Tuesday, April 20, 2004


As some of you may or may not know, of the art that I make, poetry is the most accesible to me, and sculpture the most interesting. Currently, all I really do with sculpture is build complex sandcastles on my lunch breaks.

But today I was thinking of mechanical sculpture, those wonderful, interactive, mobile pieces of art that usually mean steely clangy things, springs and nuovo industrial motifs. This needn't be the case, of course, one could just as easily construct frameworks out of bamboo, or wood, or flowing plastics. they could be silently electric, noisily electric, water powered, gravity powered, air rams, etc etc. I've really been kind of dissapointed with the variety that I've seen.

But that aside, I was thinking that mechanical sculpture does present an opportunity for finite art. In that you could construct an enfolding experience that cannot be preserved. Suppose you make a sculpture that is folded and boring. The viewer walks up, presses the view button. The sculpture comes alive, unfolds into it's appointed experience, give the viewer his show, and then retreats to it's folded state. But it changes in the enfolding. perhaps it damages it's framework. perhaps it simply changes.

And a counter, showing the times the button has been pressed, increments. 201 views. And one day, when the button is pressed, that is the end. The sculpture breaks, or freezes, or simply shuts down, never again to flower. The art dies, and is only now a corpse, existing in the memories of those who have seen it. And whatever fragmentary records might exist, those who tried to videotape the unfolding, pictures of parts of the unfolding. written accounts, are all that is left. (although the creator, being nice, might have included instructions on how to build another one even so, the 'original experience' is gone.).

Taking it further, it should be possible to create a sculpture that reacts differently every single time the button is pressed. movements of increasing or decreasing complexity, gracefully failing components, etc etc. This is personal art, every single viewer has a truely unique relationship with.

Imagine the sticker price of a sculpture with just ten views left on it, imagine how focusing it would be. People would be desperate to see it, to appreciate it. And that would of course, add to what they see. Add to what it means.

I should talk to a mechanical engineer about graceful degradation, and how useful it is as a concept.

This of course, could be done in a very cheesy way, with simple counters and deactivation, but I think it's more meaningful, and less cheap if the death of the art is from actual change, rather than imposed change. It's lifetime should be inherent in the structure, not added with an electronic counter and a motor.

Ah, for more free time. I think I'll see if I can't whip up a prototype in autoCAD or something, when I have a moment.

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