D1–Z1 (22,686,575:1) was completed in 2009 and is one of several films made by Starling. It features a digital reconstruction of the mechanism of the Z1, the first freely programmable computer in the world. Designed in 1936 by German engineer Konrad Zuse (1910–1995), the Z1 had 172 bytes of memory and the ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide. It was built by Zuse in his parents’ Berlin apartment. During the Second World War, Allied bombs destroyed the apartment building and the machine with it, but Zuse and his assistants reconstructed the Z1 in the late 1980s. It was programmed using punched tape (for which Zuse would often use 35mm film stock), that was then fed into a reader, a repetitive action that is reproduced in Starling’s film. D1-Z1 was exhibited in Starling’s exhibition THEREHERETHENTHERE (Works 1997-2009) at the Musée d’art contemporain du Val-de-Marne, Paris in September 2009. The film lasts thirty seconds and is shown on a continuous loop on a modified, mid-twentieth-century Dresden D1 35mm film projector.
Starling created the footage for the film using complex software developed in Berlin. In order to generate the resulting simple animation sequence – a close-up of an advancing piece of 35mm film being fed into a reader – he required 3,992,837,240 bytes of information, which is over 22 million times the memory of the Z1, hence the second part of the work’s title, (22,686,575:1). This computer-generated, virtual reconstruction of the Z1 was then transferred onto traditional 35mm film stock and is screened using another piece of mid-century German technology – a Dresden D1 projector. The film is accompanied by a hypnotic soundtrack that reproduces the clickety-clack of the Z1’s mechanism.
D1–Z1 (22,686,575:1) illustrates Starling’s ongoing preoccupation with the origins of materials and the processes by which they come to be used, fabricated and transformed into functional objects. In a number of works he has made reference to significant objects and technological developments of the mid-twentieth century. The film incorporates the process of its construction as a key narrative component of the work, Similarly, it recalls a time when machines were physical entities while making use of today’s digital technology.
Simon Starling: Cuttings, exhibition catalogue, Kunstmuseum Basel 2005.
Simon Starling: Nauchbau, exhibition catalogue, Museum Folkwang, Essen 2007.
Wade Saunders and Anne Rochette, ‘Simon Starling’, Art in America, January 2010, http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/features/simon-starling/, accessed 12 April 2010.