robert J Lang

Origami crease patterns, plans containing intersecting lines, symmetries, and spatial subdivisions, are mnemonic guides of encoded information used to create complex origami forms. The patterns created using partially personalised syntaxes, might also be seen as algorithms. These plans might be further reduced by representing them with lines of (drawing) code – code which would represent a concept or process as much as an object or design. In this sense they are similar to Richard Halprin’s concept of a Motation – a notation or score for dynamic movement of form. Robert J Lang explores the potential for crease patterns standing on their own right as artworks and having meaning beyond their utility where ‘tenuous, or even non-existent connections to their associated folded form can be perceived’ acting as a form of geometric Rorschach. ‘Showing every fold line in the model would be a dense, unmanageable clutter’ – often significant lines are selected for their aesthetic value. This results in a nested system of procedurality where aesthetics are constrained by functional visual systems for processing a three dimensional aesthetic.

Hermit Crab - Robert J LangHermit Crab – Robert J Lang

Dragonfly varileg - opus 453 - Robert J LangDragonfly varileg – opus 453 – Robert J Lang

Longhorn Beetle - opus 470 - Robert J LangLonghorn Beetle – opus 470 – Robert J Lang

Locust - Robert J LangLocust – Robert J Lang

Mule Deer - opus 421 - Robert J LangMule Deer – opus 421 – Robert J Lang

Red-Tailed Hawk - opus 474 - Robert J LangRed-Tailed Hawk – opus 474 – Robert J Lang

Silverfish - opus 449 - Robert J LangSilverfish – opus 449 – Robert J Lang

Tree Frog - opus 280 - Robert J LangTree Frog – opus 280 – Robert J Lang

Treehopper - opus 256 - Robert J LangTreehopper – opus 256 – Robert J Lang

Violist - opus 437 - Robert J LangViolist – opus 437 – Robert J Lang

Crease patterns, by there requirement to encode precise information, are aesthetically reverse constrained so that a variety of interesting geometric sub-patterns arise resembling Voronoi diagrams, crystal growth or printed circuit board configurations. These constraints often generate well balanced compositions combining territories of strict symmetry with more random structures. We might also be reminded of painters of minimalist geometric form as well as Op art.

Related:
Lawrence Halprin’s Motations & Ecoscores
The Generative Song & Sound Pattern Matrixes of the Shipibo Indians
Paul Sharits: Declarative Mode [Against the Tyranny of Preconception]
Simon Katan – Cube with Magic Ribbons

Leave a Reply

Pietra Paesina’s Ruined Façades

Ruin MarbleRuin Marble Print – Dirk Wiersma

Pietra Paesina, (also ‘landscape stone’, ‘ruin marble’) known for its mimicry of landscape miniatures, has been collected and embellished at least since classical times and more popularly during the Italian Renaissance. The patterns of fractured light and dark within these rocks gives the impression of ruined cubist cityscapes, disjointed mountainous terrains with foliage and vividly etched tautozonal landscapes near the moment of sunset. Paesina often contain the remnants planktonic organisms and tiny fossils. Chondrites and Coccoliths form small armies in battlements to defend their limestone castles. There is one example of a ruin marble at the London History Museum, who’s landscape depicts, appropriately, the grey polluted skyline of the Victorian industrial revolution.

Ruin MarbleRuin Marble – Unknown source

Ruin MarbleRuin Marble – Unknown source

Ruin MarbleRuin Marble – Unknown source

Ruin MarbleRuin Marble – Unknown source

Ruin MarbleRuin Marble – The Writing of Stones, Roger Caillois

Ruin MarbleRuin Marble – Natural History Museum London

There is just one problem with these stones and this is that they are not large enough. If only these marbles would have scaled in their formation to the size of the landscape itself, then in the geological façades of Earth they would appear, from afar, as landscapes within landscapes, mirages of ruins etched in outcrops – true Borgesian self-similar facsimiles; as Earth takes a snapshot of itself in rock.

Ruin MarbleEpisode from Ludovico Ariostos Orlando Furioso – Museo Opificio delle Pietre Dure Florence

Related:
The Writing of Stones
The Wave – Earth Waveform Oscillations
Spreading Time Chromatographically – The Painted Hills of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Prehistoric Messages of the Widmanstätten Cursive

Leave a Reply

Roid’s Roland TR Series – The Drum Machine as Space Station

roid01TR Series – Roid

Already cult objects in their own right, ‘Roid’ presents the Roland TR series of drum machines in a exosphere of frozen space-time fit for suspended micro gravitational idolatry. These graphic portraits, realised in gouache, explore geometrical spatialisation and abstraction in perfectly microtonal colours to invoke the archetypal constructivist aesthetic.

