BOCOLAB at BAM

Artist Statement for 2010 Idaho Triennial

Artists and Scientists, alike, are explorers. In overly simplified terms, scientists use logic and rational methods to understand of the world, while artists use intuition and irrational means to glimpse reality.

BOCOLAB is a collaborative effort to bring together these two methodologies. Like many artists and scientists of the past, it is our goal to explore the relationship between humans and our environment. Today, our environment is dominated by a rapid introduction of digital technologies, which has created an entirely new dimension in our cultural and physical landscape. It is this nexus of the physical and the virtual that we are currently investigating. BOCOLAB shares the idea that innovation, inspiration, meaning, and magic can all emerge from the intersection of art and science.

The current installation is comprised of 3 robotic, interactive sculptures–a chair, a table, and a lamp. In this piece we are exploring the relationship between our selves and our creations, as they evolve.

Francis Fox
Caleb Chung
John Sosoka
5/19/2010

Boise Art Museum

Exhibition Proposal for BAM

Exhibition Title: Naturalizing The Digital by Francis Fox and BOCOLAB


Narrative Description for Boise Art Museum Exhibition Proposal January 2010:

This exhibition will explore the relationship between digital technology and natural processes.
I propose to install two large sculptures in the Sculpture Gallery at Boise Art Museum and to reserve the Nelson Gallery for an installation of smaller sculptures, drawings, and paintings.

Proposed installation for Boise Art Museum Sculpture Court

The first sculpture proposed for the main gallery will hang from the ceiling. It will measure 22-feet in every direction and be constructed from bronze, wood, and aluminum. Sculpture #1 will assert the presence of nature by accentuating the physical and analogue qualities of form and materials.

The second sculpture, created by BOCOLAB, will consist of 50 interactive digital units hanging on the gallery’s south wall. Each unit will be designed to respond to motion and audio input from its environment with light and sound. Sculpture #2 will refer to ideas associated with the individual and collective characteristics of digital technology.

In the Nelson Gallery, I propose to exhibit artworks in a variety of forms and media. The focus will be to investigate the relationship between analogue and digital expressions. The following images represent a few examples of recent work that could be considered for inclusion in this part of the exhibit. These examples are all generated from combining 3D-digital technologies with tradition processes or natural materials.

Agate (digitally scanned and enlarged snake agate)

Crystal (machine-constructed from digital scans)

Regions (oil painting of digital screen shot)


Silverpoint drawings of digital scan segments

Expanded description of the proposed wall sculpture by BOCOLAB:

The second proposed sculpture for the BAM Sculpture Court will consist of 50 interactive, programmable digital units called “Bopunks.” The proposal is to arrange them on the gallery wall in a randomly organic pattern with areas of concentration and outliers. Each unit will be designed to sense light changes and sound in its environment and to respond with glowing lights, chirps, and beeps. They will also respond as a community or system with waves of light and ambient sounds.

BOCOLAB currently envisions the following example of its behavior with 3 modes of activity.

Mode1 – “Sleep.” In this mode the piece will glow with a gently soothing ambient sound. A random chirp from an individual may temporarily disturb the units around it.

Mode2 – “Awareness.” A viewer’s activity will wake up the sculpture for mode 2. At first, one or more of the individual units will sense a sound or a viewer’s close proximity and respond with a higher intensity of light and sound. After a period of interaction, the more active units will alert the rest of the community leading to Mode2. The activity in this mode will be subtle and reserved but it will clearly demonstrate an “aware” behavior with gentle chirps, beeps, and slowly changing lights.

At this point a loud sound from the viewer will shut the community down as if it were hiding.
But quiet and patient observation will encourage the community to enter a final playful mode.

Mode3 – “Performance.” In this mode the piece will perform preprogrammed behaviors with waves of light and pleasant note progressions.

Please Note: Since each Bopunk is programmable, BOCOLAB will be evolving the code over the next year to best simulate an organic system for the viewer. By developing these individually sensitive units with a simple set of rules, we intend to create an organic digital community that give will rise to spontaneous emergent behaviors.

Translucent resin Bopunk housing

Wax prototype with light sensor

Comparison and Contrast of Sculpture #1 and #2:

The 2 sculptures in the Sculpture Court will clearly relate to each other with color and repetition. And they will both share the quality of making the viewer aware of their presence in relation to the piece. But they achieve this quality in completely different ways.

Sculpture #1 uses the physicality of form and materials to make the viewer aware of their bodily presence in a real space. It is a singular and connected expression that uses suspension, canter levering, enormous scale, spatial interaction, and materiality to confront the viewer. These analogue qualities lead the viewer to experience a primal or preverbal content that in turn refers to ideas of origin, procreation, growth, expansion, potential, and mystery.

Nascence

Sculpture #2 on the other hand, uses sensors and responses for a more conscious experience with the piece. The forces operating in this sculpture are more ephemeral and time based. Light, sound, and sequence implicate the viewer into a relationship with an unknown system. The piece is digital in its form and it uses digital means to achieve its expression and refers to ideas about individuality, community, behavior, interaction, illusion, energy, and systems.

Francis Fox and BOCOLAB at Visual Arts Collective

“Interval” (a space between objects, units, points, or states)

Sculpture Professor at Boise State University, Francis Fox has exhibited his studio artwork throughout the West and Northwest since 1988. In the past five years he has been honored to make several public sculptures for the City of Boise. He is also a founding member of BOCOLAB along with Caleb Chung and Joe Coffland. BOCOLAB is a collaborative group of artists, scientists, and engineers who create sculptures to interact with people. Fox’s current sculptures are provocative objects that encourage the viewer to imagine. They range in form and material and yet they all share a refusal to be easily defined.

Reception for “Interval” begins at 7pm on Saturday, October 6th @ Visual Arts Collective, 3638 Osage, Garden City, ID

Artist Statement

My work focuses on the way things evolve.  Chaos Theory postulates that systems evolve according to a “sensitive dependence on initial conditions.”   Tiny differences at the onset of growth are magnified by time and repetition to eventually create complex entities and systems.

My working process parallels this idea.  Some of the sculptures are comprised of a single band of metal that can serve as a metaphor for a growing system.  At first, the direction that the band travels is determined by the surface of the original form, but soon, it starts to respond to its own structure.  Intersections and nodes emerge as distinct secondary forms and the traveling line responds to these in turn.

The sculptures that result from this process often exhibit clusters and intersections that suggest a type of order reminiscent of those seen in natural and human-made systems.  These patterns relate to evolution at various scales–from the growth of lichen, to the topography of the earth,  or from the construction of a computer chip to the layout of cities and roads.

Francis Fox

May 2004