Calculating Space – Ralf Baecker

Calculating Space - Ralf BaeckerCalculating Space – Ralf Baecker

Rechnender Raum (Calculating Space)
, a mechanical sculpture by Ralf Baecker, is constructed from sticks, strings, lead plumbs and little servo motors. Its miniature mechanised movements function collectively as a simple neural network by implementing core Boolean functions such as NOT/AND/OR. Using over 200 separate Boolean units the sculpture is able to simulate the workings of a Cellular Automata. Statistics and technical specifications do not do the sculpture justice alone. In reality the delicate movements of the parts and the sounds of the motors create a subtle architectonic music, while inside an elastic wire-frame mesh is pulled and pushed into its calculated space-shape.

‘The machine carries out its computations only for itself. Without depending on interaction or requesting it, it goes through its own states endlessly. The results of the computations are sent inwards – into its own center – they are not intended for the viewer. So an interesting paradox appears: while the machine opens up everything it closes it at the same time, as if it has a secret.’

Calculating Space was the name of a book by Konrad Zuse, an early computer pioneer and inventer of some of the first programming languages. Published in the late 60’s the book proposed the theory of Digital Physics, a subset of Pancomputational philosophy. Digital Physics posits the idea that the universe is a kind of huge parallel computation or gigantic cellular automaton. Interestingly, Zuse created a number of paintings themed around his work on Calculating Space, one can be viewed here.

PDF version of Calculating Space – Konrad Zuse [UK]
PDF version of Calculating Space – Konrad Zuse [DE]

Leave a Reply