Counter to the utilitarian aim prescribed by the standard exploded view in service manuals, where the innards of mechanisms are revealed to show the relationships between constituent parts, these works celebrate drum machines as space stations and astrionic systems. Aesthetic space merges with cosmic space in the navigation portal of the Cartesian continuum.

roid01TR Series – Roid

roid01TR Series – Roid

roid01TR Series – Roid

roid01TR Series – Roid

roid01TR Series – Roid

While the term ‘exploded view drawing’ originated in the 1940s, and was subsequently defined in 1965 as a “Three-dimensional (isometric) illustration that shows the mating relationships of parts, sub-assemblies, and higher assemblies’, its history goes back much further to fifteenth century notebooks of Marino Taccola [1382–1453]. This type of technical drawing was later perfected by Leonardo da Vinci [1452–1519].

Related Posts:

The Architectural Fantasies of Iakov Chernikhov
Spatiologies – Vittorio Giorgini
Victory Over the Sun – El Lissitzky’s Drawings for Suprematist Automatons
Yuri Avvakumov – Agitarch Structures: Reconfiguring Utopia

3 Responses to “Roid’s Roland TR Series – The Drum Machine as Space Station”

  1. Roland Drum and Bass Machines as Abstract Art, Suspended in Space - Create Digital Music writes:

    […] Roid’s Roland TR Series – The Drum Machine as Space Station […]

  2. jorge writes:

    are there prints available for this?

  3. paul writes:

    Try getting in touch with the artist, he may know.

Leave a Reply

Glen Small – Self Consuming Cities, Biospheres & Green Machine Megastructures

Green Machine - Glen SmallGreen Machine – Glen Small [1977-1980]

West Coast Architect Glen Small, an early proponent of environmentally aware architecture, has documented a large range of projects at his website including his well-known proposals Green Machine, Biomorphic Biosphere and Downtown Troposphere. Forget about clinical isometric models, here much of the documentation consist of loose organic sketches of freeform biomorphic canopies and archigram-esque modulars covered with vegetation. These eco-utopian futurologies would not seem out of place within the genre of sc-fi illustration.

Green Machine - Glen SmallGreen Machine – Glen Small [1977-1980]

Green Machine - Glen SmallGreen Machine – Glen Small [1977-1980]

Flying House - Glen SmallFlying House – Glen Small [1972]

Flying House - Glen SmallFlying House – Glen Small [1972]

Biomorphic Biosphere intended to extend the urban environment with the addition of a 8000 ft high spanned structure creating a micro climate of its own – ‘a condition where the air would rise, cool and fall and be collected in the reservoirs’. The structure would expand and retract in relation to population requirements – if the population decreased significantly the building cycle would reverse the biosphere would begin to consume itself.

Biomorphic Biosphere - Glen SmallBiomorphic Biosphere: Computerized Building Machine Extruding Compression Structure with Plant Growth – Glen Small [1972]

 BiomorphicBiosphere - Glen SmallBiomorphic Biosphere: Cross-section elevation – Glen Small [1972]

 Biomorphic Biosphere - Glen SmallBiomorphic Biosphere: Stationary Grid Growth Models – Glen Small [1972]

 Biomorphic Biosphere - Glen SmallBiomorphic Biosphere: Stationary Pattern for a City That Would Grow From a Small Grid – Glen Small [1972]

 BiomorphicBiosphere - Glen SmallBiomorphic Biosphere: Suitcase Transportation Modular – Glen Small [1972]

 VerticalCity - Glen SmallVertical City – Glen Small [1966]

In his most well-know work, Green Machine, Airstream trailer living pods were to be suspended on a crystalline lattice. Green Machine worked with the idea of restricted and compacted living space while simultaneously exploring the potential possibilities of the dynamics of modularity and expansive reconfiguration.

Related Posts:

Floraskin – Eilfried Huth & Günther Domenig

Mind Expanders – Haus-Rucker-Co

Drop City – Colonizing consciousness with abodes of Truncated Icosorhombic Dodecahedra

One Response to “Glen Small – Self Consuming Cities, Biospheres & Green Machine Megastructures”

  1. tony writes:

    hi there, did you see this website? http://fff-ish.blogspot.fr/

Leave a Reply

Selected Tweets #21: Anechoic Abstractions, Hierarchical Microarchitectures & Programmable Matter

500 Years Away - Adam Ferriss 500 Years Away – Adam Ferriss

Selected tweets from my Twitter stream: @MrPrudence

Dividierend Series – Deskriptiv. Rendered silicate-like objects with subdivided textured surfaces.

