<p>Boris Petrovsky’s kinetic installation <i>The Global Pursuit of Happiness</i> may look cute, but has a sinister message.</p>
What would you do with 520 cat figurines? If you’re artist Boris Petrovsky, you might turn them into a massive kinetic sculpture that serves as a sort of “pixel”-grid display for user-submitted expressions of hope. In his installation The Global Pursuit of Happiness, or: The Army of Luck, Petrovsky arranges 40 rows and 13 columns of the popular Japanese lucky talisman, Maneki Neko (literally Beckoning Cat; aka Lucky Cat, Money Cat), into a golden army of kitsch.
You’ve probably seen these figurines before—they’re popular in most Asian countries and you can usually find them gazing beguilingly from shop windows or restaurants in your local Chinatown. The talismans are supposed to bring the owner good luck and each cat typically features a “beckoning paw” that moves up and down, in a sort of “come hither” motion to attract customers and good vibes. Petrovsky rigged each of these arms with a servomotor to control the exact position and speed of each paw, choreographing their movements into 25 different salutatory and signalizing gestures like the “Mexican Wave” or an “ecstatic hyperkinesis.”
Visitors are also invited to participate by typing words or sentences up to 40 characters, responding to the prompt: “Your concept of happiness is our lucky command. Write it on the keyboard.” The cats will them spell out each message, letter by letter, scrolling across the gilded mass with the flick of a glimmering paw.
Every gesture triggers an audio sample culled from mass or group events like entertainment shows, political speeches, demonstrations, sport events, parades, accidents, etc. from the beginning of the last century until today. According to Petrovsky, the sounds “express auditorily different states of mind, like joy, euphoria, desire, fear, hate, aggression and resignation, astonishment, outrage, pain, panic, desperation and fanatical excitement.”
Despite the cute, kitschy aesthetic of the cat figurines, the installation has a sinister feel. Watching that golden mass move in perfect, synchronized unison it’s hard not to have images of vast armies marching and saluting start springing to mind (the title and sound effects obviously help reinforce this notion). Then again, the user interaction is so cheerful and benign—calling for your “concept of happiness” and “lucky command.” On the one hand, we seem to be getting an unsettling commentary on mob mentality, on the other, a message about the awe-inspiring power of collaboration.
For my part, all I can do is think about those crazy human pixel drawings they have going on in North Korea. Do with that image what you will.
Image courtesy of clicksnappy.
[via Creative Applications]
All artwork imagery courtesy of Boris Petrovsky.