In 1944, an underground army comprised of Polish citizens attempted to drive German occupation out of the Polish capital of Warsaw. Without support from nearby Russian troops, they failed, and hundreds of thousands of civilians died in resulting mass executions. But it still represented the greatest European resistance movement to the fascist regime of WWII.
In tribute to the Warsaw Uprising, and the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, the new media firm panGenerator was commissioned to create Quantum of Peace for the Warsaw Uprising Museum. At first glance, it looks like any of the waist-high information panels that you see at most museums. That is, until you hear it: thousands of bullet shells trickle like remnants of minigun fire. In their wake, numbers are left. They suspend, in defiance of gravity, through magnets.
The risk, in such cases, is to build infographic disaster porn–to essentially trivialize an event by visualizing it. This problem was in the front of the team’s mind as the developed the installation.
“We tried to present statistical data around the war in a way that inspired emotion and respect to the people that died during this period. We thought that this installation would make a lasting impression of importance that those events won’t happen again,” writes panGenerator’s Krzysztof Goliński. “The sound and harshness of form were designed to make the viewer feel humbled in front of those terrible facts, but still keep him fascinated and engaged by the machinery and technological magic.”
In other words, the team leaned on the monstrous machinery itself–the ominous, metallic churn of an internal conveyor belt recycling used bullet cases, the hiss of pneumatic actuators used to reposition the neodymium magnets, and, of course, the grotesquely calming tinkle of of the shells themselves striking one another. To get the sounds just right, the firm constructed the machine, then tweaked the timing of its various mechanisms with a software interface featuring a few simple sliders–a process that took a few hours to get just right.
“The installation was quite loud but that was the initial idea,” Goliński writes. Indeed, it’s almost as if Quantum of Peace is one of WW2’s ingeniously horrific killing machines, repurposed to pay tribute to those lost by its own mechanisms–a gun paying tribute to its own ghosts.