© 2016 Ralf Baecker
Photo: Bresadola+Freese, Drama Berlin

20th Art Division Grand Prize

Interface I

Media installation

Ralf BAECKER [Germany]


Interface I is a kinetic installation that visualizes the interaction of two different systems using 192 motors. Vertically hung strings are each pulled from both sides by a pair of motors like a tug of war, and at the same time these strings are interconnected horizontally by a web of red rubber bands. Geiger-Muller tubes in this work capture naturally occurring radiation, and noise-like random signals are passed on to the motors causing it to move spasmodically, all the while jerking the strings upward or downward; but as the intertwining strings and rubber bands restrict each other’s movements, the overall shape of the red web is determined through the complex interplays between the elements. Although their scales may vary, this kind of system can be found in diverse fields ranging from biology, social science, computer science and anthropology to economics and politics. On the other hand, as this work is a realization of an abstract concept, multiple interpretations are possible. For example, the artist compares it with the construction of digital images, where there is a striking contrast between the “almost infinite fast signals/switching operations” occurring in the computer and the resulting “stable/static/ordered” images. A thought-provoking work inviting us to rethink the dichotomy between “process and output” as well as “segment and whole.”
Materials: Aluminium tubes, DC motors, strings, elastic bands, custom electronics, Geiger-Müller tubes.

Reason for Award

Red bands jerk spasmodically like snakes in the darkness. The random motions exhibited by motors receiving stimulus (input) from the natural environment are interconnected to form a single system or mechanism. The visible result resembles a line graph or a photographic sequence taken by a 19th-century physiologist, at once orderly and beautiful. Though the appearance of these arbitrary, disjointed movements governed by complex system interactions can be seen as a metaphor for contemporary society, the global economy, living organisms or whatnot, the artist says that his real aim is to make visible the structure of digital imagery—the contrast between the complex calculations of a computer and the static and orderly images that result from it. The work’s admirable linkage of a representation of the world with a concrete manifestation of microstructures through construction of a mechanical system makes it amply deserving of the Grand Prize. (SATOW Morihiro)