Electronic Sculpture Archive
Bruce Cannon

This site is an archive of my older interactive,  electronic and computer-controlled sculpture.  You can always find out about my latest projects via my gateway, brucecannon.com.


Ten Things I Can Count On (1997-1999); click to enlargeTen Things I Can Count On (1997-1999)

Microcontrollers, batteries, LED displays, antique meters;
Nine modules, 6x6x3" ea, on a ten foot shelf with internal power supply; 50lbs.

Status: available


Ten Things I Can Count On is composed of nine small computer controlled machines on a long shelf.  Each machine has a glowing digital display behind glass, driven by a microcontroller with a real time clock with battery backup.  Each machine counts up or down, marking the passage of time relative to some event or documenting changes in some system over time.

Each of the elements has personal significance to me, and on one level their sum total can be seen as a kind of a systematic self portrait.  At work in this portrait are both the choices of subjects and those not chosen.  In this way, I also attempted to model the self-destructive futility of our compulsion to quantify; the way in which we attempt to capture, to own, to control through description.   To complete such a process we must exclude all but a fraction of the object of our gaze. 

There are nine machines in this project.  The tenth thing is that there is no tenth thing: as an obsessive perfectionist, I'll never accomplish all that I set out to achieve; I'll always fall just short of my goals.

Ten Things I Can Count On: Breaths I Have Taken; click for an enlargement


Breaths I Have Taken

This machine counts the breaths I have taken since birth, using a randomized model of my day. You will notice changes in it’s count rate which represent changes in my respiration due to sleeping, jogging, having sex, walking to work, reading, etc.

Ten Things I Can Count On: Breaths I have Taken; click for an enlargement


Breaths I Have Left

This machine counts the number of breaths I have yet to take in my life, based on insurance company actuarial tables.  It uses an average day model as described above.

Ten Things I Can Count On: Gallons of Motor Oil Poured Down Drains This Year; click for an enlargement


Mia and Alan

On June 6, 1999 my good friend and mentor Alan Rath, and Mia Jang got married.  This counting machine began its life with a metallic ribbon connecting the two terminals on the top surface, and its display frozen at zero.  At the moment of their marriage, they cut the ribbon and the machine began to count the seconds of their (officially sanctioned) life together.

Ten Things I Can Count On, Love's time/memory/absence; click for an enlargement


Love’s Time/Memory/Absence

This machine manifests the various stages of love.  Its mode is changed using the key switch. Initially it counts the duration of a relationship in seconds.  When the relationship breaks up, the key is insertsed, and it begins counting backward at double the rate it counted up.  This behavior refers to the rule of thumb that it takes about half of the relationship’s length to recover.  When the counter reaches zero, it begins counting up again, this time measuring the absence of love - since, when mourning the loss of a relationship, you are not truly alone.

Ten Things I Can Count On: Acres of Open Space Left in the Continental U.S.; click for an enlargement


Acres of Open Space Left in the Continental U.S.

Pavement claims 1.3 million acres of open space annually. This machine counts down to the day on which all the remaining open land will have been blacktopped.

Ten Things I Can Count On: Duration of my Career in Seconds; click for an enlargement


Duration of My Career in Seconds

This machine began counting June 1, 1991, the date of my graduation from art school. Since I consider bailing out on my art career almost daily, I have built this box with a key. If I become so discouraged that I stop making artwork and pursue a "real" career instead, the counter can be turned off, thus creating a static sculpture which immortalizes the duration of my identity as an artist.

Ten Things I Can Count On: Seconds Since the Invention of the Microprocessor; click for an enlargement


Seconds Since the Invention of the Microprocessor

The microprocessor is arguably the most significant invention of the end of this millennium, quietly but inexorably invading every facet of our environment. This machine counts the seconds elapsed since February 1, 1971, when the Intel 4004, the world’s first general purpose, programmable single chip computer was ready for production.

Ten Things I Can Count On: Millenium Counter; click for an enlargement


Millennium Counter

This machine counts the seconds remaining in the millennium. At midnight, December 31, 1999 it will load the number of seconds in the next 1,000 years and begin again.

For most of its life, it will display a very large number, decrementing each second. However, once every thousand years it will display the following message: "Ah! my Beloved, come fill the cup that clears today of past regrets and future fears. For tomorrow-- why tomorrow, I may be myself with yesterday's seven thousand years."

Ten Things I Can Count On: Average Attention Span of Viewers of This Sculpture;  click for an enlargement


Average Attention Span of Viewers of This Sculpture

This machine senses and times the duration of viewer presence. It continually recalculates this average based on a running total saved each day in nonvolatile memory.


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