Harrison Pearce, a London based sculptor, specialises in creating large-scale kinetic sculptural installations. When he called Festo to ask if we could help him specify some parts we happily worked with him. The sculpture he has now created called ‘Defence cascade 2018’ is at the Marvellous Mechanical Museum at Compton Verney, Warwickshire and moves in time with a specialised commissioned piece of music.
Defence Cascade 2018 is a collaboration between artist Harrison Pearce and composer Alex Mills. The work takes inspiration from the neuroscientific term for the 'fight or flight' response in the brain. It describes the sequence, in which hormones are released when threatening stimuli are detected, as a 'hard-wired' response. A diagrammatic depiction comes in the form of an arc, which Mills borrowed to structure a composition of string music with viola, violin and cello. The sculpture, which is abstract but loosely based on the anatomy of the brain parts involved in this function, is set to the music via pneumatic control.
Harrison Pearce approached Festo for this project because the setting for the work at Compton Verney Art Gallery in Warwickshire is a show which tracks the history of automata. He wanted to emulate the way in which automata of the past engaged with contemporary technology from industry. His research into neuroscience and philosophy probes at deep questions about the future integration of bodies and machines. Having followed Festo's innovations in bionics and biomimicry, he thought Festo would be open minded about an experimental use of this technology for artistic purposes.
The work is unusually theatrical for a sculpture and creates an incredible atmosphere of ambiguous menace and desire. Pneumatic pistons investigate, vibrate, caress and coerce the inflated silicone sculptures with the stroke of pistons corresponding to the stroke of bows over strings. For him, this is not a dystopian vision of the relationship between man and machine. It is more like an analytic thought experiment, which presents a realisation of ideas from cutting edge neuroscience and philosophy and asks how and why we feel the way we do about those ideas today by encouraging a powerful, emotional and visceral experience.
For more information on Harrison Pearce's work click here.