[ISEA2015] Artist Statement: Norman White – SPLISH SPLASH ONE and II

Artist Statement

Splish Splash One: Model-unit for a larger kinetic light mural commissioned for the CBC building in Vancouver, plexiglass, bulbs, electronics (1974) Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Purchased from the Electric Gallery, Toronto, VAG 74.84.

Splish Splash II: Aluminum, polycarbonate plastic, incandescent bulbs, and custom electronics, 8 x 40 ft. (1975) . Located in the CBC building, Vancouver.

Splish Splash One is a prototype for a light mural commissioned in 1974 by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for the foyer of its Vancouver offices. The mural simulates raindrops falling randomly on the surface of a quiet pond. Still functioning, Splish Splash Two dominates the audience lounge at CBC, providing a simulated natural environment for its users. The modest Splish Splash One is just one of a number of artworks dependent on a cellular automaton, a light/logic grid in which each cell is programmed such that it is off or on within its neighbourhood of cells in order to create a pattern. John Conway’s Game of Life (1970) exploited the evolutionary nature of this particular automaton. Norman White, however, had produced a similar logic machine/art work, First Tighten Up on the Drums, for his 1969 submission to Some More Beginnings, the E.A.T. exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. First Tighten Up on the Drums was a germinal electronic media work for White, and Splish Splash One provides a second iteration of White’s foray into cellular automata. It is the first of many works that explore the wonder of basic electronics and, in this case, offers the audience an enchanting experience as they watch its hypnotic flickering surface.

  • Born in San Antonio, Texas, USA, Norman White was raised in the area of Boston, Massachusetts and attended Harvard University where he obtained a BA in Biology. After moving to Toronto in 1967, White was hired by Roy Ascott to teach at the Ontario College of Art in 1975. His works can be found in public collections, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Canadian Art Bank, and the National Gallery of Canada. For his robotic media work, he has received prizes from La Vilette (1985) and Ars Electronica (1990), and in 1995 he was awarded the Petro Canada Prize for Interactive Media.

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