Harvest Moon, Josh Billions, Qianqian Ye: Persistence

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Artist Statement:


    Persistence is a kinetic installation exploring the conflict between geologic and human timescales. It reveals the collective frailty of our memory, and the dire need to preserve lifeforms on this planet. As the robotic arm rotates across a phosphorescent canvas, ultraviolet lasers activate the underlying pigment—revealing fleeting planetary memory.


    Persistence is a kinetic installation that explores memory and forgetting. The project discusses planetary memory and the new hallmarks of the Anthropocene: endangered wildlife, melting icebergs, and deserted land.

    As the six-foot robotic arm rotates across a phosphorescent canvas, ultraviolet lasers activate the underlying pigment – revealing a fleeting image. Each additional pass of the robotic arm, mimicking a clock, invites new opportunities to allow existing memories and images to fade – or to activate entirely new compositions.

Technical Information:

    The project consists of a rotating kinetic arm with focused lasers. The light is directed to a prepared canvas with phosphorescent pigment.

    We have shown previous iterations of the project at events around the world. The project has been re-imagined multiple times in different ways and concepts. The work has always conceptually investigated ideas of memory and forgetting in the digital age. The proposed iteration will be an original version of the project, illuminating important figures of our times that we must preserve and remember.

Process Information:

    We are interested in the conceptual conversations around the ubiquity of externalizing our humanity to computerized systems. We are curious about what is lost in the cracks of this push towards converting experiences to digital bytes. Technically, we have been working on this project for almost 8 years. The engineering and research to build our own circuit boards and software to make this work has taken many iterations. 

    When building the project, we had to experiment with lots of different phosphorescent materials. The trickiest part was building large surfaces of evenly distributed glowing material. We had to construct our own paint dilution to apply lots of light coats onto the wall. 

    We had many smaller engineering learning experiences as well. Rotation of this sort of machine continuously required us to consider rotational electronic connectors and engineer the motorized components to not interfere with the wiring. 

    One of the early challenges was having so many small light sources that all had to be carefully aligned onto the surface, lot’s of work has been done to simplify the calibration of the system. 

Other Information:

    Inspiration Behind the Project

    The project was inspired by society’s increasing desire to externalize our memories onto computerized systems. By capturing photos, videos onto our devices, we are offloading our memories onto the cloud. This project explores the other qualities of memory that may be equally important. Forgetting is an important part of how we can parse and understand the world but our selective memorization through cybernetic systems may cause us a disadvantage.

    Key Takeaways for the Audience

    We want the audience to question their connection to our technologies and their effects our our world and minds. We need to collectively decide if the direction we are moving is the best for our world.