Aleatorium (2021)

An installation with sound, light, robotic arms, found objects, ceramics, text, computer. Sound, light, robotics: Hanns Holger Rutz. Objects and text: Nayarí Castillo. Development supported by the Austrian Cultural Forum Zagreb.

This installation explores “uncoordinated” ways of collaboration, bringing together text, found and redesignated objects, sound, electronics and algorithms. The title suggests a rule, regime, or territory governed by erratic or random choices (from Lat. alea, the dice). As we are two human collaborators that often work asynchronously, and see what happens when heterogeneous elements collide, the installation features two small robotic arms that similarly engage in an asynchronous activity, becoming a sort of oracle connected by the impacting sound of ceramic pieces dropped into a metal dispenser.

The visitors may interact with the piece by silently formulating a question to which the assemblage will answer with Yes, No, or Maybe-Neither. They can activate the machinery by selecting and placing a small cuboid ceramic piece on a marked location of a wall shelf carrying the upper robotic arm. Using a foot switch, the arm will pick up the piece and drop it in a large brass dispenser, the oracle’s “communicative medium”. This gesture is noticed by the lower arm through the piece’s sonic impact, which triggers an audio-visual reaction, a series of echoes reproducing the memories from previous impacts. The echoes are visible as light flashes through a glass screen and audible as resonances emitted from the metal body. The reaction terminates in an aleatoric movement of the lower robotic arm. The oracle’s answer is either a nodding (Yes), a head-shaking (No), or a dice throw with three possible outcomes.

The strange process of incongruous things coming together is contextualised by a whispering sound installation, emitted from the wooden board that carries the main objects, and a spatial text meandering around this floor panel, extending into the exhibition space. The visual text is based on questions of collaboration, and can be read in multiple permutations. The whispering sound alternates between two voices, randomly iterating the set of words taken from the last section of Karen Barad’s book Meeting the Universe Halfway, which talks about quantum physics, agency and ethics.

Aleatorium (acoustic recording and edit; use headphones)

  • dialogue on the piece during Glowing Global symposium 2021 on PeerTube