Sculptron (1967)

“The first piece of electronic sculpture to be exhibited in Australia.”
Patrick McCaughey, The Age, July 11 1967

Asher Bilu created his extraordinary (but now dismantled) Sculptron 1, the first Australian electronic sculpture, with engineer Tim Berriman, exhibited at Tolarno Galleries, St. Kilda, in July 1967. This was a musical light instrument which translated sound into images which were projected onto eight circular screens through abstract patterns. The screen sprouted like branches from a stainless steel stem and were made from old TV tubes, using valves instead of resistors and transistors because, as the artist has recounted, ‘you got more interesting results in electronics with old fashioned valves than with transistors’. The screens were mounted on arms, and using oscilloscopic techniques, projected ‘pure, complex, beautiful’ patterns from surrounding sounds. The work engaged spectators both imaginatively and physically – the viewer’s presence changing the images.

The work was introduced with the following catalogue statement:

The conquests of modern science have become incomprehensible to man. Like a painter or sculptor, the scientist is presenting us with miracles and mysteries. It was, therefore, only a matter of time before artists and engineers formed teams to explore together the possibility of entirely new art forms. So, in Europe and America, kinetic art and electronic art were born, and have already made their impact. In this country (the artist and the engineer) have come together, and after many months of experimenting, have achieved Sculptron 1. This is a notable event in the short history of Australian art.

Asher Bilu had always been interested in oscilloscopic technology which gave out a linear thing like a drawing. It was the chamber music of electronics, and in Tim Berriman he found an engineer eager to translate his thinking. The whole project took a year to execute, and cost a small fortune to make, but the final work was described as ‘ almost an apotheosis of twentieth century art, where the work becomes an event in which spectator and work are bound together. (It) challenges so many of our pre-conceived notions about art. In one way it disintegrates form into movement – yet the movement itself assumes a pattern but never fixity. In another way, it is an impersonal machine for making images – yet is immensely responsive to its world. It dwarfs the spectator but does not menace him. (Patrick McCaughey “Twin triumph” The Age July 11, 1967)

Excerpt from catalogue Luminaries 1993

Essay by Jenepher Duncan