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“I like what you are doing very much. It’s fascinating. Reminds me of the days when I was playing – experimenting – discovering.”
– Heinz-Otto Peitgen
“It really is quite tangled…very impressive. Lots of wonderful fern-like stuf f, also some jellyf ish-like stuf f, and the Sierpinski gasket now and then. Congratulat ions!”
– Douglas Hofstadter
“Within any minute of viewing the output from Dave Blair’s Video Feedback Kinetic Sculpture, the shapes on the screen will evolve from single cell life forms as seen through the lens of a microscope to simple aquatic organisms to ferns to complex leaves (overcoming the hundreds of millions of years necessary for the vegetative evolution from monocot to dicot in seconds) and onward. At their apex, unidentifiable forms mimic the pendulous lumbering of a primate – a shadow of “intelligent” life cast upon the dark face of beam-splitter glass.
The sculpture, consisting partly of cold and modern video equipment and partly of organic wood and iron that would be at home in a ship’s galley, is guided by a captain’s hand on a greased tiller that constantly adjusts the rotation and range of the camera’s eye. The result is an irreproducible combination of movements and settings that may result in similar but never identical ephemeral visual output.
Blair himself recognizes the organic metaphor commanded by the sculpture. “The world we live in is a complex feedback loop. Biological functions operate on feedback loops and it’s no wonder the images created using video feedback are so organic looking. Ecosystems, geological systems and social systems all operate on feedback loops, and they operate according to the inherent rules of that system.”
That the geometry of life can be generated through this era-spanning combination of modern video technology and wood and iron available centuries ago, brings into question the genesis of life. Is life a nearly impossible product of great sophistication? Or does it fall from the random and accidental twist of a wrist? Or is it something in between? A single line of code allowed to replicate across the inevitable random and irreproducible mutations that occur with the slow passage of time? The sculpture and its captain either play god, prove god, or kill god.
Whatever the conclusion, it’s likely that Blair is mimicking the creation of life only out of the current technological limitations of the sculpture. His own comments suggest that the arc of his artistic creativity is bent towards something even more devastatingly gorgeous than the death of god. “I would destroy the Universe if given the chance – and it would be beautiful.’ ”
– Rich Walkling
This is part sculpture, part performance art, and may make the most complex video feedback ever created, using three cameras, two video switchers, a sheet of beam-splitter glass, and an HDMI input from a phone or live video feed.
Much like a musical instrument, the operator at the helm of this device plays it, but instead of making sounds, makes entire worlds, spirals within spirals, loops within loops, galaxies, classical fractal imagery and primordial organisms, leaves, trees, and insects. It really is the God machine.
When creating with it, hours can pass without noticing. It’s deeply relaxing, and when you get into a groove, it’s a kind of meditation.
I started this project a year ago, and did the first video shoot a month or so after. The device has evolved naturally since then, as have the images it can create. This is the most recent video, shot almost exactly one year to the day from the beginning.
I’d like to take this entire project even further though: redesign the structure, and create it entirely in metal. And, if possible, replace the high-definition monitors, cameras and switchers with 4K equipment. This would be very expensive to do, but the images would be even more amazing, and definitely never-before seen.
I would also like to put two Video Feedback Kinetic Sculptures side-by-side and have the output of each go to the input of each, so that two people can create together in concert, connected to each other, becoming one mind.
If you’re interested in seeing this project taken to the next level, please contribute to the GoFundMe here https://gofund.me/5240cd06. If enough people put in just a little, this might just be possible… Also – if you’re interested in purchasing this entire art project, would like to commission something similar, or have a gallery or performance space you’d like to see it in, please let me know.
Music: “3 Birds” by The Dead Weather
“Starless” by King Crimson
“We Did it Again” by Bongwater
I’d like to thank David Kislin and Federico Baldeschi at JEL Developement for being nice enough to let me use one of their empty properties (free of charge, no less!) to make this video.