If it Bleeds, it Leads

September 18, 2006

Caleb Larsen’s Monument (If it Bleeds, it Leads), scans XML news feeds for references to deaths and death-tolls, then “memorializes” these events by squirting little yellow BBs onto the floor of the gallery where the project is installed. Larsen describes the project as a playful exploration of the “media’s fixation with tragedy:”

In this piece a computer program continuously scans the headlines of 4,500 English-language news sources around the world, looking for people who have been reported killed. Each time it finds an article, an algorithm determines the number of deaths, and instructs a ceiling-mounted mechanism built from Legos to drop one yellow BB per person. During the course of the installation, BBs will accumulate on the floor, contributing to an ever-growing constellation, ultimately forming a sort of monument. At the beginning of an installation the pellets will be sparsely scattered around the space, and by the end they will form a dense and chaotic arrangement, with errant BBs traveling throughout the building.

There is an inherent dichotomy between the playfulness of the materials: the Legos, the bright yellow balls, the cake-pan BB hopper, and the sobering reality of the subject matter. This tension is combined with the viewer’s natural inclination to expect and desire activity from a kinetic sculpture. However, that desire represents a morbid reality in that every time the mechanism drops a ball, a real person has died. Thus a confusing ethical situation exists; the viewer finds himself secretly and selfishly waiting for someone to be killed only so that he can watch a little yellow ball bounce around on the floor. On the same note, there exists a certain reassurance when the piece displays little activity. (caleblarsen.com)

Via Rhizome.org


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