Irrational Computing (DE)



Silicon carbide, quartz, galena, geiger-mueller tubes, acylic glass, and custom electronics

Ralf Baecker (DE)


Irrational Computing executes an artistic test on the physical centerpiece of contemporary digital devices. The basic raw materials of our surrounding information technology are semiconducting crystals such as silicon or silicon carbide, which, thanks to today’s advanced microtechnology and extremely sophisticated procedures, are processed into transistors or integrated circuits. The installation consists of interlinked modules that use the varied electrical particularities and characteristics of crystals and minerals and, through their networking, form a kind of primitive signal processor. The crystals used for the purpose are either taken directly from nature, industrial waste products or have been especially cultivated for the purpose. A silicon carbide crystal, for example, is made to light up at numerous points with the help of electrodes. On the specimen, there appears a kind of display, which is targeted by the data flows generated by other modules. At the same time, the crystal functions as a sound generator, since the electrical impulses change the surface of the crystal, causing it to vibrate. Via loudspeakers, these microscopic reverberations are made audible.

Digital systems, in their function, are conceived logically and rationally. The lowest physical or electro-technical level are based, however, on quantum mechanical, i.e. statistical or unpredictable processes. Modern computer technology has thus tamed and domesticated the chaotic, so to speak. This work comments on this paradox by examining the aesthetics of the materials from which has developed a global digital network. IC aim is to search for the poetic elements on the border between the physical and the virtual.


Artist bio:

Ralf Baecker is an artist with a background in computer science, who works with and about technology. He builds speculative machines and installations that investigate the digital and its cultural origin. His focus is on the encounter of thought and the (physical) world. He considers computers and cybernetic machines as epistemological hardware rather than tools. Baecker’s works have received international awards, such as a honorary mention at the Prix Ars Electronica Linz (AT) in 2012 and second prize from VIDA 14.0 Art & Artificial Life Award Madrid (ES). He has taught at the Bauhaus University in Weimar (DE) and the University of the Arts in Bremen (DE). His works have been shown in international institutions and festivals, including Malmö Konsthall (SWE), Künstlerhaus Wien (AT), ZKM Karlsruhe (DE), Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin (DE), Center for Contemporary Art WINZAVOD Moscow (RU), and Laboral Centro de Arte Gijon (ES).