19.05.02 - 09.06.02 >> Robert Haines >> Storage Unit In 1745, a physics professor at the University of Leiden invented an electrical device whose descendents reside in nearly every electronic appliance today. Originally called a "Leiden Jar", it became known as a "capacitor". Its purpose is to collect and store an electrical charge--such as from a battery--to be released when needed. For example, in a camera's flash a trickle of electricity from a battery collects in a capacitor until it is full and ready to be released in a blast of power. But Where does human energy come from and how do we produce electricity for our brains? Does what we experience through our senses affect us physically, mentally or electrically? And what becomes of all these stored experiences? These are not merely scientific questions, they also relate to our self-perception and to questions of what remains of our experiences.
Storage Unit is a new installation by San Francisco-based artist Robert Haines. In it, five metal boxes stand on tables, as if in a home workshop or perhaps at a students science fair. Each unit relates to a mode of experiencing the world around us, and storing up those experiences. One enclosure focuses the visible light in front of it through an aperature where is refracted through the liquid in a laboratory beaker and finally falls on a photocell. In doing so, it translates the visual experience into electrical energy to be accumulated within its capacitor. Another unit contains a carnivorous plant, whose digestive energy is tapped by probes and sent to a capacitor. Two other units process sound and breathing into their energy potential, but the most curious enclosure is the last: a rather mysterious box with one side of copper and the other of zinc. These two dissimilar metals form a sort of battery cell, drawing energy out of the ambient space. Inside, a huge capacitor stores up the energy. When it reaches a predetermined threshold, the massive electrical charge will be released into the aluminum case. But when will this happen? It could take years or even a lifetime; there are too many variables to be able to accurately predict. Unlike many contemporary artistic explorations of technology, Haines' works eschew the machine esthetic for a decidedly handmade effect. He is not interested in technology for its own sake, but rather in technological intentionalities. What do people desire from technology and what do they settle for in its place?
Growing up in rural California during the 1960s and 1970s, Robert Haines has always had a deep curiosity about how things work and why people invent. His boyhood interests were fueled by the Popular Science magazines of the post-war era and the optimistic view of the future, where robots did our work and supercomputers the size of a city block answered mankind's deepest questions. As a teenager he built and flew homemade rockets and did science fair experiments. At university, he studied and later worked in architecture, and later still worked as a restorer on historic ships and submarines. He started making installations in the mid 1980s. Human proportions, geometrical phenomena, the mystery of simple electrical circuits and an American do-it-yourself determination are at the center of his work. Through his art, he is attempting to create the futurist utopia that was promised in the 1950s and 1960s. -Robert Haines deze expositie werd mede-mogelijk gemaakt door van Beek art supplies en Vrienden van MORGEN