A 1 hour performance featuring a 20 channel Frankenstein video organism that has taken over the abandoned R&D Pub in the Stata Center at MIT. Most of the technology used in the installation is e-waste collected from the loading docks in the basement of Stata as well as other campus dumpsters or obsolete equipment borrowed from the Theater Arts tech closet.
The old, broken, discarded guts of MIT that have been abandoned in dumpsters and dusty closet corners amidst the rapid development of advanced technology are salvaged, stripped down, and sutured together into a delicate system.
Glass tanks are suspended from 20ft above ground containing the insides of CRT TVs as well as liquids and wires, numerous digital monitors are scattered around the room, and a tangled network of cables, wires, and tubes circulate water, power, air, and signal throughout the space. The organism is sprawled across the pub, manifesting itself through the 20 screens that act as windows to its soul.
The performance, along with the 20 channel video, involved reconfiguring the organism’s wirings, hydrating it by filling in and draining tanks, and letting its disembodied voice inhabit me through speech.
There is one right way for a machine to work, but everything breaks in its own way. Each piece of hardware and every algorithm it runs has a character that is exposed in its flaws. In an error, a machine opens up an exclusive side of itself to you. It is an open wound out of which technology flows raw and free, no longer confined in its manufacturer’s definition of utility. Sometimes it drips like a leaky faucet. Other times it is an overflowing stream that gushes through the cracks and drowns you in the unexpected colors of its full potential. This work is my attempt to serve as an acolyte for the machine’s catharsis born out of failure.
The final media distribution system for the 20 live channels and 2 static channels on 6 CRTs, 15 LCDs, and 1 projector, was a network of 3 computers (one RTX 3060, a laptop and a mini PC), 4 video splitters, 2 media players, 3 USB video devices, 6 HDMI to RCA converters, 3 RCA to RF converters, 2 HDMI to VGA converters, 2 analog cameras, 1 RCA to VGA converter, 1 RCA switcher, 1 RCA splitter, 1 small hidden monitor, 2 Frankensteined VGA cables, lots of VGA cables, DVI cables, HDMI cables, a couple DVI-VGA adapters, and a sliced RCA cable.
On top of this media distribution network was another network of 3 aquarium bubblers, an oxygen supply, and 2 liquid pumps circulating oil between two tanks and 3 pumps circulating water between two tanks and the bar sink as well as a manual process that involved filling a tank with water from the soda gun and manually dripping it into a wine glass with a pipette from the second floor.
For structural support we relied on many existing objects in the space like the counter around the room, but 2 19” CRTs in 20” cube tanks and 3 smaller tanks full of water were suspended on a structure of steel pipe we built with a height of 20ft from the ground, supported on 3 points on the second floor and one on the first.
I found the abandoned R&D Pub wandering around MIT CSAIL one day, and through a series of emails with CSAIL and MIT Dining, I created a one year residency for myself in the space starting from the fall of 2022. I created a project proposal with my advisor Josh Higgason which included a 10 page safety plan which had to be approved through many different departments. This included the Council of Arts at MIT who provided a grant to fund the project. A team of 8 MIT staff from campus planning, construction, environment, health, and safety, and facilities, as well as external structural engineers joined the project to help advise on safety.
I did what I could with barely any budget a one year nightmare cycle of wrangling, wrestling, and fighting through mysterious breaking, crashing, taking apart, fixing, believing, and giving a piece of trash one more shot.
Josh Higgason for getting my TVs to fly, for sharing all of your weird old video gear with me, and for telling me that this would be easy, MTA as always for equipment, Mark and Heather from MIT Dining, Alan, Joe, Kyle, Alec, and all involved from Campus Planning, Campus Construction, EHS, and Facilities for ensuring the safety of this project, people of Stata, my teachers and advisors for putting out fires while I put all my energy into this, my friends Blue, Bolzan, Abe, Artem, Bryan, Mei, Luke for helping me put this all together. Documentation by Yoshi Saito.