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ARGUENDO opens at the Public Theater

Vin Knight and Mike Iveson in Arguendo at the Public Theater. September 2013. Photo: Joan Marcus.

Vin Knight and Mike Iveson in Arguendo at the Public Theater, New York. Sep 2013. Photo: Joan Marcus.


A new play by Elevator Repair Service Theater Company

Projection design by Ben Rubin and The Office for Creative Research
Sept 24 through Oct. 27 at the Public Theater, NYC
Click here for tickets and information

The New York Times Review

Arguendo re-enacts the 1991 Supreme Court Case Barnes v. Glen Theatre, initiated by a group of go-go dancers against an Indiana law banning public nudity. Electronically mediated with references to relevant court cases and the First Amendment, the play provides insight into the complex interactions between attorneys, judges, and citizens inside the courtroom. The entire oral argument is staged verbatim, interspersed with real interviews from the lawyers, justices, and an exotic dancer claiming her first amendment right to express herself nude. The play explores the moral boundaries & societal codes governing dance and self-expression. Arguendo was co-commissioned by The Public Theater, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, ArtsEmerson: The World on Stage and Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University. Arguendo was workshopped at The Public’s 2013 Under the Radar Festival and developed in part at The Bushwick Starr, New York Theatre Workshop and at Abrons Art Center, Vineyard Arts Project and LaMaMa E.T.C.
Ben Williams. Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Ben Williams. Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times


Susie Sokol, Ben Williams, Vin Knight and Mike Iveson. Photo: Joan Marcus.

Susie Sokol, Ben Williams, Vin Knight and Mike Iveson. Photo: Joan Marcus.


Mike Iveson. Photo: Paula Court.

Mike Iveson. Photo: Paula Court.


Susie Sokol, Vin Knight and Mike Iveson. Photo: Joan Marcus.

Susie Sokol, Vin Knight and Mike Iveson. Photo: Joan Marcus.


Created and Performed by Elevator Repair Service
Performers: Maggie Hoffman, Mike Iveson, Vin Knight, Susie Sokol, Ben Williams
Director: John Collins
Set Designer: David Zinn
Lighting Designer: Mark Barton
Costume Designer: Jacob A. Climer
Sound Designer: Matt Tierney
Projection Designer: Ben Rubin

Media software by The Office for Creative Research:
Ian Ardouin-Fumat, Ben Rubin, Jer Thorp, Noa Younse

Producer: Ariana Smart Truman
Production Stage Manager & Assistant Director: Sarah Hughes
Production Manager: Adam Shive
Movement Dramaturg: Katherine Profeta
Associate Projection Designer & Operator: Eva von Schweinitz
Associate Lighting Designer: Dans Maree Sheehan
Associate Producer: Lindsay Hockaday
Advisors to the Project: Emily Bazelon, Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz

ERS ensemble members Frank Boyd and Kate Scelsa contributed to the development of Arguendo. Frank Boyd played Mr. Ennis during workshop productions at The Guiding Lights Weekend (March 2012) and The Bushwick Starr (May 2012). Kate Scelsa developed the part of Rebecca Jackson for the workshop production at The Public’s Under the Radar Festival (January 2013).

Thanks to Floyd Abrams, Amy Adler, Bill Araiza, Kate Aufses, Nell Breyer, Douglas Curtis, Elizabeth Derbes, Mark Fleming, Linda Greenhouse, Mark Hansen, Katie Henderson, Bob Kerrey, Charles Platt, Robert C. Post, Lawrence Stierhoff, Pamela Talkin, Nelson Tebbe, Jeffrey Toobin, Ben Wizner, and Paul Wolfson.

Press: The New York Times Review

How to Make a Shakespeare Machine

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.


Art News
Art Info


2012 Award Winner for Excellence in Design, presented in July 2013 by the Public Design Commission of the City of New York
2013 CoD+A Awards, top 100 projects, Public Spaces Category


SHUFFLE at the New York Public Library

FuturePerfect and the New York Public Library present


by Elevator Repair Service,

with Mark Hansen, and Ben Rubin

New York Premiere

The New York Public Library
DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room
Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, New York, NY 10018

Saturday, May 21, 1pm – 6pm
Sunday, May 22, 1pm – 4pm

Shuffle will be performed continuously during these hours; you may enter and leave at any time. The performance is free, and no tickets or reservations are required.

Shuffle is an entirely new kind of ERS performance, one with constantly re-generated text and a dream-like logic. Through this collaboration with installation artist Ben Rubin and UCLA statistician Mark Hansen, the company looks back on its last three pieces through the lens of creative data analysis. The result is a site-specific mash-up where the company attempts to read The Great Gatsby, The Sound and the Fury, and The Sun Also Rises simultaneously.


photo: Wayne Ashley / FuturePerfect


Following its lauded production of Gatz at the Public Theater, Elevator Repair Service joins forces with artist Ben Rubin and statistician Mark Hansen to present Shuffle, a new performance installation that provides a fresh look at literature we thought we knew. The scripts are generated in real time by computer algorithms that recombine phrases from iconic works by Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway. Emerging from behind the crowded stacks of The New York Public Library’s DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room and spilling out into its oak paneled reading area, ERS actors seamlessly blend with viewers and perform surprising new kind of micro-theater.

