And That’s The Way It Is is a collaboration between the University of Texas’s public art program Landmarks and The Office for Creative Research from the spring of 2012. Drawing on transcripts from the Cronkite archives held by the Briscoe Center and live news feeds from around the country, Rubin has designed a digital interface that intertwines Cronkite’s legendary broadcasts with contemporary journalism projected into a choreographed basket weave across the CMA facade. In this, we see Cronkite’s transcripts represented by the Courier font while the live news is represented by Verdana. As a group of sixty students, faculty, and art enthusiasts gathered for the debut of the piece, the collective loud of the crowd carried throughout the newly appointed Walter Cronkite courtyard and struck the appropriate tonality for this unveiling: acknowledging communication.
The projection begins with the visual transcripts from the first 30 minute broadcast Walter Cronkite gave in 1963. This seminal broadcast includes an interview with then President John F Kennedy and marks a turning point in Cronkite’s relationship with CBS, a career that would span almost 20 years. It also ushers the viewer into an era rife with conflict, with Cronkite driving the dialogue to poignancy.
Shakespeare Machine is a permanent artwork in the lobby of the Public Theater in New York City. It was commissioned by the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent-for-Art program and the Public Theater. It was opened to the public in October, 2012.
SimpleViewer Gallery Id 3 has been deleted.
The work is by Ben Rubin with a great deal of help from statistician Mark Hansen, who collaborated with on all aspects of Shakespearian digital dramaturgy, and architect Michele Gorman, who conceptualized and realized the form of the piece with me.
Electrical engineering and fabrication services were provided by Marty Chafkin of Perfection Electricks and Will Pickering of Parallel Development.
Processing software development by Ian Ardouin-Fumat and Jer Thorp.
Structural engineering support provided by Guy Nordenson and Associates.
The work was also the recipient of enormous quantities of patience and good will from the teams at Anead Architects, Pentagram, the Public Theater, the NYC Dept. of Design and Construction, and the NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs.
And a special thanks to those who shared their insights into Shakespeare’s writing: James Shapiro, Stephen Greenblatt, Barry Edelstein, Oskar Eustis, and my English-major parents, David & Elly Rubin.
Beacon (2010) is an light sculpture created by media artist Ben Rubin; its animated shapes are based on the unique visual structure of the pages of the Talmud. It was commissioned by the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, where it was permanently installed in November, 2010.
The Talmud is the central document of Jewish law, and it represents a vital conversation that has taken place over centuries. Each page of the Talmud is a unique graphic rendition of that conversation: a primary text is surrounded by layers of commentary, dissent, and counterargument, all arranged in concentric layers around the passage. Beacon animates the Talmud by transforming each page into simple luminous shapes and then moving theses shapes through seven planes of LED light. The result is an illuminated volume, brightest at its core, in a continual state of change.
From the museum’s press release:
Beacon is a permanent LED light installation created by media artist Ben Rubin. It glows from the top of the museum’s glass envelope facade on the fifth floor terrace at the southeast corner of Fifth and Market streets, where it overlooks Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the National Constitution Center. The sculpture employs 2,688 LED nodes arranged on seven parallel mesh panels, each 64-inches wide by 96-inches tall, spaced 16-inches apart.
The sculpture’s luminous forms are drawn directly from more than 5,000 pages of the Talmud, one of the central texts of Judaism. Rubin has transformed the layout of each Talmud page into a simplified graphic composition and programmed the pages to move in a fluid sequence through the installation’s seven planes of light, adding the glow from this essential Jewish text to Philadelphia’s nighttime skyline.
Its name, Beacon, suggests a light that leads the way to the Museum and also to the fundamental values of freedom, justice and the law, values embodied in both the Talmud and the U.S. Constitution.
The idea for Vectors began with my participation in Paul Virilio’s Stop-Eject exhibition in 2008. Stop-Eject centered around the collapse of geographic and political space in the mobile, connected world, and Virilio wanted the artists to show how people, goods, animals, money, and information flow across borders of all kinds. This got me thinking about vectors as a way to characterize these flows, and from there I started to see how vectors actually connect much of the work that I do.
A moving train is a vector; the wind blowing from the northeast at seven miles per hour is a vector; the change in the price of Google’s stock is a vector. When you look at it statistically, any collection of language — a novel, a newspaper, an archive — is packed with vectors. A vector is an indicator, a hint, a single clue about where we’re headed. If we could somehow understand the mix of vectors that influence our trajectory at a given instant, we would be able to briefly glimpse the future.
