Putting The Pieces Back Together Again

Autonomous System - 2018
Video Documentation, 2018

“One of the most highly developed skills in contemporary Western civilization is dissection: the split-up of problems into their smallest possible components. We are good at it. So good, we often forget to put the pieces back together again.” — Alvin Toffler in the Foreword of Order Out Of Chaos by Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers

The kinetic installation Putting The Pieces Back Together Again is a complex system with self-organizing and emergent behavior. At the same time, it is an artistic inquiry and a meditation on contemporary scientific methodology. The installation investigates non-hierarchical communication and collective behavior by physically implementing such a system via many electro-mechanical actors.

The installation consists of 1250 stepper motors arranged in a two-dimensional grid measuring two-by-two meters. Each motor is equipped with a pointer made from white acrylic glass. The radiuses of the pointers are chosen to intersect with the pointers of their neighbors. All motors are stimulated with the same alternating current that initially allows them to move in a random direction. Simultaneously, each actor senses its environment. In the event of a collision, the pointers reverse direction. This is achieved through a custom motor control circuit. Through the interplay of many entities, a complex behavior emerges on the surface of the installation. By manipulating the signals during run time, the system will form a spontaneous pattern on its surface. It appears as if each actor is negotiating its position with nearby actors. In this process, the system displays self-organizing behavior. The installation drifts through various activation levels during its runtime by constantly evolving new formations and constellations (crystallization).

The setup acts as an epistemological instrument to examine the dynamics that emerge from non-hierarchical and collective organizations/systems, which can be found in many areas and on different scales, such as social systems, economics, climate system, and biology.

PTPBTA Installation View - 2018,
PTPBRA - Screen, 2018
PTPBRA - Detail, 2018
PTPBRA - Side View, 2018
PTPBRA - Back, 2018
PTPBRA - Total, 2018
PTPBRA - Total, 2018
PTPBRA - Detail, 2018
PTPBRA - Motors, 2018
PTPBRA - Detail, 2018
Putting The Pieces Back Together Again, Kirchheim unter Teck, 2018
Time Lapse, 2018
Black aluminum profiles, 1250 stepper motors, custom circuit boards (40 ≈ 40 cm), custom motor drivers, acrylic glass, power supplies, ethernet hub, raspberry pi, cables

Produced with support of the City of Kirchheim unter Teck, Verlag des Teckboten and Kulturregion Stuttgart (Curated by Benjamin Heidersberger).
Production Assistants: Mariana Schetini Basso, Irena Kukric and Antje Weller
Special Thanks to Katharina Sophia Hardt (Stadt Kirchheim unter Teck / Kultur Abteilung)


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© Ralf Baecker 2004 – ∞