Patrick McCaughey – Sculptron 1 (1967)

Sculptron 1

Patrick McCaughey, The Age, July 11 1967

At Tolarno Galleries this week Asher Bilu and Tim Berriman are exhibiting their Sculptron 1, the first piece of electronic sculpture to be exhibited in Australia.

Nothing in Australian sculpture could have prepared us for this remarkable and exciting event. it is a triumph for artist and technologist alike.

To understand its full significance we must set it into a wider context of 20th-Century art. One measure of its significance is that we are compelled to set it into such a context. no local context would be adequate enough. it deserves no other assessment than as a contribution to one of the central developments of 20th-Century art: Kinetic art.

Over the past five years this art has assumed great importance on an international scale. It is not a school or movement in art as the cubists or surrealists were. it is rather a new type of art that is being developed.

Instead of seeing the work as a finite, static entity, the kinetic artist develops the new idea of the work of art as a continually changing and developing process.

Many kinetic artists do not depend on the resources of technology for the creation of their movement, for the real potentialities of the art lie in the promise of a creative relationship developing between artist and technologist.

Here we come to the significance of the Bilu-Berriman Sculptron.

Only electronics could have made this work possible. it depends entirely on technology for its effect and meaning. It is a shared and equal conception between artist (Bilu) and technologist (Berriman).

At first sight the work is remarkably simple. Seven radar cathodes, each looking like small, circular television screens, sprout like branches from a stainless-steel stem. On these seven screens abstract light images are in constant movement. One image resembles a star flickering and exploding. In another a circle slowly and spasmodically oscillates; in another a tangled skein of light endlessly weaves and criss-crosses over the screen.

The sounds in the environment of the sculpture create and control these images. The Sculptron responds to the most distant and the most immediate sounds. Cars passing outside, a door slamming or our conversation changes and regulates the images on the screens. At all points the Sculptron responds to its environment, changing as its environment changes.

As spectators we are engaged both imaginatively and physically. Our presence before the Sculptron changes its images and so on.

This is one of the central qualities of the work – that it involves the spectator in a more immediate and living way than static works of art. Hence the Sculptron is almost an apotheosis of 20th-Century art where the work becomes an event in which spectator and work are bound together.

Sculptron 1 challenges many of our pre-conceived notions about art. In one way it disintegrates from into movement – yet the movement itself assumes a pattern but never fixity. In another way it is an impersonal machine for making images – yet it is immensely responsive to its world. it dwarfs the spectator but does not menace him.

It is indeed the total work of art.