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I want to thank Ned Schwartz, who owns and runs Beret International Gallery at a loss but as a benefit to the Chicago artists community, for suggesting "Scary Machines" about a year ago. Of course we had both been drinking (at the Coyote opening), but it was a marvelous idea, even when approached soberly. Claudia George said, "Yes, that's what you do, Cook. You take things apart, and only sometimes do you get them back together again. It's scary." I like to think of it as sketching with nuts and bolts and gears, and like to think of altering machinery as creating mechanical poetry. - Jno Cook
"A Slackening of Creation"
The phrase is from Seneca or Ovid or Pliny. It struck us as very sad, and we have carried it around with us for many years. In 1990 we built a visual model descriptive of the thought.
This is a kinetic model of the Solar System, which condenses 30 billion years to three minutes, including the death of the sun, and the slowing and stopping of the earth's orbital and sidereal motions. It starts up when a viewer is sensed. Starts with the lamp at 1000 watts, and the globe and arm spinning at high speed. Over the next three minutes the lamp very slowly dims, the arm and globe slow down. The globe stops spinning at about 2 1/2 minutes, the arm stops revolving at about 2 3/4 minutes. The lamp goes completely out at three minutes. Resets in 20 seconds.
Constructed from a surveying tripod, a one-thousand watt lamp (rebuilt to fit a mogul base screw socket), and a 12 inch globe, with the addition of various gears and bicycle chains, small motors (including one from my VCR), and an altered Variac. Activated by means of an ultrasonic intrusion alarm. The globe spins and rotates about the lamp at a distance of about three feet, tilted at 23 degrees, and maintains the proper orientation with respect to the stars in space.
HWD: 71 x 61 x 61" Reclaimed materials, 1990
Dog-mounted portable low resolution video camcorder. The dog is used here to model the reworked camcorder. The actual purpose was to record walks from a dog's perspective.
This was done, with the help of a battery-pack harness also worn by the dog. It was mostly footage which swings wildly back and forth between automobile hub caps and the fences in front of houses. At some points the whole of the image is occluded by a crescent dog chin which covers the lens as he sniffs the ground, and an occasional long still image of tree branches. There are few other interesting points of view. The low resolution and slow scan rate of this camera makes the whole of the tape rather bizarre and difficult to view.
This is a Fisher-Price camcorder altered to be carried by a large dog. The video lens of the camcorder was removed and relocated to the side of the recorder, and the viewfinder and battery compartment were hacksawed off. Straps were added so the camera could be carried around the neck of a Rottweiler. A battery-pack was built to be carried on the dog's back. One videotape was made of a dog-walk; additional work awaits a solution to the jarring swagger of Rottweiler gait which blurs the video image.
HWD: 25.5 x 21.5 x 24" Video, Reclaimed Materials, 1990
The image was taken with a home-made rotating slit-shutter camera, which sweeps a full circle in 20 seconds, and repeats this until the film runs out. If loaded with 100 feet of film, it will go for 1-1/2 hours.
The aesthetics of this media is peculiar: it is a moving, projected image, and therefore there are viewer expectations of a narrative -- a sequence in time. But the camera does not record time in any sensible manner, it records space instead. The resulting "films" can be projected at any speed, and in either direction; they can be started in the middle, or presented as still images.
"Closed environment" mimics the senseless, aimless, and arbitrary method of recording, which also describes the closed private environment found in backyards. Nothing really happens.
Commercial display unit, altered to accept a 35mm film strip and to operate at a very slow speed. The viewing aperture is 1 x 22 inches. Backlighted with a fluorescent tube. The image moves to the left, 5.5" per minute, and transits in 4 minutes. The transparency is a loop 150 inches long, and repeats every 27 minutes.
HWD: 4.75 x 30 x 6" Reclaimed materials,1991
"Outside Ptolemy's Universe"
The two wheels represents the equatorial and the ecliptic. These two wheels revolve around the sky every day and night. The sun, moon, and planets travel along the ecliptic -- the Zodiac.
This is how the ancients envisioned the surrounding universe of stars and planets. We have wondered why they used this model, for they also knew that the earth was suspended in space. But at one time the Zodiac could be seen as a band of light. One source has it that this zodiacal light was last seen in 1840. Why the wheels do not coincide, and why the zodiac changes with the hours is the subject of much ancient intellectual discussion and accumulated wisdom, including the Tao -- the study of the path.
