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Coincidence Engines

Coincidence Engine One: Universal People’s Republic Time

Coincidence Engine Two: Approximate demarcator of constellations
in other cosmos

Coincidence Engines is a series of works conceived in homage to the Poème Symphonique of 20th-century Hungarian composer György Ligeti, who used metronomes not for their intended utilitarian purpose of keeping musical time, but as musical instruments in their own right. Extending and developing this approach, Coincidence Engines employs a multitude of dynamically modulated time-keeping devices to explore themes of regimentation, multiplicity, (im)perfection and entropy.

The project reinterprets the clock as a machine that has the capacity to transcend the workaday function of keeping time. Coincidence Engines treats the seemingly mundane event of a clock’s tick as a building block for the construction of rich and complex acoustic structures. Massed clock ticks, both freely drifting and rigorously synchronized, fill a series of environments configured to focus, stimulate and challenge the visitor’s visual and auditory perception. Alternately mesmerizing, contemplative and thought-provoking, Coincidence Engines opens a space wherein the passage of time can be considered simultaneously as an abstract concept and as a sensuous, aesthetic experience.

Beyond being sound-producing instruments, the Coincidence Engines installations are free-standing, quasi-architectural constructions that are integral to the viewer-listener’s absorption in fields of sonorous expression. The work’s hybrid, interdisciplinary approach is simultaneously engaging and sophisticated. Coincidence Engines’ potent experiential qualities provide multiple points for audiences’ interactions with an innovative form of contemporary cultural expression.

Coindicence Engines One and Two

Coincidence Engine One

The work consists of a number of different works, including Coincidence Engine One and Coincidence Engine Two, which shall be discussed. Coincidence Engine One, subtitled Universal People’s Republic Time consists of a large number of unsynchronized clocks whose combined ticking sounds produce an unusual and intriguingly organic sonic environment. The way the small sounds of a single clock are magnified by the sheer number of the clocks (1,226 battery-powered alarm clocks were used, set in an expanded polystyrene structure) gives the spectator the impression that a great deal of effort is involved in the moving of time, with each second that passes. The proverbial ‘sea of time’ becomes somewhat tangible on the auditive scale, engrossing the spectator in the textured noise of clicking and clacking. The design of the polystyrene structure in which the clocks are set, facilitaties this swallowing of the spectator by ‘time’.

Coincidence Engine Two

Coincidence Engine Two, subtitled Approximate demarcator of constellations in other cosmos develops a sophisticated synchronization control and amplification system around a group of 96 specially-modified clocks that enables the artists to articulate audio-visual compositions by programming and sequencing the clocks’ ticking behaviour, which is then amplified through use of installed loudspeakers. Coincidence Engine Two relation to Coincidence Engine One is the aspect of control, the juxtaposition (as exists between the two works) of structure and chaos.

Where in One the soundscape was that of textured layers of clicking and turning, Two delivers an experience of structure, set into place by the creators of the work, who chose to ‘orchestrate time’ in this piece, instead of merely ‘setting time’ and then leaving it be to lead it’s ticking life. The aspect of control also suggests the agency of man over time, as opposed to the passive role. One gives a sense of surrendering to time, being swallowed by it, as is also reflected in the engulfing set-up of the installation. In Two, however, the shape of the installation is more reminiscent of a table used for planning business, architecture or possible even reflecting a pool table, which are all nods towards human agency and ability to plan and create order in chaos. In the words of Naum Gabo and Anton Pevsner as stated in their work The Realistic Manifesto: “we construct our work as the universe constructs its own, as the engineer constructs bridges, as the mathematician his forumla of the orbits. We renounce the thousand-year-old delusion in art that held the staic rhythms as the only elements of the plastic and pictorial arts. We affirm in these arts a new element the kinetic rhythms as the basic forms of our perception of real time.” (Gabo & Pevsner 1920, p. 193) Coincidence Machines does then indeed construct exactly that: kinetic rhythms that reflect basic forms of our perception of real time, that being the clock itself.

Links & References

Naum Gabo and Anton Pevsner. The Realistic Manifesto, 1920. In: Edward Shanken, red. Art and Electronic Media. London:
Phaidon, 2009, p. 193

Coincidence Machines

Links to video of the installations