by David M. Roth
The first thing to know about the electronic “aviary” that Alan Rath has created in Irrational Exuberance, is that it is not is not a reference to Alan Greenspan’s warning about inflated asset values. Rather, it’s about the artist’s hope for how people might react to his feather-clad, kinetic sculptures. Their movements, which mimic tribal dances and animal-mating rituals, bypass reason entirely. They light up a part of the brain that craves unfiltered joy.
“It was one thing to build the machine” with a select repertoire of gestures; it was another to figure out how it could move in a way that might be interesting. To “impose structure on these movements” Rath looked to music because “that was the one area where people had organized events in time.” He declines to say what types of music inspire him or what aspects of music find their way into his art. What he does express is a fascination with how music, despite its “constraints” (i.e. chords, rhythms, bar lines) “can be experienced so emotionally.” He also cites, as inspirations, two other phenomena with built-in contradictions: airplanes and bicycles, both of which are “statically unstable but dynamically stable.”
To bring those qualities into his work, Rath built two computer systems: one to process machine language, the other to provide real-time simulation of physical behavior. The latter machine he likens to “big tablet of paper” on which you can draw and “refine a lot of failures.”