FrankenCircuit


FrankenCircuit is the result of an enormous collaboration of over fifteen artists, musicians, scientists, computer programmers and engineers. At a superficial level, the Frankenstein reference is obvious, such as in the aesthetics of the FrankenSwitch and in some of the video imagery. But beyond that, there are issues raised by Mary Shelleys classic tale that are as controversial today as they were 200 years ago.

Shelley lived during the industrial revolution, the beginnings of the science of electricity, and in an age of new discoveries.

By the early nineteenth century, philosophers like physician Erasmus Darwin and chemist Humphry Davy, both well known to Mary Shelley, pointed the way to mastery of the physical universe. Discoveries about the human body and the natural world promised the dawn of a new age of medical power, when such things as reanimation of dead tissue and the end of death and disease seemed within reach. In Mary Shelleys day, many people regarded the new science of electricity with both wonder and astonishment. In ‘Frankenstein,’ Shelley used both the new sciences of chemistry and electricity and the older Renaissance tradition of the alchemists search for the elixir of life to conjure up the Promethean possibility of reanimating the bodies of the dead. (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/frankenstein/frank_modern_2.html#unveiling)

The original title of Shelleys book, Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus, alludes to the central theme of the book. That being the potential power and perceived danger in the thirst for and acquisition and application of, knowledge. It could be argued that these fears relating to knowledge no longer exist. But consider current debates over genetic engineering and the ramifications of genetically modified food and cloning. And the nuclear debate still looms large in the public psyche, as so-called rogue states acquire nuclear technology. Governments and corporations jealously guard their discoveries as Victor Frankenstein kept secret his methodology to the very end. While Frankensteins rationale was based on the potential misuse and inherent dangers of his knowledge, contemporary reasoning may be more related to profit, self-preservation, or maintaining the current world order.

The idea of responsibility as related to the acquirement and subsequent use of knowledge becomes key, so much so, that failing to acknowledge this sense of obligation ultimately leads to destruction.

Mary Shelley suggests that Frankensteins misfortune did not arise from his Promethean ambition of creating life, but in the mistreatment of his creature. Frankensteins failure to assume responsibility for the miserable wretch he fathered in his workshop is his real tragedy. (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/frankenstein/frank_modern_2.html#unveiling)

Allan Watts said, the underlying problem of cybernetics, which makes it an endless success/failure, is to control the process of control itself. Power is not necessarily wisdom. (The Book On The Taboo Against Knowing Who We Are, pg. 44)

So today we grapple with the opposing ideas of secrecy and open source, control and pure research, and what we can do, versus, what we should do.

THE CREATURE:
Electricity, controlled from a single knife switch, animates seven distinct kinetic sculptures, compiled from repurposed (or misused) mechanical parts and electrical circuitry. Their sounds are amplified through a sound system and mixed with precomposed electroacoustic music, to create a unified sonic environment that serves to dislocate the individual sounds from their physical placement. The pieces, created independent of one another, are united in their collective sound and in the source of their animation.

The robotic sculpture mounted on conductive steel cable overhead, known as Prometheus, was constructed from a device salvaged at the Black Hole in Los Alamos, its original function remains a mystery. It scans and tracks viewers as they enter the space and projects their image on the ceiling for examination and judgment. The name of the piece refers to the second part of Shelleys original title, The Modern Prometheus, a phrase originally coined by Immanuel Kant referring to Benjamin Franklin. In Greek mythology, Prometheus is punished by Zeus for giving fire to humanity. To avoid possible negative repercussions, this robotic and somewhat paranoid Prometheus, attempts to analyze and control its subjects with text and aural directives. To determine who is friend or foe, and who should have access to knowledge. But its analyses are purely fictional, and it remains powerless to enforce its dictums, resorting to empty and meaningless threats.

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