The Infinity Machine
Mixed media installation including antique mirrors, rotator, audio, and lighting
Cardiff & Miller
Commissioned by the Menil Collection especially for the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, The Infinity Machine is Cardiff and Miller’s first large scale mobile. For the work, they have suspended more than 150 antique mirrors with what they call an infinity machine–two mirrors facing each other to create a theoretically endless series of reflections–buried in the center. This large, rotating arrangement, with its ever-changing lighting sequence and an eerie soundtrack made from recordings of the solar system, transforms the former home of two twelfth-century frescoes from Lysi, Cyprus, into a site for contemplating space, time, and consciousness.
In the sixth century BCE, Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras posited his theory of the music of the spheres. The sun, moon, and other heavenly bodies, he believed, each emit a unique tone based on their distance from each other and orbital revolutions that together form a harmonious symphony that expresses the underlying order of the cosmos. The Voyager I and II interstellar spacecrafts, launched in 1977, corroborated aspects of Pythagoras’ mystical-mathematical claim. Antennae on the probes recorded the interactions of the solar wind, electrically charged particles emitted by the sun, with the magnetic fields of planets and moons in our solar system. As the stream of particles strikes the magnetospheres, distinctive vibrations are created that, although inaudible in the vacuum of space, fall within the range of human hearing and can be played back as sound on Earth.
These mysterious, beautiful recordings, which Cardiff and Miller first encountered on a CD intended for meditation and relaxation, are varied and mesmerizing–like movements of a slow, science-fiction-inspired composition. Neptune sounds like crashing surf, Saturn and its rings drone and throb, Uranus chimes like bells, and the music of Earth suggests a forest at night, complete with bird- or insect-like chirps. Reworked as ambisonic recordings in which sounds seem to rotate and tilt and played in random order, they form the score of The Infinity Machine.
Illuminated by ever-changing lights, the revolving cluster of mirrors and the dynamic reflections they cast suggest a swirling nebula. Walking around them and experiencing the at times co-orbital and at times contra-orbital soundtrack, you might imagine yourself adrift in deep space.
– Toby Camps, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Menil Collection
- Production Coordinator: Zev Tiefenbach
- Prototyping and Production: Maryke Simmonds
- Installation Supervisor: Carlo Crovato
- Tonmeister: Titus Maderlechner
- Rotator by: Semco Motion.
- Space Sounds, used with permission from Dr. Jeffrey Thompson, Center for Neuroacoustic Research
- The artists wish to thank: Shawn Larsen at Semco Motion, Kyle Moyer at McLaren Engineering Group, Guy Nordenson, B&W Group North America, Josef Helfenstein, Toby Kamps, Sheryl Kolasinski, Paul Doyle, Melissa McDonnel Lujan, Jack Patterson NASA, JPL, Fred Scarf (1931-1988), who developed the recording equipment used on the Voyager Spacecraft.
- Dedicated to: Alixe Isabel Miller (1929-2014)