Roy Ascott: Form has Behaviour
25 January – 23 April 2017
Exhibition in Gallery 4
Roy Ascott (b. 1934) is a pioneering British artist who has worked throughout his career with cybernetics, telematics and communication theories. This focused exhibition sets out to establish Ascott’s innovative work in the narrative of British sculpture.
Roy Ascott: Form has Behaviour brings together four of his interactive sculptures made in the 1960s – which he termed ‘analogue structures’ alongside his ‘Manifesto for Cybernetic Art’ (1963). The term analogue has its roots in the Greek analogos, meaning proportionate; in its contemporary application, it expresses the ability of a mechanism to physically represent the quantity it measures.
Before his art training, Ascott had spent two immersive years in a military bunker, completing his National Service as a Fighter Control Officer. In the bunker, markers and boards were constantly updated in response to streamed information from radars as staff worked to identify flights over the North Sea. Information was represented, analogically – by objects. Similarly, Ascott’s analogue sculptures have moving elements that change in accordance with the decisions made by the viewer.
In 1963 he produced what we have described as a ‘Manifesto for Cybernetic Art’ (1963). This diagram forges a web of interconnections between living and engineered systems and the visual arts.
‘Analogue Table’ (1963) depicts a series of organic segmented forms, but it also features some jagged lines with peaks. These are similar to what Ascott would later call ‘wave forms’, derived from the fluctuating lines of radar readings.
In ‘Items of Intention’ (1963), one of the wooden elements is a simple comma shape which for Ascott, was the heart of the spiral form, also reflecting his belief that the work of art was the starting point of an unending process of possibility – forms, he argues, have behaviour.
By the late 1960s, Ascott pushed this idea further by creating works exploring play and interaction such as ‘Plastic Transactions’ (1969) – a table-top arrangement consisting of domestic elements, such as funnels and biscuit cutters, placed on a plastic grid. Reminiscent of the fighter control map, ‘Plastic Transactions’ is a game of analogue interaction – we invite you to play.