Flow refers to the many ways in which impulses, waves, information, and signals “flow” through physical and electronic systems. Not moving instantaneously (although sometimes very quickly), impulses can take many different forms.
Projects in this unit focus on creating a transduction (form-changing) flow in which a signal travels through multiple different media.
Laleh Mehran was born in Iran and relocated with her family to the United States at the start of the Iranian Islamic Revolution. Mehran creates elaborate environments in digital and physical spaces focused on complex intersections between politics, religion, and science. In a political climate in which certain views are increasingly suspect and can have extreme consequences, Mehran’s artworks are invitations to think again about each of these paradigms and the profound connections that bind them. Her research, often modeled on and about the very ideas of science and technology, takes advantage of their cultural importance in order to articulate a set of ideas which require precisely these kinds of mediations from both political and religious intolerance. Out of necessity, her artwork is as veiled as it is explicit, as personal as it is political and as critical as it is tolerant.
Site-Specific Interactive Installation, 2018
Interactive Installation, 2011 & 2014
Entropic Order is an interactive installation comprised of a 2-axis “drawing” machine and 2,000 pounds of Black Beauty sand.
The machine draws upon a 12ft x 16ft “terrain” of glimmering black sand that is in fact coal slag. A solid brass pendulum hangs approximately 12 feet down from the ceiling suspended machine to the surface of the sand. The pendulum’s design was inspired by the top of a minaret at the Grand Mosque which is the largest mosque in the world and surrounds the Kaaba. Controlled by a small microcontroller, the pendulum slowly inscribes a complex geometric pattern over and over, covering the entire surface of the sand with patterns over a period of a week. Motion sensors detect when visitors are present and cause the machine to move much quicker, thus causing the pendulum to swing and spiral rather than draw the pattern. It can take several minutes for the machine to return to its slow geometric patterning.
The hovering machine is symbolic of the politicization of ideologies; it navigates and commands the suspended brass pendulum, responding to participant’s movements around its borders. In its solitude, the pendulum’s piercing tip engraves precise geometric latticework in the sand; the presence of participants disrupts its action, shifting the focus to frantic carvings of the landscape and causing the perfection of the patterns to fragment and collapse.
Eunoia II, Trailer Video
The 50 twigs in this installation point in unison in the direction of the oldest piece of spacejunk currently above the horizon in their location. The invisible network of forgotten debris being tracked are spent rocket bodies, parts from defunct satellites and wayward tools launched in missions as far back as 1958. Constantly circling the earth at over 17,000 miles per hour these unseen distant relics enter our physical space approximately every 90 minutes. With decaying orbits the debris rise and set in ever changing arcs. As if compelled by phototropism, the twigs collectively strive in unison bending toward these tiny, invisible, inert suns sweeping across the sky. When the debris being tracked drops below the horizon the twigs all go to a downward pointing position and await the rise of next orbiting fragment.
FLY CARVING DEVICE, 2017
In this installation, one hundred live houseflies control a 5 axis CNC router as it carves a block of foam.
The flies move and interact inside an acrylic sphere as a camera tracks their motion. This motion is processed with custom software and mapped to the code used to control the axes of the CNC machine. When a single fly is detected, the machine simply follows the movements of that fly. If several flies are in the field of view, the software moves the machine based on the activities of the collective. In this way, the flies are the brain of the CNC machine, determining where, when, how fast, and how deep to carve the foam.
Aspirations allows participants to explore collaboration, competition, and communication as they negotiate how much air to keep for themselves and how much to share with their partner.
Each participant has a pull cord that moves the gate valve giving them more air. But the more air they get the less their partner will receive. Together they have to decide who will be buoyed up, who will be let down or how to float together in equilibrium.
I TOUCH YOU AND YOU TOUCH ME, 2016-2017
“We interact with our computers constantly, touching them more than we touch any person in our lives, and grooming them inside and out. For a month, I recorded all interactions with my phone and fed them into a machine learning system, which then output new, learned gestures. These “hallucinated” movements are awkward yet eerily accurate swipes, taps, and typing based on what my computer has learned from my interactions with it. Presented as an interactive sculpture, these new gestures are enacted by a small robotic arm on the visitor’s palm as they sit at a low, altar-like table.
This project, like much of my work, chooses not to see new technologies as sites of worry but instead an exploration of a personal, empathetic relationship. By extending the normal, daily gestures of interacting with my phone, first by teaching the computer and then by them being passed on to the viewer, notions of “you,” “me,” and “I” are doubled, enacting the understanding of the machine and at the same time a self-portrait of my interaction.”
– Jeff Thompson