Department of Rhythmanalysis



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The Department of Rhythmanalysis was a series of projects that explored the potentials of industrial interfaces as representational media. Indicator lights display either an event or the potential for an event. Viewed as an accumulation of events or potential events at varying scales and durations, a collection of such lights might form a picture of a place, and often do, even in industrial use. Theorist Henri Lefebvre described such a way of examining place as periodicity as well – he referred to such a method as the practice of rhythmanalysis. Poets, musicians, architects, film editors and computer programmers are well-versed in such ways of seeing, but the imaging arts pay less attention to simultaneity.
I find such layered understandings of spatial perception to be both poetic and appropriately reflective of the limits of human perception. We may think we can see a great deal at once, but the eyes do tend to choose one thing at a time to see. When we stop to listen, hearing’s greater capacity for registering simultaneity shows us how flat vision can be.

The industrial interface thus offers as rich a space for creation and critique as other gridded approaches to depicting place and space. Given their prominence and power in modern spaces, such interfaces deserve the sort of attention that painting and the camera have received by artists and critics alike.

Department of Rhythmanalysis: College of Dupage

This installation for Gahlberg Gallery at the College of DuPage features a grid of 60 inter-connected control panels. Through labeled LED indicators, each yellow panel purports to monitor a different condition in the gallery, campus, or the world. Through some actual sensing and some fiction, each panel audibly switches at a distinct rhythm. Interspersed manual switches offer or deny the viewer a chance to influence these conditions, through turnkeys and dials. Some conditions are visibly and audibly interdependent, others autonomous and even questionably verifiable.

Department of Rhythmanalysis: On Location

This web-based exploration, commissioned by the journal Blackbird at Virginia Commonwealth University, presents the user with a roaming, time-traveling camera for viewing a single interface. Each view changes the space and time within which the interface is visible, as well as the conditions it claims to monitor. Off-screen visual and aural cues add another layer of narrative information to each scene.

Visit Project


Department of Rhythmanalysis: Agent Tracker

Installed at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities as part of the Spectacles of the Real series of events, this panel purported to monitor the progress of an “agent” through the world, originating at the gallery and journeying far before returning to the gallery at the exhibition’s close. Visitors could follow the agent’s progress via daily image uploads and distance, time indicators.

Department of Rhythmanalysis: Krannert Art Museum

For this early exploration of the form, I installed a panel as part of a group exhibition at the University where I am employed. The interface purported to monitor a series of items related to the campus environment at the time, including:

  • Is there daylight in Baghdad?
  • Is the light green at Fourth and Peabody?
  • Has there been another attack on U.S. soil?
  • Is consenus possible?
  • Is ‘Fighting Illini’ a racist nickname?
  • Are you keeping your voice down?

Speech in front of the panel would drive the last item into the negative (red). If all items were red, an alarm bell would ring.

Drawings and Scores


Given the simple, binary nature of this project’s approach to events, and the fact that such events in combination might resemble a sort of score, I took to sketching from life from time to time. The results were featured in the Chicago art-curatorial site Ausgang.

Related Links

  • Josh Eckhardt‘s essay on the project for Blackbird.
  • Greg Smith on the series, posted at Rhizome.
  • Andrea Phillips wrote a great essay on rhythmanalysis in relation to contemporary art for the DuPage Catalog.