Polychromed wood, projector, acrylic, microelectronics Installation of 10 machines 34” X 16” X 21” per machine Chris Eckert, Martin Fox, & John Green 2018
The MSS is an installation of moving, blinking digital eyeballs. Each autonomous machine projects a searching eyeball onto its hemispherical screen. Programmed to track faces and movement, each sculpture actively follows visitors around its surroundings – at least until it becomes distracted by a more interesting target.
Polychromed metal, microelectronics Installation of 12 machines Variable dimensions Chris Eckert, John Green, & Martin Fox 2016
Blink is an installation of individually articulated eyeballs. Servos tilt each eyeball up/down and left/right. Eyelids give the eye a range of emotion – surprise, suspicion, boredom. Face tracking software allows each eye to follow and interact with people within its environment. Interacting with one eye is interesting, but imagine a public space populated with numerous eye sculptures – all of them following you, watching your every move…
Each eye is unique and based on friends and recent acquaintances.
Polychromed metal, microelectronics Installation, variable dimensions 24 machines Chris Eckert & John Green 2016
As a sculptor I work long hours alone doing monotonous, repetitive tasks like tapping a hole for a number eight screw – four hundred times. The radio is always on and, because I like to pretend I have some idea what’s going on in the world, I frequently find myself listening to National Public Radio. The discussions are compelling and informative but frustrating. Obama’s policy on drone strikes, homeless encampments, hateful ignorant rants by Trump and an American populace that seems determined to vote for him regardless, a swirling vortex of oceanic detritus twice the size of Texas, Edward Snowden and the NSA, scandals and atrocious acts of selfishness committed by innumerable politicians, corporate executives, church leaders, university administrators, and athletes. The topics are complex and nuanced without simple answers. It’s overwhelming. I don’t pretend to have solutions for any of these issues but I feel their weight and eventually I reach a saturation point. Facts from the radio bounce off my brain and ricochet around my studio until they spin to a stop, lost in the dust under a cabinet in the far corner of my shop.
Mixed Messages is an installation of 24 telegraph machines designed and fabricated in my studio while attempting to listen to the news. Each machine clicks out a Morse code twitter feed for some specific news organization: The Associated press, Fox News, BBC, Al Jazeera, etc. The machines provide a constant real-time source of overlapping, conflicting, unintelligible information.
Polychromed metal, microelectronics 12″ x 15″ x 15″ Edition of 5 plus AP Chris Eckert & Martin Fox 2015
Look is a small installation of machines obsessively observing anyone in their environment. Their gaze is unflinching – until they become distracted by something more interesting.
Each eye is unique and based on friends and recent acquaintances. Most of these machines have eyes based on people I met during my Artist in Residence at Autodesk’s Pier 9 in San Francisco.
Polychromed metal, microelectronics Installation, variable dimensions Chris Eckert & Martin Fox 2015
Scribe is a large machine that repeatedly copies the Gospel of Mark onto a 24 inch wide scroll. The text is written using two calligraphic pens: one black, the other red. A blue graphic pen is also programmed to illuminate the text as it is being written. As a person approaches the sculpture the machine becomes “distracted”, making textual errors as it copies. These errors are cumulative. During an installation the text will gradually transform into another text entirely
Polychromed metal, microelectronics Installation, variable dimensions Chris Eckert, Martin Fox, & John Green 2015
Babel is an installation of twenty small writing machines. Each of the twenty machines is mechanically identical but has been programed with a unique personality. Some write in English, others in French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, etc. English machines write sentences beginning with “America is not…” that have been culled from the internet. French and German machines search for “La France n’est pas…” and “Deutchland ist nicht…”. Paper mounds beneath each machine gradually filling the room with ribbons of scrawled paper.
Polychromed plywood, metal, microelectronics 7″ x 7″ x 7″ Edition of 3 plus AP Chris Eckert & Martin Fox 2012
A polished red box with the Communist Party insignia contains a wood block print of Chairman Mao Zedong and a nervously searching blue eye.
For me, the relationship between the eye, the box, and the viewer can change abruptly. Sometimes the blue eye is trapped inside the box. Sometimes the eye peers out from the box – watching. The eye is a hostage, an observer, and a witness.
Polychromed metal, microelectronics 11 ” x 11″ x 12″ Chris Eckert & John Green 2014
As an artist in the United States, I am constantly reminded that creating art is not a good business. The primary goal for any business is to generate money. While that is occasionally true in art, often it is not. Artists are motivated by many things: politics, experience, personal expression, etc. Few artist, at least in my experience, are significantly motivated by money. Still, successful people make a lot of money. If you don’t make a lot of money, are you successful? What is the “value” of the objects I create?
Auto Auction is a sculpture that automatically sells itself. Turn on the machine and it will open an online auction and offer itself for sale. A sculptural hand with articulated finger taps a bell to announce each new bid. Ratchets mechanically advance seven tumblers showing the current bid price.
