Keyed Error Lamp
Error? Back in the mid-sixties a new, accidental circuit configured itself in my desk drawer as something metal shorted-out a small battery-powered amplifier turning it into a touch-sensitive oscillator. This mishap started what would become the circuit-bending chance-art movement. Within the design of an amplifier this new wiring would be considered an error. But as to the design of a renegade synthesizer the LACK of this new wiring would be the error -- the circuit would still be just an amplifier. Error?
Back in the 1970's, while I was experimenting with the Polaroid SX-70 cameras, every so often the rollers in a Polaroid camera would malfunction. Dendrites of swirled colors intruded upon the picture from the edges where the alkaline development fluid failed to evenly spread. These aberrations were fascinating. This time the error led to contemplating the film as a stand-alone color medium; my dye migration chance-art experiments soon followed.
In these examples of error tangling with chance two contemporary art mediums appeared for me -- circuit-bendning’s anti-theoretical electronics and Polaroid’s unexpected dye migration experiments. Error in art, however, is evident as far back in time as ink works created during Japan's Heian Dynasty.
It can be assumed that suminagashi, the Japanese art of floating ink on pure water, was an accidental discovery. Probably in the preparing of ink a little bit was spilled on nearby water where it immediately swirled into fantastic shapes ready to be captured. Experiments with sumi paintings also produced floating pigments. As is the procedure, I practice this ancient technique today by swiftly placing paper on the inky water's surface to obtain a print. Again, historically this time, error founds art. Chance resolves art.
So we learn from our mistakes. This sculpture, the Keyed Error Lamp, thereby recognizes, monumentalizes and infers the nature of error throughout its design…
The power sources for Beacon and Lamp are locked and must be unlocked by key.
The conductive brass rods of the error lamp armature are live, high-voltage and uninsulated.
The lamp armature rises from black heat-sinks.
"ERROR" is observable, but quarantined behind glass within a metal cage.
Red warning beacons fade on and off from within the globe and around the base.
Two antennae flank the lamp.
With a turn of the brass BEACON key three red warning lights begin to glow. Using a simple 555 timer circuit I've set the fade-in, fade-out of these three lights to occur slowly, three seconds per cycle (3 is the internationally-recognized "I am here" exclamation, the "SOS" distress signal is tri-numeral).
The vintage neon error indicator, a 110-volt metal assembly, is activated with a turn of the tubular chrome high-security LAMP key.
Two error indicators are mounted back-to-back -- the Error Lamp can be be viewed from either side. When viewed key-side, the red warning lights on the front shine onto the surface behind the lamp providing pulsing back-lighting.
Visually, the Error Lamp works equally well under bright lights and in the dark. In the dark, the four combined light sources emit light ample enough to illuminate the corner of a room. And a strange mirage appears when the lamp is the only light source in darkness -- a ghost-like glow, plasma-like, fills the top of the glass dome. Within this orange fog, which magically changes shape as the observer's position varies, floats the word ERROR, though backwards. The illusion is a distorted reflection of the rear error indicator upon the inner glass of the dome.
Error is a powerful teacher -- as powerful as accuracy, as constructive as certainty. Error is a towering force of illumination, of crystallization. And here, an anchor in the provenance of art.
Signed, dated NEW work by the legend and Godfather of Modern Aleatoria, $3000