Whiskers in Space is an artistic study of listening, noise and meadows. Fragmentary, sculptural mechanisms sense and measure disquietude. They are sensitive to the continuously present ambient noise of fine air currents we are normally not aware of. Similar to the whiskers of a cat in the dark, the whiskers serve as both feelers and antennae.
The installation “engages the participant with an array of forms [site-specifically] clumped in groups on [the ground]. More immediately suggesting a field of grass than whiskers, they are rough-cut airplane foam, peaking to knee-high blades. As one walks through the room, they move, bend and stretch from side to side and jitter as though stimulated by some sudden neural impulse or vibrated by a mysterious wind.”*
The groups of sculptural sense organs are connected to sensors – hot-wire anemometres – that measure the airflow in the room. The Whiskers adopt this noise as their own agitated, slightly nervous state of being, and mirror and transform the signals of the changes in the currents. At the same time, the movement of this mechanism feeds stimuli back into its immediate surroundings causing the installation to alternate between feedback and reaction.
Acting as if they were sense organs, their behavior mirrors synapses and adapts to the changing level of air activity. Oscillating between reacting, neglecting, they check and wait until they are ready to be activated again. With our warm and moving bodies, we are part of the dynamic exchange between warm and cold air packages but not necessarily more critical than an elusive draft or the combined movement of the sculptures themselves.
The individual sculptures out of flexible expanded polypropylene foam are connected and animated by tension controllable mechanisms constructed with Nitinol wire. Furthermore the foamy bodies of the sculptures acoustically amplify and harmonically filter the frequencies of the vibrating wires sending out nervously rhythmic hums and ticking.
*Laetitia Wilson in RealTime issue #101 Feb-March 2011
Collaborator: Thom Laepple