Polychromed metal, microelectronics 10″ x 6″ x 9″ Chris Eckert & Martin Fox Edition of 3 plus AP 2011
Like everyone else, I seem to constantly run from one urgent task to the next and I often make lists of things I need to complete. Problem is: new tasks are added faster than I can check completed items. My list grows longer and faster the harder I work.
ToDo is another in a series of numerically controlled art machines I’ve been developing. Switch on the sculpture and the device frantically writes an endless list of chores. The components of the list (names, places, etc.) are all from my actual “To Do” lists but the specific combination of tasks and their order are created arbitrarily by the machine. The same list will never repeat.
Polychromed metal, microelectronics 54″ X 22″ X 20″ Edition of 3 plus AP 2010
The strongest indication of a person’s religion is geography. You are born into your religion. That doesn’t make it irrelevant or incorrect–religion provides a framework for basic morality that’s very powerful and it gives people a cultural identity that spans borders. I’ve attended mass in Dutch, German, French, and Spanish and I’ve always felt like I belonged. While my personal experience with religion is one of inclusion, a system that unites people from different regions and cultures, the public face of religion is often one of exclusion. Muslim, Christian, and Jewish zealots who know what God wants. More specifically they know what God doesn’t want and apparently God does not want me…or you. This public face of religion is always so certain, self-confident, even arrogant. That anyone could possibly know the “truth” when that truth is randomly assigned at birth is just funny.
Auto Ink is a three axis numerically controlled sculpture. Once the main switch is triggered, the operator is assigned a religion and its corresponding symbol is tattooed onto the persons arm. The operator does not have control over the assigned symbol. It is assigned either randomly or through divine intervention, depending on your personal beliefs.
Special thanks to Martin Fox for his extensive programming assistance and insightful comments while we were developing this piece.
I started my blog while I was working on this piece. You can track its development beginning on February 12, 2010
Polychromed metal, microelectronics 10″ X 5″ X 9″ Edition of 3 plus AP 2010
Several times a week I push my three-year-old son and our jogging stroller along the banks of the Guadalupe River on our morning run. We invariably meet homeless people, often groups, and it inspires a wide variety of emotions: sympathy, fear, anger. As a board member for the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, I was recently asked to solicit contributions for their Capital Campaign from other artists. I was on the other side of the cup and found that I inspired the same emotions in my friends and colleagues that I feel on these morning runs.
Gimme is an automated panhandler that follows a viewer (or multiple viewers) around the room while relentlessly requesting donations.
I began building this sculpture June 14th, 2010. You can follow its development on my blog: http://blog.chriseckert.com/2010/06/sculpture-r.html
Polychromed steel, mahogany 8″ X 11″ X 14″ 2010
Cranking the handle drives a series of cams and levers making the fingers of the articulated hand tap rhythmically on the mahogany surface – automated contemplation.
Mixed media 58″ X 12″ X 12″
When I originally started working as an artist, I would occasionally take contract jobs designing factory automation for various Silicon Valley technology firms. It helped pay the bills. One night I was working late modifying the programming for one of my machines and inadvertently stuck my finger in the wrong place. My finger was seriously injured. Machines can take a long time to build and it becomes easy to personify your creation. It seemed somehow unfair that I had been injured by my own creation and I was reminded that my machines do not share my sentimentality.
Auto Masochist is a two axis machine that rapidly drives a blade between your finger tips – numerically controlled self abuse.
Aluminum, brass, linen, electronics 9″ X 6″ X 9.5″ 2009
As a child I spent many years as an altar boy. I can vividly remember waiting for Father to stretch his hands out over the chalice – my sacred cue to ring the bells. My childhood experiences with the Catholic church were generally positive but, as an adult and father, I feel conflicted about trusting the church with my son. Automating this process eliminates the need for altar boys. Problem solved.
Polychromed metal, microelectronics 22″ X 22″ X 8″ 2010
My wife and I struggled for years to have a child. At one point I was told my mother-in-law had put word out on the Catholic network. People were praying for us on numerous continents. To be honest, I found this a little disturbing. People who knew nothing about me, my wife, or our ability to parent were asking God to help us. What if we weren’t good people? Even more disturbing – what of the many deserving people for whom no one was praying? Would they be somehow deprived of divine intervention? “Sorry but you don’t know the right people”. It made me question the validity of prayer.
Of course having people I don’t know and have never even met take time out of their day to pray for us — that’s very touching. There’s no expectation of quid pro quo; pure generosity of spirit.
I remain very conflicted about this.
The Rosary, a long formulaic concatenation of various prayers, is the go-to prayer for Catholics in need. It’s not my intent to mock or demean it in any way but, honestly, I find it a bit tedious. It’s a process simply begging to be automated.