- October 23, 2010 - April 16, 2012
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On October 23, 2010, MASS MoCA presented a new site-specific sculpture by Prague-based artist Federico Díaz. Created from 420,000 black spheres precisely milled and assembled by robotic machines, the 50-feet long by 20-feet high sculpture, Geometric Death Frequency-141, filled MASS MoCA’s entrance courtyard with a fragmented wave seemingly caught between movement and stasis.
Architecture critic and curator Jeff Kipnis calls Díaz’s work “re-origination,” comparing it to the making of a book into a film. In one sense the film represents the book, yet does so in an entirely new medium, and through this becomes something completely different. In the case of Geometric Death Frequency-141, the “book” was a digital photograph of the museum’s clocktower entry courtyard taken by the artist, which the artist then transformed into pure data and modulated using analytical and fluid dynamic modeling techniques, finally rendering the data stream into a three-dimensional sculpture using state-of-the-art computer-aided manufacturing methodologies. The new work thus combined elements of photographic manipulation, data analysis, and computer programming, utilizing new techniques to produce a sculpture completely untouched by human hands.
Visually, Geometric Death Frequency-141 combined Díaz’s interest in the built environment and deep natural forces such as cellular growth, physics, and fluid dynamics to create a massive wave confined within an invisible 50 by 20-foot tank that penetrated the wall of MASS MoCA’s lobby from the exterior of the museum’s main entrance courtyard. As the wave hit imaginary boundaries, it splashed back and up as high as the second-story galleries of the museum.
An interior installation of one of the robotic machines used to manufacture the work accompanied Díaz’s presentation at MASS MoCA. The robot assembled additional spheres to be added to the massive sculpture over the course of the exhibition, providing viewers with the opportunity to experience the process by which Geometric Death Frequency-141 was created. The Díaz-developed process was unique — in addition to utilizing modern computer-aided manufacturing techniques, pure data, and algorithms based on particle physics are the guiding forces behind the sculpture’s shape, texture, and size.
MASS MoCA’s courtyard, where the natural elements of Natalie Jeremijenko’s Tree Logic and a mature blaze maple specimen tree are presented within the industrial confines of MASS MoCA’s architecture, provided an ideal ground for Díaz’s site-specific creation in which a lifeless, man-made vehicle transformed data into a tangible, material creation (the sculpture).
Díaz comments, “Creating a unique object, which transformed the museum into a new form of algorithmic architecture, was a fascinating journey full of unforgettable emotions.”
Director of MASS MoCA Joseph C. Thompson comments, “Federico is, in a way, the ultimate shape-shifter, but his works are always deeply rooted in physical reality. In this instance, Federico has ‘deconstructed’ a photographic image of our entrance courtyard. Taking the digital bits and bytes which define the location, depth, and color of the pixels from the photographic image, Federico rearranges them through the artful application of the laws of fluid dynamics. The three-dimensional black spheres that make up this work are in some ways distant relatives of the pixels of that original, two-dimensional photograph, but instead of being transcribed into a flat image as micro dots of ink on paper, here they well up into great waves that crash against the very walls of their original subject matter. There is something alchemical or magical about it: The bricks and mullions and windows of our buildings become files of digital data, the pixels become black spheres meticulously cut, stacked and assembled, the courtyard becomes and contains sculpture — and all the while Federico remains behind the curtain, as if to say ‘look ma, no hands.’ If data manipulation sounds dry, this work helps show that data too can fluctuate between stasis and movement, permanence and change, fullness and utter emptiness.”
Since the early 1990s, Federico Díaz has focused on art that combines software-generated shapes and sound with work in space. Multimedia installations and realizations related to biomorphic architecture and site-specific projects are central to his domain, and he commonly engages audiences through active participation in his art.
His interactive works have been included in international exhibitions at institutions including the Royal Institute of British Architects, Algorithmic Revolution at the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany; Fondation Électricité de France; and Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria. He received the Milano Europe Futuro Presente 2001 special award for his engaging Generatrix, which featured a generated organism reacting to movements of viewers in the gallery. His work, Sembion, an interactive space filled with forms created on the basis of a syntactical analysis of words, has been shown at the Institute of Contemporary Arts/ICA in London.
Díaz’s works are included in the permanent collection of the ZKM Media Museum and he is the honored recipient of numerous awards. In 2005, he presented a visual installation Sakura at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria, and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. The Sakura project is his critical comment to an expanding technological invasion into human bodies. At the Florence Biennale, Díaz was awarded the 2007 Premio Internazionale “Lorenzo il Magnifico” in the new media category for the Sakura project. In the U.S., Díaz’s installation Ultra was the first presented in 2008 for the MOMA/PS1 exhibition at Art Basel Miami Beach. More recently, Díaz has given lectures at the Storefront for Art and Architecture and Columbia University in New York City and at the University at Buffalo. His current project is titled outside itself.
Federico Díaz lives in Prague and is a co-founder of the Supermedia Studio at the Academy of Art, Architecture and Design.
Geometric Death Frequency-141 at MASS MoCA, 2010
Courtesy of Federico Díaz Studio