The sun, moon, and planets are located for March 26, 1976. All the lamps turn on or off with mercury switches. As the wheel rotates, the planets and moon light when they reach the horizon in coming up, and go out when they reach the horizon in going down. The sun is a 35 watt lamp, the planets are milliwatt lamps. The current draw of the sun reduces the supply voltage for the other lamps to where they will fail to light when the sun is on. Power supply from a Sony TV set; stand from a 5x7 enlarger; wheels from bicycles.
HWD: 47 x 38 x 28" Reclaimed materials, 1991
"Evidence Against the Future: Children"
We have seen the population of the earth reach two billion, and have seen it go to four billion and five. Before we die we will probably see it go to 8 billion. We have been born into a marked generation: it will be the only time in all of eternity that 90 percent of all human who have ever been born are alive at the same time. It will also be the generation which will forever destroy the earth.
These 10,000 images of children sitting on Santa's lap were originally taken by some commercial venture. They were found as negatives on 35mm color-negative stock and stored mostly on 100 foot reels. The negatives cannot be dated or placed, they may be 20 years old -- it doesn't matter. It is, at any rate, our generation, and more importantly, the next.
The negatives were edited to remove leaders and blank frames, and to align all the images to a 4-perf cine format. A projection print was made of the 700 foot negative. The complete showing takes 17 1/2 hours. A timer, when pressed, shows about 5 minutes worth from the whole collection. The projection equipment is a Navy surplus data recording camera; lens from a 1927 Kodak projector, placed on the inside; lamp housing and condenser system from a slide projector, placed on the outside; mirror from a Polaroid camera; reels are standard equipment; frame from Woolworth's; other stuff from surplus outlets and hardware stores.
WHD: 31 x 15 x 20" 10,000 slides, Reclaimed Materials . . . 1990
"The Track of Hurricane Hugo"
Weather is boring, and even more so then when presented on Broadcast Television as Mother Nature's unending soap opera, embroidered with statistics and scientificism.
We have here presented our version of TV weather, using puppets and puppet theater as the medium. The use of puppet theater for this project was meant to emphasize the inanity of broadcast TV and the transparency of the pseudo-science which is employed. The audio track is from broadcast TV, however, and its own parody. The tapes are coincidental with the travels of Hurricane Hugo in 1990.
"Weather Report" was first presented as two simultaneous video tapes, with monitors mounted in a puppet stage. Activated by an ultrasonic alarm, both tapes would start up to present five minute segments from two 20 and 25 minute tapes. A timer supplied the "start" and "stop" pulses to the video tape players. Only one of the tapes is presented here. The second tape dealt with the development of catastrophic global weather theories since antiquity, and features talking head puppets. The installation pointed to the degeneration of concepts of global weather when presented as entertainment on television.
VHS Video, color, sound, 25 min . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1990
"Generic Constellation/Star Projector"
We have all learned to locate a few stars when we were young, like the Big Dipper, and the Colander, and other kitchen appliances. But mostly we cannot tell one constellation from another. They all look the same. And away from our own neighborhood we cannot tell where NORTH is, no matter how many POINTERS there are in the sky.
To overcome this constellation dysfunction, we present the "Generic Constellation and Star Projector," a teaching aid for those who would like to impress their friends by looking up into the haze at night and muttering things like ,"There is the Plaiedes, and there are the Radishes, and that is El-Gabong -- do you know that is rotates?" This device is based on Chaos and the Ultimate Order of the Universe, as recently discovered by scientists.
Consists of a small 6 volt point-filament lamp, a lazy susan, a colander, a small DC gearmotor, and a rubber band. It projects a pattern of well ordered lights on the ceiling, and rotates to boot.
WDH: 24 x 18 x 60" Reclaimed Materials . . . . . . . . . . . 1990
"Still Running: Update"
Muybridge's Zoetrope has laid in disuse a century, for want of a sound system which could add an hypnotic ambience. This failure is inherent in the Zoetrope for it is an artifact, rather than a medium which passes through another machine to quicken an image. The Zoetrope is a topologically closed surface, and requires a physical object to add sound: it required a prayer wheel, or a playing card clipped to a bicycle frame.
It was only through a coincidence, the conjunction of broken and disused objects arriving in one place at the same time, that led us to the discovery of the solution.
