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Sabrina Raaf and Making Visible the Invisible
Alex Steffen, 18 Mar 05

Making visible the invisible is a key Worldchanging tactic. We live in a world of flows and systems kept largely opaque to us. Illuminating those flows and systems in a new way gives us a critical window into how our world actually functions -- and thus, sometimes, suggests tactics for changing the world for the better. At the very least, it's fun to tweak our brains with unexpected information.

That information can come in a variety of forms: satellite images revealing the world from above, a chart illustrating demographic information in a stark new light, products designed to reveal their users' energy habits, the direct monitoring of natural systems themselves, even feral robotic dogs on the hunt for radiation

Worldchanging ally and kick-ass artist Sabrina Raaf, though, has come up with a new, graceful and subtle twist with her carbon-sniffing robotic "Translator II: Grower":

Raaf... is currently working on Translator II: Grower, in which a small rover vehicle moves around the periphery of a space drawing vertical lines up and down on the wall with a green crayon. At the end of the installation the bases of all four walls will be covered with fine green lines, which together resemble a cross-section drawing of a field of grass. The height of each line is determined by the level of carbon dioxide present in the room, which the robot reads via a small digital sensor mounted on its shell. It draws a green line after each reading, then moves forward slightly before taking its next reading. The carbon dioxide, of course, is generated by gallery visitors, who affect the "growing" of the robot's drawn grass through their breath -- as well as the "health" of art institutions through their attendance. For Raaf, the project offers a model in which people and machines interact in mutually informative and dynamic ways. "The relationship between Translator II: Grower, the space, and the public really becomes a metabolic one--one of co-evolution. This piece makes visible how art institutions depend on their visitors to make them 'healthy' spaces for new art to evolve and flourish within. Watching the artistic output of a machine that is so sensitive to its environment makes people in the space more sensitive to their environment and its conditions."

I strongly suspect that our children and grandchildren will regard our ignorance of the chemical and biological contents of the air we breathe and the food we eat much the way we look on images of Victorians trudging through sewage-filled streets, shrouded in the black fog of coal smoke. Projects like Sabrina's help us, just for a moment, understand a little better what their world may be like.

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[I don't know which email address I could use to write to WC, so I write here!]


Thanks for your great quality work.

I've just created where I attempt to write some short summaries of WC's news-items, in Spanish, with a link to the original in WC.

I will only do it on an "as I wish and as I can" basis, but my idea is it might be a good "meeting point" for other would-be translators. After that, "we" (a yet to emerge "we", I must admit) may offer ourselves as a resource - maybe.

If it doesn't work,
or if you guys are thinking of a better way,
or if finally someone (hint, hint!) sets up a wiki with purple numbers and the oportunity to "translate just a paragraph", so that we ants may translate the whole cake, then we might get something really good going on.

Just thought you'd like to know. :)

Again - THANKS!

Posted by: LucasGonzalez on 19 Mar 05



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