Aram Bartholl
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Random Screen
light installation

Random Screen v.3 2009

Random Screen v.1 2005

Random Screen

Random Screen is a mechanical thermodynamic screen that the user can’t control and that functions without any electricity. Conventional tea candles illuminate and generate the changes on the 5x5 pixel screen. (early version 4x4)
This work is one of a series of low-tech screen projects that was originally inspired by the Blinkenlights media façade of the Chaos Computer Club in Berlin. The predecessor of Random Screen is the Papierpixel project in which a manual screen was controlled by a punched tape system that had to be pre-programmed by hand. Random Screen takes the reduction of the electronics one step further. The pixels become independent and fire goes digital.

Each individual pixel of Random Screen is an independent unit. Core components are a projection foil, a modified beer can and a small tea candle.The candle serves as a source of light; at the same time, the warmth it gives off sets the modified beer can in motion. The can, modified into a sort of freely rotating fan mounted above the candle, can spin around freely. The candlelight shines through a window cut in the beer can onto a projection surface and makes the pixel light up. Depending on how fast the fan spins, it gently turns the respective pixel either on or off. The larger the candle’s flame, the brighter the pixel shines and the faster its switching frequency. The candlelight is diffused on a second projection foil in the middle of the pixel box in order to generate as little shadow-flickering as possible on the projection surface. The individual pixel boxes stacked on top of and next to one another form the Random Screen. The modularity of the pixels allows the screen surface to be expanded at will, and this construct’s simple components make it easy for others to copy.

Aram Bartholl 2005

Random Screen DIY tutorial:
download here


Random Screen at :

- Transmediale 07, documentation here

- Ars Electronica 2006, documentation here

3rd (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fest 21.01.06 at ENEMY galerie Chicago US

- 23C3 at the Blinkenarea 27-30.12.05

Random Screen at Ars Electronica 2006

All Ars Electronica festival visitors were invited to build a pixel of Random Screen for the 300 pixel Random Screen festival wall. The participants and my info guide team of the workshop were really hard-working. We managed to make 100 pixels going, good job! Very ambitious but great idea by Carola.

More pics of Ars Elektronica 2006 on flickr

Thanks to Alessandro Ludovico for the two Random Screen pictures on the left!

Random Screen v.2 2007

more pics on flickr.
Random Screen at Transmediale 2007

more pics on flickr

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