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. (Here is a longer video of TJ’s talk.)
Design Core Detroit generously sponsored this session as part of their Month of Design, a city-wide celebration across Detroit for all of September. The audience was given flashlights… Continue reading
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.
If you wish to come to see the installation before mid-August, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org. But we are not quite done… Continue reading
Full-scale replica at CCS MFA IxD
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. Continue reading
Yolanda Sonnabend. Portrait © Johnny Dewe-Mathews 1973
3D digital model
TJ McLeish and female mobile
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). Continue reading
Jasia Reichardt, Curator, Cybernetic Serendipity
Portion of Pask’s Colloquy of Mobiles
(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). Continue reading
Female forms (left, center, and right) and male forms (rectangular in shape, in front of the female in center). Rendered from 3D digital model.
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.) Continue reading
Click here to see the video from the talk. Click here to download the PDF of the slides.
Cybernetics is often confused with robotics and AI, chip implants and biomechatronics, and more. Don’t want to disappoint you but cybernetics is none of those things (though it has a lot to say about all of them). Cybernetics is not freezing dead people, neither. (I’m hoping that’s less of a surprise. Maybe not.)
Worlds Fair Nano – March 2018 – San Francisco
Hoping to clear up all that confusion in 20 minutes, I gave a talk on Saturday, March 10th, 2018, at 2pm at Worlds Fair Nano in San Francisco.
To speak about the future of cybernetics (as in this short video) is to speak about its past and present (requiring another short video). In an era that vacillates between rampant AI utopianism and rampant AI dystopianism, what does cybernetics have to offer our future? Continue reading
Colloquy as imagined and situated in staging space
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.
The CCS MFA Interaction Design (IxD)‘s Colloquy 2018 Project— to remake Gordon Pask‘s original installation at London’s Institute for Contemporary Arts in 1968—is well under way.
CCS students have been mining the historical materials on The Colloquy and building a repository of understanding to share with the world. Continue reading
COLLOQUY OF MOBILES 1968 (www.medienkunstnetz.de)
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.