International Sculpture Center award for Outstanding Achievement in Contemporary Scuplture, 2001 (Honorable mention)

As the world becomes increasingly populated, it also becomes a global living community of individuals. The actions, reactions, decisions and beliefs of all individuals contribute on a very large scale to affect global change and to direct the future of civilization. Each wooden clacker behaves in a seemingly independent way, clacking the floor pseudo-randomly to its own parameters and personality. Yet together, in concert, larger patterns emerge. The individual clacking leads to rythmic patterns, or occasional oscillation, which reverberate in the space as a robotic mass culture.

Although the central unit acts as a control system, it also symbolizes the energy which supports and sustains the collective. Within the anatomy of each clacker is a cord which losely connects it to a central source of power and energy, just as nature provides the link upon which our civilization, and our global community, is constructed.

Sculptural Details

Individual clackers were constructed from wooden dowels, wooden spheres, plexiglas, key rings and foam pipe insulation. Each clacker has a solenoid which can slide up and down as an electrical pulse triggers the device. The up and down motion of the solenoid pulls the wooden dowel downward to make the clacker clack. A system of rubber bands and key rings control the initial position of the ball (before clacking), and the amount of force required to pull it down.

The half-amp solenoids are controlled from an independent 24v power supply in parallel. Thus each solenoid has quite a bit of driving power. During testing, I left several clackers clacking all night only to find in the morning that several of them had inadvertently shaken themselves to pieces! The bolts and screws came undone, and several rubber bands were broken. A certain sense of personality, and humor, comes from these unexpected suprizes.

Electrical Details

The central control box consists of an 80486 computer with a 10 MB hard drive. A 24-port control board built by Boondog Automation ( plugs into one ISA slot and controls up to 16 clackers. Sixteen mini-relays connected in parallel, and switched by the Boondog control card, permit an independent 24v power source to drive the clackers on demand in parallel.

Software Details

As the goal of the overall piece was to express the concept of individuals participating in a community, the software was designed to control the clackers in a way that would allow them to act independently.

Interestingly this is where I received the most number of questions about this piece.
"Is it random or is there some pattern?". The answer lies somewhere in between. Patterns which were repetitive became annoying, while completely random patterns were too chaotic.

The program was written in BASIC, and started out as a well-defined, periodic pattern. Through programming, random elements were gradually introduced, such as delays and changes in timing. As the sequences disappeared, they were replaced increasing, but not complete randomness. The patterns are remenicent of a dialog among creatures such as frogs or crickets. Such patterns are seemingly regular at first but have more subtle behaviors that make them less predictable.