Cycle text

The f5x5x... sculpture is a kinetic and luminous framework conceived and realised by LAb[au]. In software development, a framework is a methodological tool based on re-usable chunks of code, code libraries or other software pieces to assist, to develop and to glue together the different components of a software project. In regards to the f5x5x... installation the term 'framework' refers to the installation's constituting elements, a raster of fix and kinetic aluminium frames. The installation title indicates the resolution instructing the numbers of modules used such f5x5x1 equal one module up to f5x5x5 equal 5 modules. Further 'framework' refers to the multiple operating modes of the installation, from a low resolution display to a generative and interactive sculpture. Consequently the term 'framework' can be understood as a way to manage conceptually and technically the sculpture's sequential operating modes and the rules by which they switch from one mode to another.

The f5x5x5 installation is part of the '16n' project cycle confronting architectural concepts (congestion, flows...) with spatial sensing technologies (electromagnetism, infra-red ...) and its constructs (signal propagation, field theories...) ...through the means of programmed 'lumino-kinetic' devices.

f5x5x5 frames

The 375 aluminium frames, equal the maximum installation resolution, constitute the framework, a space built up by five modules of 2x2m each divided in 5x5 regular elements, establishing a matrix of 5x5x5 = 125 main frames. Each of the 125 main frames contains a middle frame, rotating around its central vertical axis which itself contains a central filled frame, a square, turning around its central horizontal axis as such, it is an encapsulating principle of a frame in a frame in a frame. These 125 main frames and the 250 kinetic aluminium frames, each having a 180° vertical and horizontal rotation freedom, form the 10m long and 2m high installation, which by its size forms an architectural element a 20 square meter kinetic sculpture.

Each of the 250 kinetic elements is driven by a servo motor and can be controlled individually, having a rotation range of 180 degrees, a step precision of 0.2 degrees and a varying rotation speed of 1-50 units. According to these kinetic parameters the 250 rotating modules can present any state between open and closed with a minimum opening/closing time of one up to 35 seconds maximum. Additionally the rotation of the 250 servo motors causes a residual pitching noise, depending on the rotation speed, giving the installation a very specific sonic character. This kinetic and sonic relation is reinforced by a position error of the servo motor which occurs due to the inertia of the 40 by 40 cm aluminium modules which, when brought to an halt, sometimes push the motor in an in-between position defeating its internal position loop control. This 'non-position' causes the motor to shake in between the two closest positions, resulting in clockwork-like ticking sound of the resting-yet-shaking elements. This sonic and kinetic 'accident' gives the installation a sort of self-ruled, 'living', aspect. In general, the emitted sounds of turning and still-standing motors create a strong sonic feedback of the kinetic system, from sound pitching in relation to the frames' rotation speed, to the ticking of 'waiting', still, elements.

At one side the frames are lacquered white, diffusing the light while on the other side it is lacquered black, thus absorbing light constituting as such a binary state (0 = black and white = 1). Following these kinetic and colour principles, a black side of a middle frame can be turned on the white side of a fix main frame, as a black side of a central frame can be turned on the white side of a middle frame allowing to exploit the b/w contrast to create visual patterns and geometric signs. Furthermore, the 5x5 matrix of a module corresponds to a minimum resolution for alphabetic and numeric signs which allows using this system as a binary flip-board, a low resolution display of 5x5 pixels by each of the 5 modules resulting in a 5x5x5 resolution for the 10 meter long and 2 meter high sculpture. This resolution writing is present in the project title indicating its actual presentation format in terms of its 'frame' resolution; it also indicates a shift of a metric quantification of a spatial entity towards its resolution or the number of its constituting elements.

This principle is familiar in information theory and the computer realm where information containers are organised as 'blocks' or 'raster'. Following these principles the installation proposes during daytime kinetic and colour states based on a binary logic between black / white and open / closed flooded in a sonic ambiance created by 250 servo motors.

The 375 frames of the installation are enlightened by light-emitting diodes, LED's, on their visible edges, the main frame with white light, the middle frame with red light, and the central one with white light again. Each of the 375 modules, presenting up to four edges, can be enlightened and controlled individually adding further states to the framework ranging from a module to be enlightened or not while presenting two different colour states and three different enlightening edges equal circuits. These light specific binary states, on / off and white/red; enhance the device for night and darker environments use.

