No, our replica of The Colloquy of Mobiles is not yet real—this is only a photoshopped image of how it will look in our staging space in May at College for Creative Studies in Detroit (CCS). But the photo speaks our intention and hints at our progress.
Imagine walking into a gallery and seeing these larger-than-life mobiles hanging from the ceiling — they rotate, blink, squawk, and sometimes synchronize with each other, completely without human intervention. You walk among them, blocking their interactions, using a flashlight to attract their attention, wanting to get in on their conversation.
This was Gordon Pask’s COLLOQUY OF MOBILES at the Institute for Contemporary Art in London, part of an exhibition called Cybernetic Serendipity in 1968. Yes, 50 years ago in 1968 — an exploration of machine-to-machine and person-to-machine conversations in an interactive, immersive environment, perhaps the first of its kind. Frequently praised for its originality and influence, Pask’s COLLOQUY is a precursor to practices of contemporary art and design, as well as a prescient vision of our future with machines that may choose to act on their own.
To “design our world” has been the goal of every human generation. Every day we wake up to an invitation to become whom we wish to become. I believe the role of design is to help all of us to achieve that goal for ourselves — that is, to be designers of our own world.
Ambitious, I realize. As is trying to tame wicked problems through design.
But what is “design” anyway? Why isn’t “design thinking” enough? And what’s this got to do with cybernetics, anyway? I offer viewpoints in my Heinz von Foerster ’17 Lecture, entitled Designing Our World: Cybernetics as Conversations for Action. See the abstract, video, and supporting materials here.
I remember June 29, 2007, as if it were yesterday (almost). I bought my first iPhone from the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City on the first day it came out. I had worked all day on a typical consulting gig from my apartment, which was a 10-minute walk to the flagship Apple store. Around 4pm I had done enough so I figured, What the hell? — yes, it was that casual — I’d stroll over to see what was up. What I found was a party. I hadn’t intended to, but I got on line to buy. Read more…
Chaos Contained – Paintings by Boo Mitford 2005 – 2015
Lucky #8!* In this eighth update for our project in replicating Gordon Pask’s Colloquy of Mobiles, we are celebrating the recent public presentation by our master fabricator — and we are now seeking new venues to bring the wonders of Colloquy to new audiences.
In a great gathering here at the Interaction Design masters program at College for Creative Studies, the audience was briefed by TJ McLeish, master fabricator, in his thinking and processes in designing and constructing our replica of Colloquy, the only one made since the original was installed in London in 1968.
Our full-scale replica of Pask’s Colloquy of Mobiles is getting ready for interaction! Come to the the CCS Taubman Center from August 2nd through August 5th. The hours at the CCS Masters Program in Interaction Design will be 4pm to 8pm on Thursday & Friday, August 2nd and 3rd; and from 12pm to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday, August 4th and 5th. We have flashlights! (And free parking, of course.)
There have been many updates to the installation, including improvements that make everything more robust and ready for transport to other venues in the future.
During the summer we presented the COLLOQUY 2018 Project to The Exploratorium, which once housed a substantial percentage of the Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition from the ICA in London in 1968, where Colloquy was originally created. (Details are available here.)
Review blogposts about the project here.
Our official opening for the COLLOQUY 2018 Project was May 24th with 75 colleagues, students, and donors in attendance. Rick Rogers, President of CCS, and Bill Shields, Interim Provost of CCS, attended along with many faculty and staff from other departments. There is a Facebook video clip of the exhibit (4 minutes) and a “thank you” video on Facebook with reflections on Gordon Pask’s intentions and the importance of Colloquy (7 minutes)—which misses the beginning of the opening line, worth including: “Good evening everyone, friends of colloquy, colleagues, students, collaborators, generous donors, all interactive entities human and nonhuman.”. (Here is the full text of delivered remarks.)
The most important “thank you” goes to TJ McLeish, who designed the full-scale replica from the historical record and created the installation in all of its dimensions (with the exception of the making of the female forms, beautifully executed by Building Brown Workshop, from TJ’s digital models).
Public promotion included a piece written by Lillien Waller with an eloquent description of the project, concluding with a beautiful quote from Amanda, one of Pask’s daughters and advisor to the project. There is a video review of the installation process, student work, and the exhibit (4 minutes). In the exhibit we also ran a video slideshow based on a paper written with TJ McLeish, containing segments on cybernetics, Pask’s prior machines, Colloquy itself and Pask’s influence on design (18 minutes).
A future post will go deep into the educational value of our project.
When first unveiled in 1968, Gordon Pask’s Colloquy of Mobiles, part of an exhibition in London called Cybernetic Serendipity, was a total surprise and a sensation. Nothing like it had ever been made, an immersive experience with independent mobiles in motion, competing and cooperating with each other. It’s been written about and lauded ever since.
When we unveiled our full-scale replica at MFA Interaction Design at CCS in Detroit on May 11, 2018, just standing around these figures generated surprising insights about human-machine interactions. Read more…
The biggest challenge to remaking Pask’s Colloquy of Mobiles is the fabrication of the so-called “female mobiles.” Three large translucent forms, nearly 5 feet high, are extraordinary and other-worldly. They rotate and glow and react to other mobiles and to the humans moving among them with light and sound.
Equally remarkable is the rich career of their designer, Yolanda Sonnabend, who worked at the Royal Ballet in London for over 30 years. Her stage designs for the director and choreographer of the Royal Ballet involved “his more abstract” works. How fitting that she would work with Gordon Pask on the visual design of the Colloquy—for choreography it surely is. Sonnabend once said, “Design is visualization of emotions.” Her female mobiles exude emotion, for they are voluptuous, outragious, fantastical. The male mobiles designed by Pask are complementary and equally fantastical. I wish we could overhear the conversations between Pask (world-class scientist, artist) and Sonnabend (world-class stage designer, painter). Read more…
(This post relates closely to our COLLOQUY 2018 Project.) In a spectacular, definitive revisiting, Jasia Reichardt, curator of the original and groundbreaking Cybernetic Serendipity from 1968, provides a walk-through of the entire exhibition in a new video from the D.C. Art Science Evening Rendezvous (images are from her talk). Read more…
To raise visibility and reach our funding goals, a COLLOQUY 2018 DONATE page is now available. In just a few days we’ve raised over $1,400 in individual donations from $25 to $500. We appreciate these generous gifts as well as those of our major donors, who have contributed $27K to date. We’re aiming for $34K by May 11th, our intended opening at the annual CCS Student Exhibition.
The gnarliest challenge to replicating a full-scale version of Gordon Pask‘s work for our COLLOQUY 2018 Project is the so-called “female” mobile shape for Colloquy. We consulted the extraordinary craft facilities here at College for Creative Studies and a few great local fabrication shops in Detroit. (Whoa, now I know what “rotocasting” is.) Read more…