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Hiaz.BuckyMedia2004RCAr1.1 - 05 Jul 2005 - 13:16 - TWikiGuesttopic end

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Collected material for Jon Wozencroft/RCA research

My inspiration for this project derives from a paragraph by Buckminster Fuller in Domebook 2 (1971). I have looked into various implementations of modular architecture to find a lightweight, transportable space with an apparent socializing potential to be used for our performances and installations. Fuller´s idea to build a system of small structural units with various functions that are forming a large distributed system of great complexity was a unique concept.

It would be truly spectacular if industry could accept the full potential of geodesic domes. I have not yet realized many of these ideas, other than a nice piece of mechanics that the visitors of the Expo dome in Montreal could see. (...) One could see window blinds that could articulate themselves through photosynthesis. (...) It is possible to organize the cells that make up a geodesic structure very much like the pores of our own skin. Some cells would be sensitive to light, some to sound and others to heat; and it would definitely be possible to construct a geodesic of very high frequency, in which all the pores are constructed with the same sized arcs. Some could be used to display information, some could facilitate and breath air, others let light pass through, so that the whole thing could articulate itself similarly to the skin of a human being. I really believe that eventually geodesics like this will be developed.

There is currently a renewed interest within architecture to develop constructions that are informed by self-organising principles found in organic or crystalline material, these are also at the basis of the geodesic and tensile principle.
The example here shows how much flexibility can be achieved once mass production is applied to a modular concept:

Having a background in performance, art and music I am interested in developing Fuller´s idea into a physically engaging, modular performance vehicle to be used in public places. I can also imagine similar setups on a smaller scale to be used in domestic environments.
I view these constructions more in terms of geometry, symmetry and harmony in regards to organising space and their socializing potential.
There is another quote by Einar Thorstein who suggests that geometry has the potential of being a language, a spacial dialogue to be used universally; a socializing potential extending to extraterrestrial lifeforms. Einar also studied with Buckminster Fuller and Otto Frei and is doing ground breaking work in geometry for many years now.

If one gets the hang of geometry, there is no way back. And to seriously study geometry is an irreversible decision to make.
I dont know how many years I have spent in this pursuit - when I could have been playing golf or washing my car... - but I tell you, I do not regret one second of that time.
One side effect of such a study is the discovery of how suprisingly regular and harmonic the world of polyhedral geometry is. In my opinion, these pure mathematical laws expose to us once more that the universe is a "planned phenomena". And also reminds us of the fact that polyhedral forms are probably the only cultural forms in the visible universe that every possible extraterrestrial culture will know as the same. These 3D geometrical forms are therefore culturally independent.
It would seem that for a first understanding between our world and other universal citizens, polyhedral geometry would be a good issue to present.

Developing such a complex performance vehicle must be informed by a need to communicate certain ideas. After doing successful presentations focused on demonstrating the potentials and dangers of computer networks I tried to apply this content to the new space and collected the following points:

Why the buckyball?
The spherical shape of the buckyball and the tensegrity forces within it have a number of possibilities to graphically and physically help understand ideas of global scales, networks and relatedness:

  • Entering a room with the bucky inside we orbit around it giving us the impression of a planet or star. Worldwide networking is the fundamental technology that transformed geographically displaced entities into global players, reorganising first the military, then the banking and at last also the economical and private sector. Question: Why are we not seeing a transformation of the political sector too?
  • In mechanics and biomechanics, tensegrity is a property of objects with components that use tension and compression in a combination that yields strength. This kind of strength exists also in biological structures down to the cellular level. The internet´s structure, in which the old sender-receiver communication is broken down in favor of everyone communicating with everyone, offers groups a powerful instrument for self-organization and formulation of their concerns. In both cases one-way systems are replaced by two-way systems.
  • The geodesic I built was constructed forming a metal skeleton and has a very organic aesthetic in comparison to many Cartesian or Euclidian constructions. Fivefold symmetry is at the basis of geodesic structures, certain types of crystals (called quasicrystals) and is generally full of golden ratio proportions, making it another beautiful example of how nature builds.
  • Additionally, I would like to present types of pollution that are not well recognised to the general public. Acid rain, radioactive waste or the ozone-hole has had much media attention, but the amount of space debris or light pollution still seems rather abstract.