Sound is provided by the tonearm bouncing off pieces of tape on the edge of the turntable. The horses have been reversed in order; the jockey has been removed; and the horses' tails bobbed. The turntable was found in an alley. The needle of the tone arm was gone, but it still sensed hoofbeats of sound.
WHD: 25 x 24 x 14" Reclaimed materials . . . . . . . . . . . 1990
"Waiting for Armageddon: Gravity Monitor"
Normally static, but could be tripped by a change in gravity -- alarm will sound. Requires a 12 volt lead-acid car battery. Alarm may be set to latch "on," so that momentary lapses in gravity can be detected.
This device is part of a projected series of detectors and monitors (deluge, famine, pestilence, conflagration), all to be wired into a central "Second Coming Detector," and envisioned as a permanent installation which will support the ultimate concerns of global ecology. The remaining elements of the "Second Coming Detector" are not off the drawing board yet.
Constructed from a surveying tripod, a bowling ball, the balance arm of a platform scale, a car alarm, and assorted springs and wires. When gravity fails the ball releases the tension on a spring which sets off the alarm (electronics and springs are not effected by a lack of gravity).
HWD: 72 x 34 x 39" Reclaimed materials . . . . . . . . . . . 1990
We have searched through 33,000 words to compose these lists of 212 nouns and 665 adjectives, and added a few suggestions from teen-age boys, mostly of the form, "---- head." The initial purpose was to be able to swear randomly, creatively, and diligently, -- although not excessively -- and to avoid charges of indecency or obscenity, for we would not be the authors, nor was there a material object. But we found our own censors, and removed racial slurs, gay bashing, and sexist nomenclature. This still left the broad categories of social misbehavior, looks, indecency, and stupidity.
Capable of creating 62 billion variation (using no more than three adjectives at a time), the machine nevertheless tends to repeat itself frequently. We do not know why this is. Any suggestions for new nouns and adjectives, and especially new phrasings, would be appreciated. A notebook is made available.
An 8086 processor running DOS 2.11; 384 Kb of memory. The graphics were sketched in a CAD program, and the vocabulary lists written in WP5.1. The working program is 8 lines long. There is no sound support on the 2500, or we would have had it speak too.
HWD: 20 x 19 x 16" Reclaimed Materials . . . . . . . . . . . 1992
"Hard Copy: Endangered Species"
We have saved from extinction certain of the endangered species from cyberspace. These creatures, plus thousands of other forms which exist today in the magnetic ether of cyberspace, are threatened by the volatility of the medium, and the rapid loss of interest. Already our printer has suffered from electronic malfunctions, and only the barest outlines are fed to us of the once magnificent vector objects in 257 colors.
We hate clip-art, and electronic clip-art even more, but the realization that these forms, although reduced to a handful of pixels, could be recognized even by a two-year old, led us to cast these images in a more material medium. They are part of a continuous heritage, for the forms have been diligently taught by each generation of parents to their small children since the lion went extinct in Europe.
Screen-prints of *.WPG vector graphic files, printed in the absence of a graphics driver, and on a dot-matrix printer. Lith film negatives and slides made. As black and white slides (with reversed "backup" copies) these will last a thousand years. Voice computer generated via Soundblaster support.
HWD: 9 x 11 x 16" Reclaimed materials, audio . . . . . . . . 1992
"Turning Incoming Missiles to Stone"
(The Gorgon Projector)
We have developed an infinity-focus projection system (a collimated image), as a model for a proposed SDI weapons system project. Because the image is collimated, it remains the same size as one moves away from the projector, and stays at the same intensity.
Titled "The Gorgon Projector," it is meant to turn incoming missiles to stone. This project will require extensive testing and funding, probably at least $2 billion in Federal SDI funds.
We am currently using the head of a doll for an image, which doesn't work (that is, it doesn't turn incoming missiles to stone, yet). We may want to use a more effective image, perhaps the face of the SDI Architect with snakes in his hair.
The case of a Navy sextant, parts of an aerial camera lens collimated to infinity, the head of a doll, lamps, a blower, timer, small DC motor for the eyes.
WDW: 12 x 14 x 10«" Reclaimed Materials . . . . . . . . . . 1992
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JNO COOK -- SCARY MACHINES
Beret International Gallery, Chicago IL
Sep 11 - Oct 10, 1992
"Frustrating Jessy Helms"
(Not the Whole Picture)
Having experienced the recent withdrawal of galleries from sensitive subject material, we have given some thought to what it is that makes certain images objectionable.
