Chokes, 2003


The light and sound installation Chokes is the latest example of my artistic research into automated processes. In Chokes, automation is responsive to the flickering of the fluorescent light tubes during their start-up phase. The programme code for Chokes tries to optimise the installation for an extended phase of flicker without tinkering with the responsive character of the set up.

Inevitably, such an attempt has to fail because of the random and, to an extent, uncontrollable behaviour of the fluorescent light tubes. Nevertheless, it allows for a glimpse into an extended state of instability and uncertainty away from equilibrium.

Such states are of particular interest today. Ilya Prigogine emphasises the importance of unstable and uncertain states when he writes: “Again, we can say that matter at equilibrium is ‘blind’, but far from equilibrium it begins to ‘see’.”* For him, states far-from-equilibrium are states of becoming that relate to the apparatus of life in general. The consequences of such a shift to an episteme inaugurated by the field of thermodynamics are far reaching and contradict the ideal terms of Newtonian physics. Chokes literally tries to materialise such an epistemological ‘breach’ in an object consequential in the field of the visual arts. It employs a technical approach to create a ‘reactor’ for such unstable conditions to be exercised. The artwork enables a process of unpredictability to unveil and allows for the audience to not only witness, but to mentally participate in its taking place.

An important aesthetic consequence of such an approach is the outdating of a representational iconography that would portray an unstable state through ‘stabilised’ form. A formal, representational approach is instead substituted by the performance of the unstable state itself. In this way, the installation can be linked to performance art as the other, indeed subdued side of the representational canon. Such a concept offers a different understanding of technology in the context of the visual arts, because it lays in front of the audience the notion of a given technological apparatus, which is no longer a blank canvas. It ultimately ‘performs’ technology environmentally, as contingency, and therefore as subject matter which cannot be employed blandly. Chokes exists in the middle terrain between an idealistic representation of technology and the folly of a utilitarian employment of technology for the straightforwardly purpose of interaction. It is supposed to carry out its own ploy as an installation and at the same time perform and fail to fully disclose itself.

* Ilya Prigogine, The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos, and the New Laws of Nature, New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, Singapore: The Free Press, 1997, p. 67.