The Machine in the Garden

Nancy Evelyn Paterson

The Machine in the Garden ,
Co-workers & Funding
Not only does god play dice... but he sometimes throws them where they can't be seen - Stephen Hawking

THE MACHINE IN THE GARDEN is an interactive videodisc installation dealing with gambling and spirituality, twin distillates of our obsession with luck and fortune, weighing the apparently random outcome of phenomenon against a possible underlying order. Einstein's Theory of Relativity eliminated Newton's illusion of absolute space and time, and the combined research of quantum mechanics and chaos theory have shown the flaws in the belief that reality is predictable. As inevitably as we turn to organized religion for reassurance in the face of our mortality, and countless other systems of spiritual belief for their promises of miracles, we are just as surely drawn to games of risk and chance. Reconciling spirituality with our apparently reckless attitude towards technology becomes less problematic when we acknowledge that they are opposite sides of the same coin. Playing the odds and betting to win is a decidedly postmodern response to a failing faith in technological utopianism.

Modeled on the design of a casino slot machine, THE MACHINE IN THE GARDEN incorporates the Buddhist motif of See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil, as the final image on which each video display comes to rest. When the viewer approaches the installation they see, on three video displays, the same woman's face with hands covering her eyes, ears, or mouth. Pulling the slot machine lever to activate the installation, video from three thematic areas begins to scroll: imagery of war and destruction on one video display; talking heads of politicians, game show hosts and religious figures on the second video display; and childrens' programming and television commercials on the third. Simulating the action of a casino slot machine, the scrolling of the imagery gradually builds in speed, stopping suddenly in staggered sequence, on one of 9 possible combinations of the woman's face. Juxtaposition of video/audio is available in 729 possible combinations, based on a random program. Video/audio from three videodisc players is routed through a custom-designed A/V controller to the video displays.

Technology & Material