MAGNETS by Lawrence Molloy is a digital kinetic sculpture that uses evolving magnetic forces to make a playground from multicoloured rectangles. You can build and destroy shapes against a time limit of ever changing polarities.
A visitor enters the waiting area in the Wilberforce (Medical) Centre and takes a seat. He watches as a mother and son slide brightly coloured rectangles across a white screen with their fingers. The screen is recessed into the wall. Each rectangle is sp lit in two, with different bright colours on either side. Some of them are touching, some of them are not. It looks like hundreds of brightly coloured rectangles on a sheet of ice; all at different angles. The mother and son start making letters, then words, then pictures, then patterns around the edges of the screen. When the rectangles touch each other they make a sound as if they are made from metal.
The mother and son are called into the doctor’s office. Our visitor looks at their artwork on the screen. As he does he notices something strange. The rectangles are all moving on their own. At first he did not even notice, but now that he looks closely he can see that some of them are moving toward each other, others are moving apart. When the ones that are moving towards each other get close enough they snap together like magnets. The mother and son’s work is beginning to fragment into clumps of colour and white space.
Our visitor is intrigued, stands up and goes over to the screen. He begins to move the rectangles about with his finger. He finds that they are easy to move and twist, but hard to control. He finds that sometimes as he moves one rectangle others begin to follow and try to attach themselves. Sometimes when he moves a rectangle it pushes the other pieces away. He realises that these rectangles are just like magnets, with one side positive and one side negative. However that can not be. This is an illusion. Our visitor does not care. He tries to make two magnetic ends that repel each other line up. He holds them and the moment that he lets go they spring apart .He enjoys the trying to keep control of the magnets on the screen; all the time realising that this is impossible and that, like the mother and son, the moment he leaves the screen his drawing will begin to degrade. Our visitor also begins to notice that, unlike real magnets, their strength seems to ebb and flow over time. This makes organising the rectangles on the screen even more challenging. At one point the magnets seem to be very weak and do almost exactly what he wants, but then all of sudden the screen goes crazy. His pattern shatters and the magnets begin to snap together and push themselves apart.
In many ways there is nothing about this artwork that could not have been made in real life. The only differences are the variability of the magnets strengths, reversals of polarity and the fact that the magnets can not go missing or be taken off the icy surface. I am a sculptor and am not an expert in digital technology. I was surprised to be asked to take part in the Digital Media Lab, with its focus on touch screen technology, because apart from using adaptive technologies to aid with dyslexia, I often avoid using computers. At DM Labs I gained an understanding of a world behind the screen, multi-dimensional, hyper-real: a sculptural arena where time and space could be mediated by a finger or the movement of a mouse. I was seduced by the technology and potential of this (socially) non-coded space. Then I realised, what I had made, what I could in this arena was not hyper-real, it is a hyper-lie. A space where bouncing balls can be given behaviours to act like flies. Documentary media, mediated thought touch and screen, allow for different angles of perception, but offers up no new information. The work I made at DM labs has caused me question if it ever possible to the document a process of production. The more one documents, the more one changes the work, the more there is to document. The resistance of two identically-charged magnetic poles meeting are a metaphor for this philosophical resistance.