Random Access Memory (RAM)

Ralf Bæcker

If there is a tendency towards technological enlightenment in media-based art, then Ralf Bæcker is one of its first activists and most interesting representatives. He combines science, technology and art par excellence into an exciting overall concept that combines artistic aspects with the theoretical knowledge of cognition and process theory.

Ralf Bæcker combines the various aspects of his view of things into a media-archaeological perspective and generates technology-related works that transcend the production-technical aspects of the instruments and transform them into an instrument for a higher level of knowledge. His machines and constructions not only question the invisible processes behind the technological procedures, they also bridge the gap to contemporary visual language.</p> <p> </p> <p>Bæecker is definitely an aesthete who knows how to design generated products in a visually attractive way and to integrate the visual characteristics of the work.

The complex apparatuses combine the current „look“ of up-to-date technology with a more substantial view, i.e. the reflections on the genesis of modern functional principles, providing a basis for new functions. Through the newly conceived apparatuses, these thoughts become transferred into a physical shape and the prior thinking process will be translated into a visual product.

The interdisciplinary artist develops his own view from a phenomenal analytical perspective and cultivates a multidimensional character with his machines, whereby the work corresponds to the visual and analytical aspects. When the analytical thought corresponds to a system-inherent focus on the process and the result, the visual is connected to the optical appearance. Bæecker also creates hybrids that mediate between contemporary and old technology as well as art and science

Random Access Memory (RAM) from 2016 is a full digital memory, which can be called in a row with SSD, hard drives or USB sticks. Like its commercially used counterparts, information can be stored, processed and read from this device. The first difference can already be noticed with an experienced look, RAM does not use semiconducting components and the step-by-step process is visually exactly noticeable. The semiconductors used in hard disks and modern information technology are an ecological and humanitarian disaster, followed by massive geological and human exploitation, due to the rigorous usage of rare earths and cheap labour. The mathematical algorithm underlying RAM uses a digital form that describes and computes the relations of the binary states 0 (zero) or 1 (one). These binary states are represented by grains of sand, which exemplify the storage states by their physical position. The sand grains are read, placed or removed on a rotating disc by a three-dimensional pick and place mechanism connected to a microscope camera. The position of each individual grain of sand can be tracked, assigned and processed by RAM. Accuracy-conscious theorists may argue that the storage mechanism is quite susceptible to mis-reading because a physical object is used and can move uncontrollably in space.

The algorithm acting on the grains of sand is a so-called „Turmit“, a two-dimensional Turing machine. The machine processes the location of the grains of sand as binary code and computes them in its memory, whose purpose is to write as many 1’s (stones) as possible into the memory and to avoid an abort according to a rigorous internal mathematical code. During the process, a complex and iterative pattern is created on the wafer.

RAM is a simple representation of an exact mathematical algorithm and its physically impure implementation, reflecting the interaction of idea and matter and their encounter in contemporary ITC. A look back in history reveals that the science of sand, geomancy or „Ilm Al-raml“, which involves the calculation and reading of constellations of geological materials and/or grains of sand, has been a field of science for centuries. Probably from the Arabian, this science immigrated to Europe in the 12th century and is still in practice today. Stones are “spilled” on a surface and interpreted according to a strict set of rules which are applied recursively to the grains. Often used in rituals and ceremonies, this is a method to obtain insights about the future.

With Random Access Memory (RAM), Bæecker uses a complex mathematical background and its accurate process to translate it into a visual capturable experience. Materials: aluminium profiles, stepper motors, quartz sand, customized mounting mechanism, customized electronics, microscope camera, customized software.

The work was produced in 2016 with the support of the Graduate School of the University of the Arts, Berlin and with the support of the Einstein Foundation