"Κηφήνες: Energy Parachutes | Entelechy Drones" | On Occasion of Hurricane Sandy
(Excepts from Daejon Museum of Art installation)
When the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in 2011, I was on an airplane about to land in Tokyo. We could not land and were redirected to Sapporo. By the time I made my way back to Tokyo thirty hours later, the Fukushima disaster was well underway, and there was widespread fear that Tokyo would be inundated with radiation. Where analog nature struck analog culture, the problems were dire but natural, and the response to them remained impressively civilized; where "digital nature" struck "digital culture," the problems were largely self-inflicted and potentially far more catastrophic, and the response to them certainly less civil.
The Fukushima disaster prompted the Daejon Museum of Art to mount an exhibition on the theme of "Energy" -- spelled "Ener氣," conflating "energy" and "氣" or "Qi" ("life energy," pronounced "ghi" in Korean). This reweaving of "life force" into "energy" pointed directly to Aristotle's original definition of the once-coupled, now-divided terms "energy" and "entelechy," and to a view of the relation of humanity to nature that East and West once shared but that is now threatened in both places.
This installation constructs an allegorical map of the world, both synchronic and diachronic, in which numerous relatively passive or only partially active systems are "brought to life" by an entelechy-providing active-agent -- a quadcopter drone flying under computer control, activating a dialog of forces -- analog (horizontal currents) and digital (vertical currents). This dialog-of-currents "paints" a turbulent sculpture on the membrane between worlds -- a fallen parachute, from China, remembrance of Icarus and of the Silk Road.
Keeping a drone flying for months in a museum is an inherently precarious proposition -- many systems must all maintain agreement, many potential accidents must be anticipated, avoided, or recuperated from, and, at every step, many kinds of attention and energy must be provided. The "will to life" is quickly translated to a "will to the persistent and precise calibration of acts of attention."
The flight of drone also drives a threading of the physical world into the virtual world and back, in which swarms of visual and sonic elements (atoms, molecules, blood cells, stem cells, wasps or bees, bodies-without-organs, elements of "alloatomic" emergence) collide under the influence of virtual physics. Surrounding this implicate order of actual and virtual is a miniature exhibition of local specimens and evidences (found materials displayed in small jars), requiring the viewer to bend or kneel and pay attention to the-here-and-now. As with "Amon's Acids," ** my previous exhibition in Korea, this is a reference to "musok" -- as attention to the local (the "genius loci" or "ἐπιχώριος δαίμων" or "kami"), not superstition.
"Κηφήνες" is Greek for "drones" -- male bees or wasps. It refers to Aristophanes' political comedy "Σφήκες" (Wasps, or Vespae in Latin). The words "κηφήνες" occurs once in the play, making a distinction between annoyance and sting, between noise and signal.
** "Amon's Acids" refers to the Temple of Zeus, Ammon, in Egypt. Ammonia was discovered there, leading eventually to the word "amino" in "amino-acid". It means "sand" in Greek. Hurricane Sandy.
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