Imagine walking into a gallery and seeing these larger-than-life mobiles hanging from the ceiling — they rotate, blink, squawk, and sometimes synchronize with each other, completely without human intervention. You walk among them, blocking their interactions, using a flashlight to attract their attention, wanting to get in on their conversation.
This was Gordon Pask’s COLLOQUY OF MOBILES at the Institute for Contemporary Art in London, part of an exhibition called Cybernetic Serendipity in 1968. Yes, 50 years ago in 1968 — an exploration of machine-to-machine and person-to-machine conversations in an interactive, immersive environment, perhaps the first of its kind. Frequently praised for its originality and influence, Pask’s COLLOQUY is a precursor to practices of contemporary art and design, as well as a prescient vision of our future with machines that may choose to act on their own.
Colloquy of Mobiles has influenced generations of artists and critics concerned with the role of technology in everyday life. It has never before been reproduced and the project has garnered attention and support from communities in the arts, media, design, and education.
The Importance of Colloquy
Chair of the Interaction Design Masters Program, Dr. Paul Pangaro, explains the importance of Colloquy 1968 and its replication in 2018. Video edited by Gissoo Doroudian.
Additional ways to explore our full-scale replica of the original Colloquy of Mobiles:
- Watch the videos from links at COLLOQUY 2018 Opening Night Celebration in Detroit in 2018
- Follow the story from the beginning.
After invitations to lend the installation to venues in downtown Detroit, Ann Arbor, San Francisco, London, Liverpool, and Karlsruhe, Germany (at the prestigious ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art), COLLOQUY 2018 was shown at Centre Pompidou early in 2020. Later in 2020 it will enter the permanent collection at ZKM.
Colloquy 2018 Project
In celebration of the 50th anniversary, a full-scale version of Pask’s COLLOQUY OF MOBILES has been replicated, approximately 10’ by 12’ in floor area and stretching from floor to ceiling. While the physical form is as close as possible to the 1968 original, it is driven by modern digital software, sensors, and motors. This makes possible the recreation of the dynamic interactions as Pask designed them in 1968 as well as the invitation to students to explore what the newest technologies in 2018
CCS students have mined the historical materials on The Colloquy and built a repository of understanding to share with the world. Students in IxD Studio IV: Immersive Interactive Experiences created a detailed script of how the mobiles interact, a necessary step before coding the Colloquy’s 1968 interactions. In IxD Studio II: IoT & Prototyping, students constructe a 1/6-scale model of the original (see images below). With student work as a foundation, our Master Fabricator TJ McLeish has specified dimensions, structure, and operation and has built the full-scale replica. This massive effort involves 3D CAD models of all the components, tech specs of motors and lights and electronics, and management of the fabrication and assembly of the whole installation. The installation goes live in May 2018.