I find myself in a pleasant lull between activities. CREATE California and some big submissions have been completed, the next sizeable deadline is a couple of weeks off. It is good to be able to look forward and begin work toward some longer-range goals and deadlines.
What is even better is to get some dedicated studio time in. I have been teaching so much of late that studio time and the creation of new work has suffered. It’s to be expected, as it is the teaching season. I’m enjoying this little oasis of peace and stillness to begin work on a piece I have long wanted to create.
Some time ago, I came across some images that had been created simulating music sound waves. The patterns were so ethereal and beautiful and I was fascinated to discover how these images had been made. Some research led me to learn that such images are now made with a digital oscilloscope, some of which render in 3D. However, the images I had found were black and white, rather grainy images, quite unlike the brilliant, crisp technicolour images so often seen on computer screens. I needed to dig further.
That research led me to discover the work of Ben F. Laposky. Laposky, a mathematician, artist and draftsman, is credited with making the first computer graphics. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Mr Laposky began successfully photographing images of sound and sine waves using a cathode ray oscilloscope. He named the images “Oscillons” and displayed them in various science and art publications of the time, and in an exhibition entitled “Electronic Abstractions” in 1952.
The images he created have a delicate beauty reminiscent of bioluminescent deep sea creatures. Laposky tells us:
I got into oscillographic art through a long-time interest in art or design derived from mathematics and physics. I had worked with geometric design, analytic and other algebraic curves, ‘magic line’ patterns from magic number arrangements, harmonograph machine tracings, pendulum patterns, and so on. The oscilloscope seemed to me to be a way of getting a wider variety of similar kinds of design and with controlled effects to produce even newer forms not feasible with previous techniques.
Laposky was interested in showing the designs or patterns based on natural forms, curves due to physical forces, or curves based on mathematical principles, such as various waveforms (sine-waves, square waves and Lissajous figures). According to the exhibit documentation, Laposky pointed out a parallel between his oscillons and music, the operator of an electronic setup playing a sort of “visual music”. (source: exhibit documentation “Electronic Abstractions”). One report on the exhibition put it this way:
The Oscillons are among the most sensually and spiritually exhilarating images of the entire history of human vision. (Cherokee County Archives)
On viewing these images, a vision took hold of my mind of expressing these wave forms in the shape of a book. The challenge became to express them with the same ethereal quality, one of translucence and grace of form, bound into a book. I have thought about this for some time, and came to the decision that only white silk organza could possibly give me the qualities I sought in appearance, handle and drape.
The concept of capturing wave forms in this manner fascinates me. Sound, and music particularly, have played such an important part in my life and my mind has long chewed on the problem of finding a way to express that importance visually. I was so deeply struck by the beauty of these images, and by how a thing such as music could be made visual and captured in a still shot. To do so would create a moment of perfect silence, if only for the split second of the shutter release.
I have begun the work and am currently experimenting with creating shaped signatures out of the silk organza. I then plan to stitch them in white and pearl grey silk threads. I am sharing the process of creating this one of a kind artist’s book through my Dea Fischer – Book Artist Facebook page. Stop over and see how it is progressing from time to time.