Five Sidelong Glances

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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…
  5. 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.