From the artist’s website:
One who, or that which, serves to bring to, or keep in, mind; a memento; a memorial; a reminder.
Remembrancer is a net-aware sculpture that observes and records data collected over the
Internet and sensors within the gallery. Over the first four weeks of the exhibition, three networked machines with robotic painters will deposit paint little-by-little on three panels. The amount of paint placed at a given moment shall be controlled by a computer program that will be interpreting data from gallery-installed sensors and from Internet sources. Along with the daily changing accumulation of paint, a field of sound will be similarly generated in response to the same data.
The completed work–an accretion of overlapping monochrome fields of color and sound–will be exhibited over the last two weeks of the exhibition. The machine-mediated process provokes questions of authorship and translation. Remembrancer confronts the loss inherent in transformation, the distortions introduced by the medium onto which–and the assumptions in effect when–memory is transcribed, the inevitable simplification of phenomena that accompanies acts of observation, and the spacial, temporal and cultural resonance of events.
Remembrancer: loss and authorship
Taking data from local, national as well as global sources and combining these feeds into three paintings at a time, each in one color — blue, green and red –, the work explores the simplification and thus the loss of data that occurs when pure data is combined into a meaningful object instead of a raw stream. The work acts as a filter, making a form of sense out of a plethora of information, much like humans forget, categorize and filter all input to construct ideas, thoughts and memories. The work is thus ultimately about the loss that is experienced in this process.
Due to the various inputs being spread across local, national and global locations, questions concerning authorship arise. The original artist is the enabler, but the result of the actual paintings and accompanying soundscapes are a product of all that is produced information-wise. On this level, two days after the Virginia Tech shootings, the painting being made by the local feed of information came up with two rather ominous looking red guillotines, as seen below.
Remembrancer in relation to other works
Joseph Nechvatal’s ec-satyric0n explores a parallel of loss in his work, pictorially integrating in a robot-assisted painting the loss of subjectivity on various levels when immersed in virtual space. Both forms of loss occur when a human is confronted with a system, a virtual space being either that which is created by data or that which is derived from it.
In a more art historic perspective, the actual paintings as made by the robots are reminiscent of the 1940s and 1950s Color Field movement, being large, solid surfaces of color on a flat canvas, with more attention to form and process than for brushstrokes or the action of painting itself.
In between the differents layers of data, time, space and agency, the work explores limitations, possibilities and consequently their implications. “Where one once spoke of coundaries, borders and limits we find today new territories. These new artistic terrains are open to new possibilities and relate to one another in productive ways.” (Kac & Antunez Roca 1997, p. 249) It is exactly these new ‘possibilities and productive ways to relate to one another’ that the loss occurs, which is explored in Remembrancer, painting a picture of a slightly less positive and maybe somewhat more realistic view of the processing of data by machine, man and the combination thereof.
Links and references
Kac, Eduardo and Marcel.li Antunez Roca. Robotic Art, 1997. In: Edward Shanken, red. Art and Electronic Media. London: Phaidon, 2009, p. 249.