Reading an article by Bruno Latour about the work of Olafur Eliasson, an artist who is very successful at engaging an audience to actively participate in the construction of art, I finally saw many of my interests communicated in a single and concise line of thought. In this article Latour describes what he calls the Experimental Age, ´a time in which the walls of the scientific laboratories have been broken down, where instruments are everywhere and where experiments happen in realtime, at scale one and involve everyone´

This year, it is the SARS epidemy which traces commercial, social, legal, medical relations all over the world: a collective experiment had been tried out where farmers, consumers, cows, sheep, pigs, veterinarians, virologists had been engaged together. The question then is the following: has it been a well or a badly designed experiment? (…)
The problem is that while we believe we know how to conduct a scientific experiment in the narrow confines of a laboratory, we have no idea how to pursue collective experiments in the confusing atmosphere of a whole culture. (…)
The sharp distinction between, on the one hand, scientific laboratories experimenting on theories and phenomena inside their walls, and, on the other, a political outside where non-experts were getting by with human values, opinions and passions, is simply evaporating under our eyes. We are now all embarked in the same collective experiments mixing humans and non-humans together and no one is in charge. Those experiments made on us, by us, for us have no protocol. (…)
Contemporary scientific controversies are designing ‘hybrid forums’. The sharp difference that seemed so important between those who represented things and those who represented people has simply vanished. What counts is that all those spokesperson are in the same room, engaged in the same collective experiment, talking at once about imbroglios of people and things.

To support the discussions in such hybrid forums and to establish a dialogue between the public and scientists about global experiments, the new performance vehicle could play an essential role: visualizing and sonifying many different sources of scientific data and presenting them in a physically engaging and interactive way could help finding a basis for making the important decisions for today.
To directly collaborate with scientists to guarantee an exact display of research material is as important here as to convince scientists about the necessitiy of creating such a dialogue with the general public.

I have started researching technologies that have the potential to realize Fuller´s idea. The following link describes an interesting display concept where a one dimensional light source creates the illusion of a two dimensional image caused by movements of the eye. Such a kind of display could be used to fill the surface of a construction with images that are only during either movement, but without covering any of its surfaces.

The next link shows the work of a UK-based company that is developing new types of speakers that are suitable for being a structural and functional element at the same time:

I believe music carries ideas and in the potential of sound to communicate artistic as well as scientific content. In a visually dominated culture struggling with noise pollution it seems to be a valuable task to focus on. In the introduction for his book “Acoustic Ecology” Barry Truax writes:

No field of study based on sensory experience seems to be overburdened by terminology to the same extent as that dealing with sound and hearing. The visual sense, of course, has received as much attention as the auditory from physics, psychology, neurophysiology, and the visual arts, which have all contributed terminology and jargon alike, but a great deal of it seems to have entered the common vocabulary already, and at least the general notions involved are seldom foreign to the average citizen or student. Terms such as perspective, foreground, background, colour, spectrum, shadow, focus, image, reflection, transparent, translucent and the wealth of descriptive visual terms, not to mention common visual impairments and the complexity of visual language found in contemporary cinema and photography - all of these have found public familiarity in a way that it is hard to imagine their sonic counterparts ever matching. Almost every school child knows what white light is, and how it is composed, but would he know what white noise is, even though the likelihood of it having an adverse effect on him is far greater? The ability to perceive three-dimensional visual perspective when projected onto a two-dimensional surface, by no means a simple achievement given the lateness of its appearance in our civilization, is irrevocably ingrained in the child's perceptual habits at an early age, and yet the ability to distinguish acoustic parameters, or experience subtle nuances of timbre (supposing he knows what timbre, the sonic equivalent of colour, is) may never be among his perceptual skills.

As researchers into every aspect of the acoustic environment, we feel that this paradox reveals the tendency of our culture to trade its ears for its eyes, that is, to rely more heavily on visual information and less and less on aural cues. One reads of blind people a few centuries ago leading normal, productive lives, compensating for their lack of visual sense by an amazingly acute aural faculty, and yet today the obliteration in both urban and rural environments of the subtle acoustic information that allowed such normal orientation and activity has turned this deficiency into a handicap. The areas now barred to these people (operating a motor vehicle, visual media, many industrial and scientific occupations, the many aspects of formal education now made difficult) reveal fundamental biases of our culture toward the visual in its vital institutions and conventions.

-- HiazHhzz - 25 Jan 2004
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