Ars Electronica 1994
Festival-Program 1994
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Festival 1979-2007


Secret of Life

'Bruno & Peter Sandbichler Bruno & Peter Sandbichler / 'Constanze Ruhm Constanze Ruhm

The tent is transparent, flexible and mobile, and it can be disassembled. It is a module, which is compatible with itself. Its dimensions are variable, and its growth is independent of the conditions and circumstances of its environment. Regarded from the exterior, it could be either a container or a sculpture. When one enters it, it becomes a container, a projection room, or an archive (which preserves many different things). It reflects the nomadic behavior of the visitor and the temporary nature of his or her presence. The tent's skin is permeable to light. One can be seen as a shadow by someone outside the tent. The only source of light within the room is a projection. For this reason, the lighting changes constantly. Therefore, the structures are temporary, and the room tends to be in a state of perpetual dissolution and transformation.

Shelves are mounted along a sidewall of the tent. These shelves are empty. It is up to the visitor to fill them, to fill them with life, to make decisions. These shelves are directories or trajectories: pathways and also hierarchies. They are the material correspondence to and prerequisite for potential archives. A shelf is an object of the everyday world, an interlocking structure consisting of an arbitrary number of compartments and subdivisions, a container for memory and forgetting, for privacy, and for externalized human memory: a sentimental object in all its functionality. At the same time, it is something that can be subjected to potential growth, which invents its own form and its own room within a room, the compartments and departments of which branch off again and again.
The shelf which remains empty in one room will be used in another, artificial room. The latent potential of the real room, which is hypothetically changed by the virtual action of a visitor (reflection), becomes virulent in the projection. The light given off by the projection is not only light in a material sense; it also makes shifts perceptible. The artificial room (because it is more variable than real one, and its parameters are exchangeable) can be made visible, more easily: as a projection that utilizes the stability of the real architecture in order to refute that which has just been established. This illusory room is just as empty as its real counterpart; on the other hand, it contains things or standardizes itself into an animated sculpture which cannot be entered, but which is all the more visible. Deciding which of the two rooms existed first is impossible.
A crystal consists of identical units, which are arranged according to a regular periodical structure. Crystals symbolize perfection, beauty, symmetry and durability. One can learn the future by asking a crystal. A crystal could be termed a morphological metaphor. Earlier, people believed that crystals were alive and could grow like plants. One searched for correspondences between the regularity of crystalline forms and the regularities of the complex growth processes of vegetable and animal morphogenesis. The key to every crystalline structure is symmetry and the refraction of symmetry. Symmetry is not understood to be a static system, but as a number of transformations which are combined into groups. One group is a closed set of transformations.

Regarding its structure, a quasi-crystal differs from a normal crystal in many ways. On the one hand, it possesses the kind of order, which is typical for crystals; on the other hand, it has at the same time a symmetry that is impossible for a crystalline substance. It embodies a new kind of order, which is neither crystalline nor completely amorphous. While the elementary cells of many crystals are based on platonic bodies such as cubes or octahedrons, the basis of a quasi-crystal's cells is the icosahedron. An icosahedron consists of 20 equilateral triangles and produces a so-called "five-number" (*) symmetry (five planes meet at every corner). For this reason, the icosahedron was not considered to be a possible elementary cell for crystalline structures until the discovery of the quasi-crystal.

Penrose-Patterns, Tilings
Penrose patterns are the two-dimensional counterparts of quasi-crystals. The pattern is not periodic; it cannot be broken down into a single elementary cell that repeats itself infinitely. However, it does fulfill certain criteria for classifying periodic mosaics composed of a basic figure (parquet patterns). In contrast to all other possible periodic mosaics, the Penrose pattern possesses a sort of five-number symmetry: In a certain sense, the pattern remains unchanged when it is turned by one-fifth of a complete revolution (72°). Just as the Penrose pattern, the microstructure of quasi-crystals also possesses a five-number symmetry. This kind of symmetry is, however, geometrically impossible, both in periodical mosaics and in conventional materials (constructed of elementary cells which repeat regularly).

Parquet, Virus Sketches
A new kind of order, which is found in an object belonging to the inorganic, physical world, can be described with the concept of "extension" (Deleuze). A quasi-crystal does not possess the latticed structure of crystalline forms; its structure is aperiodic, and therefore, it is a variable and, to a certain point, flexible object. In mathematics, ”extension" means that a geometric object's meaning changes. An object is no longer defined as an essential form (in art, the typical essential, modern object would be sculpture, or the painted canvas), but as a variable form which spreads over a surface (comparable with viruses in a human organism, the form of which changes continuously through mutation and adaptation; or with the concept of group representation mathematics, which is based not on the form, but on transformation, i.e. movement and change; or in connection with the refraction of symmetry, the fundamental principle of which states that a symmetrical form assumes one status of many possible ones after its refraction). The modern concept of objects is superseded by a procedural order and creates an object that Deleuze terms an "objectile" (object plus projectile). In this way, the sculptural realization of a process of interpolation, which has previously been calculated by a computer, can be termed an "object-event". The object already contains its own instability, and the corresponding search for a possible stable state (which could result in constant change and propagation). This propagation, whether two-dimensional or three-dimensional, creates a parquet, or a system of parquets. A system of parquets is nothing more than the attempt to cover the Euclidean plane with polygons. This system of parquets is possible with squares, equilateral triangles or regular hexagons, but not with regular polygons. A system of parquets with squares, for example, is termed periodic, since the forms repeat in exactly two independent directions. A system of parquets with regular polygons would be a non-periodic system of parquets. This non-periodic system of parquets on a plane corresponds to the non-periodic structure of the quasi-crystal. Just as the elementary cells are the smallest unit of a crystal, the "impossible" quasi-crystal becomes the smallest unit of a system with an unstable balance, the "ordered" state of which only seems ordered to our eye. This disorder of things penetrates the order of the language: something seems to be what it is, but it is not. This approach appears again in the extensive surface and spatial covering of both the real and the virtual space.

"Five-number" does not mean that the figure comprising the crystal must be a pentagon, but that it is not identical to itself after being turned by 72° (as is the case with a triangle with two equal sides after being turned by 120°).back