Works in the show
Afghanistan Stability/Counterinsurgency Dynamics
2011; Neon, wood 47 3/4″ x 87″ x 6 1/2″; edition of 3
The design and the title of this work are based on a diagram that appeared on the front page of The New York Times on April 27, 2010, accompanying an article entitled, We Have Met the Enemy, and He is PowerPoint. The diagram was created in 2009 for the Department of Defense by PA Consulting Group to convey the details and the complexity of the situation in Afghanistan. According to PA’s website, the London-based consulting firm develops tailored causal maps of key drivers of stability in regions and countries of interest. PA gives senior decision makers and their teams a shared big picture view and a more structured way to help inform options for intervention.
The character of the PA diagram owes a debt to the work of Mark Lombardi, who created graceful, detailed and meticulously researched pencil drawings depicting complex interconnected webs of influence and financial connections. It was probably Lombardi’s subject matter, which included banking networks, organized crime, and the Bin Laden family, that first caught the attention of the intelligence community, but the PA diagram shows us that they may have found Lombardi’s narrative methods useful as well. In a 2003 review of the Drawing Center’s Lombardi show, The Times’ Michael Kimmelman, wrote:
I happened to be in the Drawing Center when the Lombardi show was being installed and several consultants to the Department of Homeland Security came in to take a look. They said they found the work revelatory, not because the financial and political connections he mapped were new to them, but because Lombardi showed them an elegant way to array disparate information and make sense of things, which they thought might be useful to their security efforts.
In my neon work, I’ve removed the text from PA’s diagram, creating an abstract network of vectors that still suggest connections, influence and movements of visual energy.
Anecdotal History No. 1
2011; Typewriter, video projection 37″ x 14 1/2″ x 19″; edition of 3
The portable manual typewriter, a device used for a century by foreign correspondents and far-flung diplomats, here taps out a series of phrases drawn from the diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks in late 2010. Together with The Language of Diplomacy (2011), this work scans the text of the leaked cables for lexical patterns and linguistic constructions that may reveal new layers of meaning.
Anecdotal History No. 2
2011; 4 x 5 view camera, projector, tripod 64″ x 30″ x 30″; edition of 3
The slowed-down trajectory of a man fired from a cannon in Mexico, landing ultimately in a net in the US, is projected onto the camera’s focal plane. The man’s body, held steady at the center of the ground-glass grid as it rises and then falls through its ballistic arc, recalls the Muybridge motion studies.
2011; Acrylic, electronics 12″ x 74 1/2″ x 11 1/2″; edition of 3
The visual design and speed of the semaphore’s transmission are calibrated so that it can easily be read, recorded, and decoded by a person using pencil and paper. Every 8 seconds, each of the semaphore’s four wheels rotates into one of eight positions: north, south, east, west, northeast, southeast, southwest, northwest. In all, this yields 4,096 possible unique configurations of the four discs (a 12-bit binary number), for a data transmission rate of 1.5 bits per second, which is one millionth the speed of a T1 or cable-modem connection. Only the artist knows the content of the transmission.
State Boundaries as Audio Waveforms
2011; Oscilloscopes, audio electronics 27″ x 82 1/2″ x 18″; edition Unique
An array of five oscilloscopes displays a succession of the 50 US state outlines, with a new group of states displayed every few seconds. The audible tones from the speakers are the same signals that are being fed to the oscilloscopes to generate the images.
To create this work, I begin with a set of connected vertices (latitude, longitude) that define the outline of each state. I normalize the longitude values and convert them into a short audio sample; I then feed the looping audio signal to the horizontal input of an oscilloscope (and to the speaker to the left of the scope). I do the same for the latitude, and I feed that audio to the oscilloscope’s vertical input (and to the speaker to the scope’s right). In the end, each state has its own unique stereo sound, and each oscilloscope functions as a vector graphic display, repeatedly tracing the outline of the state as defined by the two sound waves. I add occasional distortion, mixing, or processing of the audio signal to create intermittent disturbances (both heard and seen) that interrupt the orderly progression from state to state.
This piece is at the center of the set of ideas at play in this Vectors exhibition; vectors define the state boundaries, their images are made visible using vector graphic display techniques, and the states in turn each represent complex sets of political and historical vectors.
The Language of Diplomacy
2011; LED lights, custom electronics 61″ x 244″ x 4 1/2″; edition of 2
Here I’ve extracted 4200 unique 6-letter words from the 2010 Wikileaks release of diplomatic cables, and they are presented here in the order that each first appeared (1968-2010). I’ve color-coded words that are names, places, or other centers of influence (government agencies, NGOs, corporations, publications, etc.).
