The Electronic Garden is made up of nine freestanding units or ‘plants’, each consisting of a cluster of similar ‘flowers’ with the tallest being close to human height. The installation is exhibited in adarkened space of sufficient size to allow spectators to stroll from one plant to another, much as they would in nature. Since the Garden is activated by sound, spectators are encoumged to clap, whistle or sing, or talk to the plants as they would to a pet Some even arrive prepared with their favorite musical instrument. The sculptures are constructed of acrylic plastic, (the ‘blossom’ of each flower) and stainless steel, (the ‘stem’). Employing the principles of fiber optics, incandescent bulbs concealed within the opaque ‘ovary’ of each blossom transmit their light through the translucent ‘petals’ and ‘stamen’ causing them to glow and shimmer. The lights are arranged in three separate colour circuits, each responsive to a different frequency, while their brightness is determined by the volume of the input stimulus. At the base of each stem, an electromagnet is positioned so that when activated it exerts a pull upon it, The pulsing of this magnet causes the sculpture to tremble and sway much as dws a real flower stirred by the breeze. Finally, the sounds emanating from each cluster are generated electronically and manipulated by the same three frequencies that determine the colour of the lights. This produces small but infinite variations similar to the repetitive yet everchanging rhythms heard in nature. Activating these responses is the feedback system, whereby the spectator sounds already mentioned are picked up by microphones, amplified and fed to the various switching devices that control output to the lights, electromagnets and sound synthesizers. Hopefully this brief description is sufficient to introduce the reader to the Electronic Garden and provide a basic understanding of how I made it. In fact this always seems much easier to explain than why, which I find I’m often asked in a slightly skeptical tone of voice as though there was something perverse or contradictory about the concept, that in this world of already ubiquitous technology, a garden surely should be sacred and made of good old-fashioned dirt. I can even imagine myself being ironic, were it not I who had devised it. So it’s with some care that I have retraced the path I took that led me to my switched-on garden.
- Iain Whitecross, UK/USA, artist
Full text p.167-172