Photo credit: Windell H. Oskay,
on creative engineering and new media art

A beating heart

December 19th, 2007


A beating heart in a jar

Kinetic sculpture produced at the Interactive Institute for the exhibition Man Machine 2 at the National Museum of Science and Technology (Tekniska Museet) in Stockholm. By artist Cristian Partos, Fredrik Bridell and Henrik Berggren. (2007)

These two gryphons were originally perched on top of the roof of Sweden’s national telegraph board. We found them biding their time in the museum’s back yard and decided to bring them in for the show. In the exhibition they are guarding a large glass display case filled with various objects from the museum’s collections. Thy are also each holding a plate with a glass bell jar, one containing a clock and one containing what appears to be a beating human heart. When the heart beats, is squirts out a red liquid from a tube. The liquid pours down into a small plastic funnel and from there back into the heart.

The piece is not really interactive, other than that it stops when there is nobody around. The sound part, which generates what sounds like a heart beat, is actually made by looping back the sound from the room, picked up by a microphone in the ceiling. In a way the heart needs a visitor to beat. (I am tempted to say something about how this relates to Duchamp’s claim that the viewer completes the work of art, but I’ll save that for later. It really is not the same thing.)

Cristian Partos did most of the work himself. I won’t divulge exactly how we did it, suffice to say I did some electronics, some micro controller programming and that I did the sound part. I also did some practical handy work. On one day I managed to combine woodworking, painting, soldering and programming. Tools include Arduino and pd.

The piece was made for the exhibition Man Machine 2, open 7 december 2007 Р28 april 2008. It also includes pieces by Ebba Matz and Matti Kallioinen. The show was produced at the Interactive Institute and curated by Bj̦rn Norberg.