- A Future Too Late
At Bill McAlister’s house, entering the kitchen: a moment at the gateway is marked by the Greenwich Time Signal. Synchronised to an atomic clock at the National Physical Laboratory, the pips reach out from the past: an analog radio in the bedroom. Ahead, a digital receiver by the stove repeats the signal, delayed a couple of seconds by the encoding-decoding process. In the future, we will wonder: must we not all have been here, before?
- Digital Death is Sterile
Sam Taylor-Wood’s Still Life (2001) might be more than a Sisyphean video pun beguiled by its technological substrate if it employed VHS (or other medium that decayed smoothly at a humanly-perceptible rate). At the very least, the DVD ought to skip occasionally – else there’s a conceptual glitch. It’s in the Tate Modern, though, so set expectations accordingly.
- Measuring the Gallery
At Belladonna, ICA, 1997: confronted by Anish Kapoor’s highly polished cosmic navel yawning out of the wall, Sue promptly stuck her head in it. the guard became very agitated, pointing to a nearby sign that said ‘Please do not touch’. A war of attrition between human and steel is severely one-sided. But anyway – wasn’t that sign a knowing joke? the work is entirely about boundary. Wasn’t she already touching it by occupying the void it emptied into? or merely by being mirrored in its surface?
- The Age of Spiritual Machines
Having elegantly spattered the surrounding surfaces, Rebecca Horn’s painting machine – in the Bodylandscapes retrospective at the Hayward gallery, 2005 – lay provocatively quiescent. Had it determined that the work was complete, or had it balked at the prospect of a lawsuit from a ‘Prucci’-clad visitor? Ray Kurzweill should know…
- Closing the Loop
5voltcore’s Shockbot Corejulio is a computer-robot-screen assemblage that shorts its own circuits, generating random images until it destroys itself – a relatively closed system running a relatively open process. Its one conceit is that it presents itself as spectacle. Tighten the noose: populate the deserts and oceans with thousands of these automatons, drawing their power from sun and wind and waves, rasterising in the wild. Artificial life’s but a walking shadow, a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.
First published in Ambient Information Systems, eds. Luksch & Patel 2009.