Is This Kinetic Light Sculpture Man or Machine?

Random International explores the bare minimum information we need to "see" a human in 'Study for Fifteen Points.'

When a human being identifies another, various types of facial and body recognition kick in, from recognizing a person’s facial features, to the idiosyncrasies of their gait. But what is the minimal amount of information that is actually necessary for the animated form to be recognized as human? Random International, known for their hugely popular Rain Room installation, attempts to answer this question in a new body of work titled Study for Fifteen Points.

The first video in the series, which Random’s Florian Ortkrass and Hannes Koch recently published, showcases custom electronic arms outfitted with LED lights set in motion until the light patterns create an identifiably human form (seen above).

The new series can be traced back to 2008. Random International had already been working on kinetic art pieces (Audience), and invited cognitive scientist Philip Barnard to participate in one of their early symposia titled Behaviour. Barnard pointed them to the research of Dr. Niko Troje from the Bio Motion Lab at Queens University in Canada. But it wasn’t until several years later in 2015, when Ortkrass and Koch entered a residency at Le Laboratoire and Harvard University, that they developed the framework to realize a series of sculptures exploring biological motion kinetically based on 15 points.

“We only started to explore this space and are fascinated in the space between the biological and the mechanistic motion, when the machine becomes human,” Koch tells The Creators Project. “Also, our human need to recognize seemingly human behavior as actually being human seems a very rich and controversial ground for further exploration.”

“When arranged and animated in order, the points of light represent the human anatomy,” Koch adds. “Instinctively, the brain is able to stitch the disparate points together and recognize them as one human form.”

To create the kinetic sculpture as seen in Study for Fifteen Points, Ortkrass and Koch used motors, custom driver electronics, custom software, laser cut aluminium, LEDs, and a computer. While it’s currently 712 x 552 x 606 mm, Koch says they are launching a life-sized version with Pace Gallery this fall.

Click here to see more kinetic work by Random International.


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