Whiskers in Space

in cooperation with Thom Laepple

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Laetitia Wilson in RealTime issue#101/2011

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Whiskers in Space are fragmentary, sculptural mechanisms that are sensing and measuring disquietude. They are sensitive to the noise of the fine air currents we are normally not aware of. Similar to the whiskers of a cat in the dark, the whiskers serve both as feelers and antennae.

The installation is connected to sensors - 3 hot-wire anemometer - that measure the micro-scale, unfelt currents in the room. The Whiskers adopt this noise as their own agitated, slightly nervous state of being and mirror and transform the changes in the air currents.

Acting as if they were sense organs they they are mirroring synapses and adapt to the changing level of air activity oscillating between re-acting, neglecting and waiting until they are ready to be activated again.

Similar to a meadow that blows in the wind, every now and then the Whiskers move in unison, only to separate again into fragile, seemingly chaotic and intricate parts.

Beside the perpetual small turbulences, the movement of a visitors and the movement of their own mechanism feeds stimuli back into its immediate surroundings causing the installation to alternate between reaction and feedback. We humans are part of the system but not necessarily more critical than an elusive draft or the combined movement of the sculptures themselves.

Whiskers in Space?

Two seemingly very different images come to my mind: Windy meadows and an astrophysics research paper that was published in the magazine „Science“ in 2008.
In this paper scientists report on the discovery of miniscule hairs of graphite in meteorites that date back to the creation of the solar system. This led to the theory that these „graphite whiskers in space“ could absorb the light of so-called supernovae, which would in turn influence methods of measuring the rate of expansion of the universe. Cosmological distances are generally calculated by measuring the rate of dimming of distant objects in space. An inexplicable dimming of very bright stellar explosions therefore resulted in the hypothesis that the expansion of the universe is accelerating due to an unknown form of energy referred to as dark energy. So, are we dealing with so-called dark energy or is it simply dust?

Explanatory models in science are largely counterintuitive i.e. contrary to what common sense would indicate, and they often seem implausible. In this work I investigate the intrinsic uncertainty of the human’s position in the world based on their relationship to meadows or large fields – this ranges from physical relativity to mental self-determination and the ultimate impossibility of objectiveness.

What comes first? Meadow, wind or wind, meadow? While in the process of observing, one no longer knows whether it is the meadow that moves or the air. Who or what causes the wind? Is it the blade of grass that is moved by the air currents or is it the air that is moved by the blade? Fields change shape with the wind – the currents and turbulences of the air particles – and inject their own movement back into the invisible shapeless mass. Observing from an enlightened perspective – or perhaps with assumed knowledge – it is obvious that the wind is moving the meadow. But can this point exist outside the influence of the system?

special thanks for the development of the air currents sensoric, programming and electronics + huge support: Thom Laepple

Thank you! Peter Schuster, Ursula Mussenbrock, Kai Kullen, Jochen Heufelder, Nora ,21rozendaal: Nathanja, Marianne, Sebastian, HIll, Karst
financial support: new talents biennale Köln, Stiftung Kunstfonds,21rozendaal

kind support: Katie Uhl Dynalloy, Inc.DYNALLOY

Foto: Peter Schuster