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Electronic Countermeasures:
Jack Dollhausen

March 6 - May 19, 1996


Dollhaus ArtworkIf I say, "I make machines," or, "I work on a machine until it is finished," my thoughts are in my shop with electricity, plywood, wire solder, paper, silicon chips and all the other physical materials that I find fascinating. The machines are the result of twenty years mixing the processes of art with the materials of electronic technology. Using all these wonderful materials, I can make a composition of moving light, sound and space which changes in step with the life around it. The confusion in my shop is not reflected in the machines, but much confusion arises when they are approached with the preconceptions of the art industry. There are no knobs or switches to manipulate, and there are no operating manuals for these machines .... almost all of them interact with their environment. They are all compositions of motion, sometimes with sound. The compositions are determined by the configuration of the circuitry, which generates a finite, but very large, number of configurations of motion, light, and sound. If left undisturbed, some of these would have a period of days or months. Changes in the environment within the range of the machine's sensing circuitry alter the operation of the circuitry which determines the configurations. In some pieces the response is immediate, and in some the change is very slow.

The element of time makes my work somewhat inappropriate for gallery viewing. These machines are generally put together with very little regard for the transient visitor, and every consideration for the long-term relationship, Cycles are often days long, and sometimes as long as several years. 'Events' are rarely identical, and people who live with my machines have consistently remarked about their unpredictability and 'personality,' things not apparent in an exhibition. Critics and reviewers have generally been very generous to the work as objects and material, but rarely have made observations on the temporal compositions. The exception is the occasional singular gimmick such as recognizable speech events ("you are too close").

My machines are polite, and don't require a lot of waving, jumping around like a marionette, or loud yelling from the viewer, even though it is all often freely given. The machines are not susceptible to harm from sensory overload, though some will shut down if somebody gets obnoxious enough or too near to them. Environmental noise will sometimes keep both sound and ultrasonic pieces awake. Ventilation systems occasionally produce sound and ultrasound, and one time a door hinge was making an inaudible squeak that drove them all crazy. It's a little weird, but it's never been impossible.

--Jack Dollhausen

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