Times Square Trajectories: 46th Street and 7th Ave
2011 (Boundary Conditions series); Video Projection, optical equipment, ground glass. 74 1/2″ x 13″ x 31″ (overall installation measurements); edition of 3
Inspired in equal parts by Jaques Tati’s well observed wanderings, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, and 19th century entomologist John Lubbock’s obsessive records of the movements of ants, bees, and wasps, I shot a set of high-resolution videos from the roof of the Condé Nast building 52 stories above Times Square in June, 2010. The circular glass screen shows a series of shots that begin at the same time and place; each shot then zooms in to follow a single individual who passes through the frame, following that person as long as he or she stays within sight. The lower screen shows a series of overviews from the same time and place.
Feb 5, 2011: New photos
videos, and descriptions
Preliminary press information and background is below:
Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery
14 January – 18 February, 2011
505 W24th Street (at 10th Ave), New York, NY 10011
Opening Reception: 13 January, 6-8pm
Detail from Trajectories Series (2011), Mixed media, dimensions variable
Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by multi-media artist Ben Rubin.
In his first solo show at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, Ben Rubin uses mid-20th-century technological artifacts, miniature image projection, sound, and electronic text displays to reveal vectors of movement, language, politics, and information.
The show will feature all new work, including The Language of Diplomacy (2010-2011), a 24-foot text wall that mines the newest Wikileaks collection of diplomatic cables, searching for lexical patterns and linguistic constructions that may point to new layers of meaning. This work is the next in Rubin’s ongoing series of large-scale language visualizations that began with his groundbreaking installation Listening Post (2002), and has continued with Moveable Type (2007, commissioned by The New York Times for its lobby), and Shakespeare Machine (2012, for the lobby of the Public Theater).
In 2010, Rubin began An Anecdotal History, a new series of sculptural work based around pre-digital media and communication artifacts (oscilloscopes, typewriters, cameras, loudspeakers), and these works will be shown here for the first time.
Other works in the show include One Bit Per Second (2010), a mechanical semaphore transmitter, Afghanistan Stability/Counterintelligence Dynamics, a diagrammatic abstraction of the coalition forces’ war strategy, and Boundary Conditions (2010), a new series of miniature video projections that focuses on the dynamics of borders (political and otherwise).
The Boundary Conditions series is a direct outgrowth of the work I did for Paul Virilio’s Stop-Eject exhibition in 2008, says Rubin. That show centered around the collapse of geographic and political space in the mobile, connected world, and Virilio wanted the artists to show how people, goods, animals, money, and information flow across borders of all kinds. This got me thinking about vectors as a way to characterize these flows, and from there I started to see how vectors actually connect much of the work that I do.
A moving train is a vector. The wind blowing from the northeast at seven miles per hour is a vector. The change in the price of Google’s stock is a vector. When you look at it statistically, any collection of language — a novel, a newspaper, an archive — is packed with vectors. A vector is an indicator, a hint, a single clue about where we’re headed. If we could somehow understand all the vectors that influence our trajectory at a given instant, we would be able to briefly glimpse the future.
Ben Rubin (b. 1964, Boston, Massachusetts) is a media artist based in New York City. Rubin’s work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the San Jose Museum of Art, and the Science Museum, London, and has been shown at the Whitney Museum in New York, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris, and the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe. Rubin has created large-scale public artworks for the New York Times, the city of San José, and the Minneapolis Public Library. He is currently developing a site-specific sculpture called Shakespeare Machine for the Public Theater in New York, and just completed Beacon (2010), a luminous rooftop sculpture commissioned for National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.
Rubin has worked closely with major figures in contemporary culture, including composer Steve Reich, architects Diller+Scofidio/Renfro, Renzo Piano, James Polsheck, and James Sanders, performers Laurie Anderson and Arto Lindsay, theorists Bruno Latour and Paul Virilio, and artists Ann Hamilton and Beryl Korot. He frequently collaborates with UCLA statistician Mark Hansen, and their joint projects include Moveable Type (2007), and Listening Post (2002), which won the 2004 Golden Nica Prize from Ars Electronica as well as a Webby award in 2003. In 2011, Rubin and Mark Hansen will join forces with the Elevator Repair Service theater ensemble to present Shuffle, a new performance and installation that will re-mix text from three American novels of the 1920s.
Rubin received a B.A. from Brown University in 1987 and an M.S. from the MIT Media Lab in 1989. He is on the faculty of the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU and has previously taught at the Bard MFA program and the Yale School of Art, where he was appointed critic in graphic design in 2004. During the Fall of 2010, he taught a new graduate seminar, An Anecdotal History of Sound, at NYU/ITP.