At the base of the installation 50 infra-red sensors, 25 on each side with a maximum range of 6m, allow to produce a horizontal sensing matrix at ground level similar to the vertical grid of the installation. Due to this infra-red grid the presence and position of people in the surroundings of the installation can be tracked and the direction of their movement can be deduced. The correspondence between the spatial division and the tracking grid of the installation allows the correlation between a person's position and its change, movement, to a corresponding module of the installation with a kinetic or luminous behaviour. Consequently the framework transcribes simple environmental data to kinetic, sonic and luminous rules, thus proposing an interactive mode of the installation varying from day to night time.

Operating modes

The first phase of the installation is the set up of a framework using a vocabulary of light, colour,

sound and kinetic elements to present 'binary' states which are configurable between a display, a generative and an interactive operative mode whereas the second phase of the project focuses on the development of scripts, small programs, constituting a library of independent behaviours according to the three different modes they operate.

The programming of the different files brings up another issue leading to a broader understanding of the 'framework' terminology and which also introduces the third development phase of the installation. The more independent 'files' are created the more the question raises according to which parameters the system will switch between these different files and modes. For example the exposure of the installation in daylight make the use of the LED lights useless since their intensity is too weak to be visible in daylight. Likewise certain interactive files may appear more efficient in single user mode while others may stimulate interaction between users, as some visitors will explore the installation by moving around and others rather observe and stand still ..., etc. These examples already show that the temporal programming of the installation, the permanent evaluation of people's presence equal the amount of inputs in the sensing area and the amount of sensor states changes as expression of their movement, are important data in order to anticipate the programming of the installation's general 'frame', its framework.

By introducing another set of parameters which provides the system with the capacity to adapt to environmental or contextual data one can already foresee the development of the third phase as focusing on rules (programs) which make other rules (other programs) change and thus decide which file to run at a given moment and which mode to activate. In consequence the rules about rules define the 'framework' as a 'meta-structure' containing all necessary instructions to be able to respond to different contextual and environmental data.

To read about the different operating modes refer to the operating mode text.

Framework 'meta-system'

The various files described constitute the first layer of the installation's file system whereas the specific parameters defining the conditions of files to appear, switch or modify are the second level, the meta-level. This file system can be configured due to its parametric setting and new files can be added forming a flexible and upgradeable structure which constitutes the framework and as such the global system on which the installation is designed.

This reading of the 'f5x5x5 installation reveals its architectural structure, be it on the software level, the setting of a system often described as information architecture, or on its hardware level, the kinetic screen. This architectural thinking influenced the software development and the conception of the interactive design built on spatial concepts such as fields, vectors, attractors and territories. From the hardware side the 'paravent' can also be considered as a framework between a sculpture, a modular structure, or a prototype of an 'integrated architectural element, a second skin for a façade. In this constellation the system operate as a light filter during the day based on the kinetic principle of black and white, open or closed elements and which during night would float the space in the reflections of its changing light, while integrating in its kinetic play the ability to be a flip-board screen. This architecture defines the installation as a framework which on the one hand is built as an open file structure containing various set of behaviours and on the other hand is a spatial modular and configurable structure.

'At the level of conceptual thinking and imagination, art is the creation-invention of an original idea dealing with aesthetical matter that can be translated in effects perceivable by our senses. The timing and location of these effects are organized through a programmation in time, in space or both, inside which the components and the proportion ratio are optimal, innovative and aesthetical.

These effects are transmitted through the use of visual, auditive or audiovisual inputs to those who voluntary or accidentally have become temporary or permanent witnesses of these effects. The fascination experienced provokes a modification of their psychological field, to a degree that is proportional to the aesthetical value of the creation. This psychological modification must tend towards transcendance, sublimation and spiritual enrichment through the complex interaction between the human sensual and intellectual apparatuses. In this way, thanks to the creator's capacity to go beyond itself, aesthetical artefacts of heavy potential penetrate social reality through multiple communication networks. In order to achieve this goal, the creator must use a language and techniques that match the real level of development of its time.'

Nicolas Schöffer, 'Le nouvel esprit artistique'. 1970.

The f5x5x5 installation is a programmed luminous and kinetic framework controlled by the infra-red sensing of its surroundings. The development of the 'meta-system' is the conception of a system referring to system art, whereas the use of binary states is referring to the aesthetics and logics of digital technologies. In this merging of spatial constructs with the 'language and techniques of its time' the project finds its base in system art such as cybernetic art and specifically in the work of Nicolas Schöffer.

Seen the similarities in artistic convictions, his widow E.L.Schoffer, suggested LAb[au] to homage Nicolas Schöffer with this artwork, which LAb[au] accepted with honour.'

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