500 Years Away – Adam Ferriss. Pixel sorting algorithms create structural reconfigurations of astrophysical imagery.

Doilies – Laura Splan. Computerized machine embroidered lace doilies modeled on viruses.

Anechoic abstractions – photographs of an anechoic radio chamber in Denmark by Alastair Philip Wiper

Invasive-Species_Dillon-MarshInvasive Species – Dillon Marsh

Minimal/abstract music notation [1960's] from composer of Chance/Fluxus music, and Cage student, Toschi Ichiyanagi.

Creating Civilizations – Robert Strati’s architectural/mathematical/notational schematic fictions.

Invasive Species – Dillon Marsh. Photographs of disguised cell phone tower encroachment.

Erosion Series – Tamsin Van Essen. Monochromatic ceramic designs simulating biological erosion and viral infection.

Narrative Cities – Thien K. Nguyen. Gridded Urban systems stretched & morphed by ‘narratives into absurdities.’

The-Grand-Canyon_3_May_1973The Grand Canyon, 3 May 1973 – Landsat

When the Earth Began Looking at Itself: the Landsat Program - cartography & Earth sciences in 1972.

Hierarchical Microarchitectures – Noorduin et al. Manipulated chemical gradients generate organic growth in crystals.

Convozine on Etienne-Louis Boullee’s Memorial to Newton. Arquitectura en Dibuixos Exemplars continues the utopian architectonic spheromania.

The Territory of the Virtually Unknown. Dpr-barcelona explores extremities of architecture in the North & South poles.

Sol LeWitt: Four Basic Kinds of Straight Lines (PDF) [1969] compositions/lines defined by mathematical permutations.

dividierend-04Dividierend – Deskriptiv

Pulse – a suspended digitally fabbed sculpture of Ursula Major and 3d printed Mobius Strips – works by Andrew F. Scott.

Proto-computing – Mitchell Whitelaw interviews Ralf Baecker on ‘programmable matter’, proto-computational materiality & universal machines.

‘Please do not wiggle its frequency control, as you might inadvertently discover a new musical vocabulary’ – Mark Fell on the epiphanies of technological constraint.

Leave a Reply

James Seawright – Interactive Light & Sound Installations [1965-71]

Electronic Peristyle - James SeawrightElectronic Peristyle – James Seawright [1968]

James Seawright’s Electronic Peristyle [1968] is a work emblematic of the sensory ‘Magic Theatre’ exhibition held at the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery in Kansas City, 1968. The show, refracting cultural interests of the era, included stroboscopic light and sound installations, optical works and mirrored chambers by artists and musicians such as Robert Whitman and Terry Riley. Electronic Peristyle contained a transparent plastic sphere, home to 12 photocells, which were housed above a cylindrical box capable of firing 12 individual light beams. Gallery visitors were able to occlude the paths of the light beams ensuring they did not reach their photoelectric destinations. These interruptions of light were responsible for a random participatory sonic composition where the pitch of oscillators and volume of amplifiers were changed over time. ‘By walking on the heightened floor visitors could listen to the constantly changing data decoded into a melodious, background of sound.’

Electronic Peristyle - James SeawrightElectronic Peristyle – James Seawright [1968]

The construction of Electronic Peristyle reflects the architectural experimentation of the same era. A clear acrylic spherical object is centered inside of circle of components echoing the futuristic and utopian counter cultural works of Haus Rucker, for example. The kinetic works of Lazlo Moholy Nagy (especially his Light-Space Modulator) and Nicolas Schöffer’s cybernetic sculptures are also intimated upon.

Scanner - James SeawrightWatcher (in Life Magazine) – James Seawright [1965]

Dome - James SeawrightDome – James Seawright [1965]

Scanner - James SeawrightScanner – James Seawright [1966]

Thomas Dreher explores the process and electronic components of this early interactive light/sound installation in detail and also correctly proposes Seawright anticipating the computer aided interactive installations of the mid and late 90s.

Network III - James Seawright Network III – James Seawright [1971]

pdp8lPDP-8L computer that James Seawright used to program Network III

In another interactive work by Seawright, Network III, pressure sensitive floor sensors activate an array overhead lamps, 400 in total, to create illuminated patterns. The system was controlled by a PDP 8-L computer programmed by Seawright using the machines native assembly language.’ If three or more visitors entered the space, then the program shut down with ‘a spectacular blowup’ due to ‘processing speed and memory capacity limitations’.

Further Readings:
Light and Sound Installations by James Seawright and Vladimir Bonacic – Thomas Dreher

Further Viewing:
Video documentation of Seawright’s more recent kinetic sculptures.

Related posts:
The Spatio-Lumino-Chronodynamic Towers & Sculptures of Nicolas Schöffer

Leave a Reply

  Next Page »