Exhibition ‘To The Edge of Time’ KU Leuven, (2022).
Photography by Dirk Pauwels.

Null Object: Gustav Metzger thinks about nothing

Null Object: Gustav Metzger thinks about nothing (2012) links neurophysiology, psychophysics1 and manufacturing technology to produce a sculptural object in Portland stone. Using bespoke software, 3D shape information was produced from EEG recordings of Gustav Metzger attempting to think about nothing. Making reference to a relational database of recordings made from members of the public,2 Gustav Metzger’s data was translated into instructions for a manufacturing robot, which carved out the shapes from the interior of a block of stone to create a void space.  Inspired by Metzger’s environmental and political activism, this project is concerned with the idea of ‘nothing’ as a productive and/or destructive category, as well as the juxtaposition and collision between unimaginably slow things that have been happening and present over geological timescales, and relatively rapid, technologically enabled events.

LFW produced a book of the same name with Black Dog Publishing, including an introduction by the artists, a text by Gustav Metzger and four contextualising essays by Bronac Ferran, Hari Kunzru, Nick Lambert and Christopher Tyler. These leading writers across the fields of literature, art, science and technology explore the diverse historical and conceptual grounding for and broader implications of Null Object’s production process. Made with the participation of Gustav Metzger; software designed by Jonny Bradley; CAD/CAM by Yaroslav Tenzer.

Images below from The Negligent Eye, Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool, (2014), curated by Jo Stockham, photography by Jon Barraclough; To The Edge of Time, KU Leuven, (2022),  curated by Prof. Dr. Thomas Hertog and Hannah Redler Hawes, photography by Dirk Pauwels. All other images courtesy London Fieldworks.

This project was supported by funding from Arts Council England & The Computer Arts Society.

1  Psychophysics is a sub-discipline of psychology dealing with the relationship between physical stimulii and their perception.

2  Drawing from the psychophysics of Béla Julesz and Christopher Tyler, the Null Object project database comprised EEG files recorded from participants in various venues (1999-2012) while in the act of stereopsis—perceiving depth shapes within random dot autosterograms. In this way, the generated forms are understood to encode the experience of depth.

Selected projects & collaborations by Bruce Gilchrist © 2024