austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Slow dancing in a disco

Let me return to curious Biennale art. Tucked the basement of the Art Museum was a giant, irregularly shaped polyhedron made of PVC-like tubing and plastic covers. From overhead shafts of blue light shone on it, with mirrors reflecting light so it looked like dilithium crystal being subject to flashes of lighting around it. Speakers dotting the various surfaces gave the flashes a backing of good sound. I wandered around, and found an open panel -- one could enter. A dozen people were laying on the floor and inclined surfaces. I'm not one for laying on the floor, and I was a bit concerned what my bulk might do to the lower canvas if I really leaned on it, so I just stood, but people would drift in and out, watching, like they were at an open-house planetarium.

And I got a surprise: it wasn't just showing lightning. It switched to a single beam across the midsection, with a whirring sound, like the room were being cut. After some time, it switched to long parallel lines and short dashed lines, like the rain in a Ko-Ko the Clown cartoon, accompanied by a rumbling I could accept as rain. When that eventually ended the projection switched to drifting and swirling spot lights, like a field of fireflies.

The next mode was a set of horizontal lines ringing the shape, hovering up and down, like if Tron were on an elevator. After that it switched to crossed diagonals growing and shrinking with a thundering roar. That gave way to a streaking field of diagonal lines, and the audio switched to Morse Code beeping at something like 30 words per minute. Since that sort of Morse Code beeping is the usually the audio cue for ``satellite'' I started to think over the sequence to see if I could interpret it as a rocket flight. Loud rumbling noises and fast-moving visual field, yes, that could be a rocket liftoff. Horizontal lines rising and falling -- a stylized launch pad elevator? Fireflies would be the night before, with thunderstorms. The trouble is I couldn't figure a way the ``cutting laser'' made sense in that context.

Then the Morse Code and streaking diagonal lines gave way to a more nagging tone that I can't really describe; that might have been reentry, but it didn't convince me. The next sequence was fireflies, again with the nagging sound, and when the fireflies started all the kids in the shape went ``Oooooh.'' Next it went back to the flashing lights and ``lightning'' effect, which lasted only a short while before switching to a set of oscillating sine waves around the whole shape, made themselves of piecewise flat line segments. That might be splashdown, but I don't really buy it. I think it might have been just to be dazzling and pleasant, which is fine by me.

Trivia: At his coronation as Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary and King of Bohemia in 1916, Karl I refused to swear an oath of loyalty to the Austrian constitution. Source: The First World War, Hew Strachan.

Currently Reading: The Arrow of Time, Peter Coveney, Roger Highfield.


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