(+/-) Pendulum

Raphael Arar

What does location mean in the information age? Using the mechanics of the Foucault Pendulum, this installation explores the physical and digital concepts of location.


The embodiment of physicality amidst digital noise has the potential to artificially harmonize notions of humanity. With one foot digital and one foot analog, how do we make sense of an environment that is partially synthetic? (+/-) Pendulum operates using the mechanics of the Foucault Pendulum (a mechanism created to demonstrate the Earth’s physical properties); however, intangible outlets (a smartphone and web application) inform its location based on participatory user input. Physicality has been not only democratized but thwarted—now malleable to the masses.

(+/-) Pendulum is a participatory installation created so that its internal driving mechanism is based on participatory data. Its intent is to serve as a starting point for the creation and collection of participant data. The work is meant to serve as a microcosm of the intersection of our digital and physical selves. Unlike a conventional pendulum, the arm of the installation operates horizontally using the same physical properties of the Foucault Pendulum as if gravity is still impacting it. The conceptual basis of the work is to reflect on the intersection of our digital lives with our physical lives. The Foucault Pendulum was created in the mid-19th Century to exemplify the Earth’s physical properties (i.e., the fact that it is round and rotates)(Aczel, 2003). Many may prescribe to the idea that we now live in an era where the Earth’s physical properties are of little importance. As a result, the rotation of the (+/-) Pendulum is based on participatory user input from a smartphone application, which asks the question “Where do you want to be?” From collective user input, the average of all data points orients the pendulum to a collective desired location, which seeks to show that our world is not flat, round or oblong&emdash;it is malleable and democratic in the digital sphere.