Moveable Type, by New York artist Ben Rubin and U.C.L.A. associate professor Mark Hansen, is an artwork commissioned for the ground-floor lobby of The New York Times Building in New York City. It is a dynamic portrait of The Times. Statistical methods and natural-language processing algorithms are used to parse the daily output of the paper (news, features, editorials) and the archives, as well as the activity of visitors to NYTimes.com (browsing, searching, commenting). The resulting refracted view of The Times is displayed on 560 vacuum-fluorescent display screens installed in the lobby.
Moveable Type is located in the lobby of the New York Times Building on Eighth Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets in New York City. It is free and open to the public in the public Monday – Saturday, 8am – 7pm.
Part of Terre Natale, “Exits, Parts 1 & 2,” was created by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Laura Kurgan, Mark Hansen, and Ben Rubin. From the Cartier Foundation website:
EXIT, an innovative installation by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Laura Kurgan, Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin, in collaboration with Stewart Smith and Robert Gerard Pietrusko, gives form to Paul Virilio’s concepts on human trajectories across the globe. In a circular and immersive projection, it presents 6 animated maps generated by a database of information provided by international organizations, with a focus upon the following subjects: Population Shifts: Cities; Remittances: Sending Money Home; Political Refugees and Forced Migration; Natural Catastrophes; Rising Seas, Sinking Cities; Speechless and Deforestation. Virilio contextualizes these maps in an accompanying video, sharing his nostalgia about the magnitude of the world, about its scale when faced with the disappearance of geographic space, an idea that has been at the heart of his work for decades.
SEMAPHORE: a visual apparatus for communicating messages over distance.
San Jose Semaphore (2006), by artist Ben Rubin, is a permanent public artwork commissioned by Adobe Systems Incorporated in collaboration with the City of San Jose’s Office of Cultural Affairs Public Art Program.
Located within the top floors of Adobe’s Almaden Tower headquarters in San Jose, California, San Jose Semaphore is a kinetic artwork that illuminates the San Jose skyline with the transmission of a coded message. Like the Semaphore Telegraphs of the 18th century, the San Jose Semaphore is a machine for communication. Each wheel of the San Jose Semaphore can assume four distinct positions: vertical, horizontal, and left and right-leaning diagonal; together, the four wheels have a vocabulary of 256 possible states. San Jose Semaphore transmits its message at a steady rate; its four wheels turn to new positions every 7.2 seconds.
Adobe’s Almaden Tower is situated directly beneath the flight path for aircraft landing at the Mineta San Jose International Airport, and the San Jose Semaphore is sensitive to the passage of aircraft above it. When a plane flies overhead, Semaphore reacts visibly to the disturbance, and its steady rhythm is broken. After the plane has passed, the disks resume their steady, purposeful transmission.
San Jose Semaphore is a slow-motion magnifier for data transmission that functions as a beacon in the San Jose skyline. Unlike digital signals that pass invisibly through the air and across microscopic circuitry, the San Jose Semaphore’s communication efforts are visible and clear.
Dark Source shows the inner workings of a commercial electronic voting machine, the Diebold AccuVote-TS touch-screen voting terminal that has recently been adopted in many U.S. states. What you see here is a representation of the software program that runs inside this machines. To be specific, it is a printout of version 4.3.1 of the AccuVote-TS source code 49,609 lines of C++. 720 pages of the printout are suspended, and several hundred additional pages can be accessed on microfiche.
Calling its source code a trade secret, Diebold has asserted its proprietary interest in protecting its intellectual property. Therefore the code, which had been obtained over the internet following a 2002 security failure at Diebold, has been blacked out in its entirety in order to comply with trade secrecy laws.
What is on display, then, is not the forbidden source code, but rather the state of affairs in which we find ourselves today, one in which the critical infrastructure of democracy in the United States is becoming privately owned, and being private, is also being made secret.
Thanks are due to Cindy Cohen, Sarah Gifford, Mark Hansen, Dieter Jansen, Tom Keenan, Tom Levin, Luke Smith, Peter Zuspan, Dan Wallach, Hong-kai Wang and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, all of whom provided indispensable help and guidance in the conception and realization of this artwork.
Sign Language at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery
Featuring new light works
by Ben Rubin and Tatsuo Miyajima
In Ben Rubin’s new pieces, texts extracted from topical online sources emerge from tubes of moving light. For (in)stability (2003), created in response to the war in Iraq, Rubin (working with Mark Hansen) filtered 1,000 online news articles five days after the 2003 U.S. invasion and extracted the most commonly cited quote: “The situation is stable.” The show also included two new works created from reactions to the reelection of George W. Bush. Circumstances Have Changed (2004) references quotations pulled from 4000 news articles posted online in the hours following the election, and Untitled (2004) traces online chat rooms’ widespread conversations at the same moment.