Last weekend, the courtyard of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art saw the opening of what looks like a giant black wave of death, sitting on a 50-foot by 20-foot footprint, 13 feet high.
Created by Prague-based artist Federico Díaz, the piece is titled, fittingly enough, Geometric Death Frequency?141. Here, we’ve got the first official pics of the piece.
Though it appears to be made out of shiny black ping-pong balls, the artwork is actually made of 420,000 custom-made plastic balls, assembled in huge slabs by two automotive robots from a 3-D model created by Díaz. (He had originally intended the piece to made of ping-pong balls, but that plan was scrapped when he discovered they were flammable. “Death” is meant to be metaphorical here, folks!)
The project has been two years in the making. When Díaz first began working on it, he’d originally proposed a something more akin to a giant bin of sloshing liquid, frozen in time. “But I wanted to deepen the connection to the actual place it would be installed,” he told us through a translator. What followed was an exhaustive analysis of the courtyard at Mass MOCA — the seasons and winds and light. According to Díaz, his purpose was almost akin to geographer or information designer — he wanted to render visible the forces and energy which always buzz around us, but which we don’t normally experience. So he modeled liquid sloshing around in a invisible cube, using RealFlow, a powerful program that models fluid dynamics. (You can see the model in motion, in the video above.)
As to the name, Díaz says that perfect geometries are usually the opposite of organic life. The “141” signifies the exact frame at which Díaz froze his computer model, to create the static object that the robots then built.
Díaz’s artistic process has always been bound up in technology — he’s made everything sculptures of melted trees, rendered from 3-D models to panels depicting natural growth processes, which continually change color thanks to heat-sensitive paint. He first got involved in high-tech art as a student in the former Czechoslavakia in 1989, when Silicon Graphics donated a computer to his school.
And though it seems like Geometric Death Frequency?141 is as much about the high-tech wizardry behind it as the object itself, Díaz is at pains to point out that he doesn’t care about technology in itself. “It’s merely a tool,” he says. “When Kraftwerk first came out in the 1970s, people said it was all about the technology. But now people forget about the actual tools they were using. It’s always been the same in art, ever since the Renaissance and the invention of perspective.”