On Circle of Complication
Play is older than culture, for culture, however inadequately defined, always presupposes human society, and animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing.
- Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture (1955)
Dave Ghilarducci’s artwork investigates perception on an everyday level, often using popular technology as the subject and object of artistic inquiry. Circle of Complication is an electronically mechanized sculpture designed to make drawings reminiscent of those made by a child using a Spirograph toy. In Ghilarducci's work, however, the drawings are made at large scale using a program designed to produce a series of random operations.
An aesthetic of mechanization has informed over a century of art making, including, but not limited to the Futurist’s infatuation with machines, Jean Tinguely’s self-destructing kinetic sculptures, and Roxy Paine’s industrial painting and sculpting machines. Such art often considers industrial technology’s modes of production and distribution in relation to vital social and cultural issues. One recurring issue that seems to draw renewed interest as our economy has shifted its base from industry to service to information, is the notion of work and the necessity of citizens to redefine their relationship to the changing nature of the work they do. As technology changes, so do the paradigms we use to understand the world and our place in it.
Dave Ghilarducci is interested in the developmental aspects of play. In Circle of Complication he seems to inquire about how play offers a means of assimilation into a changing world. By simulating the Spirograph’s iconic geometries he points to an era of play – during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s – in which toys like the Spirograph relied on the developmental aspects of play to reinforce a set of values related to culture and technology.
Now, some thirty years later, and living in the wake of a bygone era’s technological paradigms, we watch this mechanized sculpture dutifully produce an ink drawing over the course of twenty minutes. It offers a stark contrast to our mental image (or personal experience?) of a child absorbed in the spontaneous discovery of his or her Spirograph creation. We consider how, through play, children acquired both aesthetic and kinesthetic awareness of geometric forms. This awareness, no doubt, acted as a seductive precursor to the complex mathematics – technically known as hypotrochoids and epitrochoids – that many of those children would later learn govern these curves.
Drawing machines and sculptures that mechanize the process of art making are not new to art of the last sixty years. Typically such machines flaunted a disregard for traditional artistic skills while making the provocative claim that a machine is capable of making art. Ghilarducci makes no such claim in Circle of Complication. For Ghilarducci, the artwork is the machine, which is, in fact, an impeccably crafted kinetic sculpture. That the sculpture produces drawings does not immediately bestow upon the drawings the status of art. Rather the drawings function more as artifact. Through the process of making a drawing, the artwork reveals the complex math that governs the drawings’ creation. For their part, the drawings function as a synecdoche of sorts that stand in for the often transparent relationship between play and learning.
-Brian Goeltzenleuchter, Curator
Dave Ghilarducci was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He currently lives and works in Escondido, California. He studied engineering and physics at University of Illinois at Chicago. After graduating, Ghilarducci worked as an engineer, developing a range of culturally substantive objects - from rockets to Palm Pilots. He left the engineering world in 2006 to work fulltime as an artist. Ghilarducci’s work is often interactive and engages viewers while reminding them of the various and often transparent ways technology is used to manage interactions. Although still quite early in his career, Dave Ghilarducci’s work has garnered critical validation. His work has been exhibited at Track 16 Gallery and Oceanside Museum of Art, and later this year at Art Produce Gallery.