BARNEY DWYER

musician producer artist

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I study the loop. Loops are a process, structure or series that ends where it begins, for example an analogue clock, perpetually spinning and repeating the same patterns over the course of twelve hours. My work explores how the loop can be utilized to discuss the relationship between humans and technology by following four key terms:

 

  1. Kinetic Motion – Making sections of artworks or entire pieces move through technological means

 

   2. Humour – Artworks have an element of humour, be it directly or indirectly

 

   3. Absurdity – Going hand-in-hand with humour, absurdity is revealed once the viewer is let-in’ with the         immediate humour of a piece. Absurdity can make the viewer ask questions that they wouldn’t                   normally consider. Why does art matter?

 

   4. Futility – Leading on from the last point, why does anything matter? The combination of humour and         absurdity lead to questions of futility. Endlessly looping sculptures work very hard to complete an             apparently important action, often to the point of self-destruction, but never get anywhere or                     achieve anything of material value. Loops always end where they begin

 

To explore these four key terms, foregrounded by my interest in human interaction with machines, I use motors, cassette players, or other re-purposed technologies like toy trains or interactive cat toys – seemingly mundane technologies that are used for entertainment. Working backwards from these technologies, I work out how to house them. A recent work of mine, Conker Machine, explores the ever-blurrier gap between humans and technology. It consists of two steel frames, like that of a scaled down swing-set, which house two servo motors. These motors swing two conkers together, sometimes gently striking each other after a long, tense, and wobbly upwards climb.

 

This wobbliness is something that’s become key to my work: an unavoidable error that always plagued my motors and other re-purposed toys has now been embraced as a happy accident. Although my pieces may not look human, they inherently act human through their wobbly and unpredictable movements and desire to perform actions as humans would. The endless but gentle fight between the conkers seeks to question our importance of games and entertainment as human beings. Why does a robot play games if it cannot comprehend the sense of achievement when it wins? With that in mind, why do humans play games?

 

Hip-Hop music’s use of the loop and sampling is incredibly important to my sculptural work. Much like my use of altering animatronic toys, sampling is a re-purposing and re-cycling of old media. It gives newer songs depth and history by applying looping or interpolating sections of older songs and allows segments of older tracks to live on in a more contemporary context. Musical sampling is an auditory collage, inspiring me to not limit the media I use and combine different toys, mechanical elements, sounds, and materials in my work. Similar to the use of sampling in music, this use of old and new media confuses the origins of my sculptures: was this hybrid object made in 1999 or 2099?

 

Everything I make is underlined with an element of silliness, due to my instinctive way of making and sense of humour that I inject into the work. The slapstick nature of the swinging conkers due to the poorly coded Arduino motherboard, paired with the contrastingly slick and industrial metal frame that holds the natural, imperfect conkers, leads to an aesthetic dissonance that confuses its origins, and ultimately makes the audience ask questions of human futility. Why do humans do anything if everything ultimately repeats? We are stuck in the loop.

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