Thursday, May 25, 2006

Peter Vogel at Bitforms

Last Saturday, I hit the Chelsea Galleries in New York. I didn't do any preparatory research, I just like walking around the few blocks and hitting some favorite galleries including Bitforms.

Much to my surprise, Bitforms had a Peter Vogel solo exhibition. I first ran into his work at another gallery in Chelsea, when in a back room I saw one of his incredible sculptures.

Vogel takes a large number of discrete electrical components (resistors, capacitors, transistors, etc.), and solders them together into self-supporting, truss-like forms. But then I moved between a light and the sculpture and it started making music! The discrete components were not only visually beautiful, but also functional analog audio synthesizers!

I thought this was pretty cool, and asked about the work. I was quite surprised to find out it was made in the 1960's! Evidently Vogel has been doing this kind of work for quite a while.

At the Bitforms exhibition, the earliest work was from 1979. There were several sculptures that use Cadmium Sulfide photoresistors to trigger the audio synthesizers. There also were works that modulated trains of LEDs based on audio input through electret microphones. In one room, an audio synthesizer sculpture would trigger the LEDs in an audio input sculpture for a very neat effect.

I had a chat with one of the Bitforms staff about how they handle the "warranty" issues of technological art. Apparently Bitforms tries to address this issue through thorough documentation of the work, so that if say a capacitor dries out, you know what kind to purchase. Of course, one wonders if in 20 years you still will be able to purchase 4000 series CMOS chips, for example. With enough documentation, at least it could possible be re-created (with PLAs? Quantum logic chips? who knows!)

1 comment:

curious_jp said...

You would have loved one of the sculptures I saw in a gallery in Tokyo - it was like a ring structure made of small units with a microphone on the right, some distortion stuff, and then a speaker on the left. You clapped at it, and then the sound started slowly migrating around the ring, getting weirder every time.