More details are here on the Elevator Repair Service website.

Directed by 2010 Guggenheim fellow John Collins. Text processing and design by Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen.

The performance is part of the New York Public Library’s weekend-long centennial celebration.

This development of this work has been supported by the FuturePerfect Festival, the Rockefeller Foundation’s New Media Fellowship Program, and by a residency at the Park Avenue Armory.


Created by: Elevator Repair Service with Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen
Director: John Collins
Text Processing and Design: Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen
Producer: Ariana Smart Truman
Stage Manager/Assistant Director: Sarah Hughes
Technical Director: Michael Clemow
Company Manager: Lindsay Hockaday
Assistant to the Director: Katherine Brook

Frank Boyd
Sarah Hughes
Mike Iveson
Vin Knight
Annie McNamara
Kate Scelsa
Kaneza Schaal
Scott Shepherd
Susie Sokol
Lucy Taylor
Matt Tierney
Victoria Vazquez
Ben Williams
Special thanks to Jer Thorp and Michele Gorman



The New York Times Review
The New Yorker Review

BEACON at the National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia

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.

National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia, PA (Photo © Jeff Goldberg/Esto, courtesy of National Museum of American Jewish History)

Conceptual rendering, 2009 (image: Michele Gorman)

Serial study, 2009 (rendering: Michele Gorman)


Philadelphia Inquirer: National Museum of American Jewish History topped by a new light sculpture
By Tom Stoelker, July 22, 2010

High-resolution images can be downloaded here.
Please contact EAR Studio to request permission for publication.

Project credits:

Design & Modeling: Michele Gorman / EAR Studio Inc.
Fabrication & Engineering: Marty Chafkin / Perfection Electricks
LED Systems: RGB Lights, Chicago

The VECTORS show at Bryce Wolkowitz

14 January – 18 February, 2011
Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery 505 W 24th Street (at 10th Ave), New York, NY 10011


Afghanistan Stability/Counterinsurgency Dynamics (detail)


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.

Optical Semaphore
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.

For more information, please contact the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery.


Art in America Magazine

VECTORS opens January 13, 2011

Feb 5, 2011:  New photos
videos, and descriptions
are HERE

Preliminary press information and background is below:

Ben Rubin

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.

For further information, please contact Amanda Bhalla Wilkes at (212) 243 8830 or by email at

Terre Natale Opening in Bilbao

Terre Natale, or Native Land, Stop Eject, the exhibition organized by Raymond Depardon & Paul Virilio and originally shown at the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris will now be on view at the new cultural center in Bilboa, the AlhondigaBilbao, from May 18 through August 1, 2010.

EXIT – "Remittances, sending money home" Map Extract
Uploaded by FondationCartier. – Arts and animation videos.

Part of Terre Natale, “Exits, Parts 1 & 2,” was created by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Laura Kurgan, Mark Hansen, and Ben Rubin.

You can check out the AlhondigaBilbao website for Terre Natale here.

And the website for Terre Natale, with more information and many great images, here.


Radiolab Live

On April 14th hosts of the WNYC radio show Radiolab, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, presented the first in a series of live evening Awe-maggedon events “designed to tickle the mind and surprise the eyes.”

Jad and Robert invited Ben and Princeton University Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Iain Couzin to inaugurate the event series with presentations about their work. Both Ben and Iain showed projects that examine and encourage new thinking about swarms and communication. From locusts to the stock market, the evening was full of fascinating and entertaining topics and provocations for just the kind of cacophonous chatter that interest both Ben and Iain.

You can watch a video of Awe-maggedon here.


Ben Rubin’s Dark Source in Artefact Festival


What is missing? Has it never been there or has it been removed? Does available information exist that is not looked at, read or used?

The Artefact Festival, at the STUK Arts Center in Leuven, Belgium, ran from February 9-14, 2010 and featured Ben Rubin’s artwork, Dark Source, as part of its exploration into the meaning of archives, secrecy, memory and silence.

Dark Source shows the inner workings of a commercial electronic voting machine, the Diebold AccuVote-TSTM touch-screen voting terminal that has recently been adopted in many U.S. states. What you see [in Dark Source] 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-TSTM 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.

You can see more photos of Dark Source on EAR Studio’s Flickr page here.

Ben acquired the source code for Dark Source with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. You can learn more about EFF, Diebold and electronic voting machines here.


Listening Post on


Read about Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen’s LISTENING POST, and nine other fascinating artworks, in Hugh Hart’s great article about the London exhibition, “Decode: Digital Design Sensations.”