This has led to the employment of a micro-fiche reader -- a device which never allows one to see the whole picture -- to scan an image of two people (us) totally naked, and in the act of making love.
Rather than allow viewers to zero in on details, the machine takes the lead, and randomly scans the image, never allowing much sense to be made of it.
Micro-fiche reader, altered to reposition a transparency with two gearmotors randomly controlled with interrupt timers and limit switches, lamp dims during movement; small 1/2-frame slide projector added to operate for 1/4 second every two minutes.
HWD: 18 x 20 x 23" Reclaimed materials . . . . . . . . . . . 1992
PLEASE TAKE ONE
JNO COOK -- SCARY MACHINES
Beret International Gallery, Chicago IL
Sep 11 - Oct 10, 1992
It is held by some that dogs can talk, but won't, for it would spoil their leisurely life style. An analysis of this film of four seconds of a puppy at play will demonstrate that, although they may not talk, dogs can think at lightening speed. Grown dogs hide these abilities for their own protection.
Time: 0 to 1/4 sec -- Puppy is shaking a scrap of cardboard (1- 4), while trampling his front feet (1-5), when he notices something more interesting (4). He loosens his hold (5-6).
Time: 1/4 to 1/2 sec -- He starts to lift his left foot to move it out (1-2) -- out of sequence. The time between sighting the new object and changing the leg sequence is 0.0834 seconds. He starts to lift his right leg (5) in advance of a lunge.
Time: 1/2 to 3/4 sec -- Puppy lunges for the new object, placing his right foot out for balance (4), and snaps at the object (5). The object is part of a Quaker Oatmeal box, known as a "Rollo."
Time: 3/4 to 1 sec -- He whips the Rollo to his left (known as a "Snatch" in dog maneuvers), and thinks of what Amazing Puppy Stunt (4-5) to do next.
Time: 1 to 1-1/4 sec -- He has settled on a Toss-Bite (another show-off maneuver practiced by dogs). He tosses the Rollo up (2) while opening his mouth (3-4) and snapping it shut again (5-6).
Time: 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 sec -- He attempts the more difficult Back Toss, but it misfires (4), the Rollo lands on his back (5).
Time: 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 sec -- At this point we have 0.0417 seconds of bewilderment (2) before a decision is made (3) to retrieve the back-balanced Rollo. He swings into a Snatch maneuver (4-6).
Time: 1-3/4 to 2 sec -- The Snatch turns to failure, for the Rollo starts to fall off his back, which he realizes (2) and results in the instant decision to swing his head around to his other side to retrieve the Rollo (3-6).
Time: 2 to 2-1/4 sec -- The swing and shift in balance is completed (1-3), but the expectations of catching the Rollo in mid-fall are frustrated by the effect of gravity. The swing is stopped (3) and a change of maneuvers is started (5-6).
Time: 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 sec -- The Rollo has hit the floor, and Puppy scrambles after it, shifting his weight again (1) and relocating his legs (5-6).
Time: 2-1/2 to 2-3/4 sec -- He fails to get a hold on the Rollo, and shifts around to get behind it (4), attempting to take all of it on his mouth (6).
Time: 2-3/4 to 3 sec -- This cannot be done, so he pins down the Rollo with a foot (3-4), and pick up only one end (6).
Time: 3 to 3-1/4 sec -- He continues to shift his feet to try to pin down the Rollo, and finally has a hold on it (5). He looks up to see the camera, and decides to go for a Rush (6).
Time: 3-1/4 to 3-1/2 sec -- He starts to rush toward the camera (3-5), but looses his grip on the Rollo (6).
Time: 3-1/2 to 3-3/4 sec -- He stops to reconsolidate his grip (a Rush maneuver requires a solid grip, for it proposes that your playmate will take a Snatch at the object) (1-4).
Time: 3-3/4 to 4 sec -- He rushes the camera. End of film clip.
You may inspect the film but turning on the lamp with the switch located at the right. The film can be viewed frame by frame by turning the knob, or run continuously by pressing the button on the front. Images are 1/24th second apart.
Altered 16mm film editor, motor from VCR, power supply added; workprint from 16mm internegative; rotoscoped images. Rollodog, 16mm, B/W, 4.000 sec, 1990
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