Peter Logan

Square Dance


Not on display

Peter Logan born 1943
Aluminium and 4 motors
Object: 2102 x 3600 x 3600 mm
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1970

Catalogue entry

Peter Logan b. 1943

T01244 Square Dance 1970

Not inscribed.
Aluminium with automated control unit, 210 x 360 x 360 (533.6 x 914.4 x 914.4).
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1970.
Exh: Akademie der Kunst, Berlin, March 1970; Kinetics, Hayward Gallery, September–November 1970 (no numbers).
Lit: Jasia Reichardt, ‘Mechanical Ballet’ in Cosmorama, July 1970, p.338, repr.

This work comprises four aluminium arms which are each attached to a separate automatic control unit. The total length of the arm is 12 ft. and it is bent at right angles in the middle. The arms meet at the centre of a square where they are separated from each other by a distance of 18 in. They are painted Day-glo red, and the upmost tip of each arm is painted Day-glo green.

The artist told the compiler (February 1972) that he painted the arms so that ‘colour in its own right’ would form the movements; he added green as contrast; however he was interested that most spectators noticed only fairly late in the course of the dance that the most dramatic areas of the work (that is, where the ends of the four arms meet) were a different colour.

He wrote (letter of 12 June 1971): ‘I have made three versions of the Square Dance since 1969. There are now only two in existence.

‘The destroyed original prototype I exhibited at the New Art Centre in 1969. It had arms of Balsa-wood 5 x 5 ft. and each arm could only go in one direction and was operated manually.’

‘The second version was commissioned later that year by the Building Exhibition for Olympia. This version had 6 x 6 ft. arms of aluminium, much stronger mechanical parts and each arm could move in two directions. This version was manually operated from a consul. I was able to show this in my Mechanical Ballet at the Royal College of Art in May of 1970.’

‘Through the CAS and the Arts Council I was able to build another version for the kinetics show at the Hayward. This had the same dimensions as the previous version with various mechanical refinements but most important of all was the fact that I was able to have it automated.’

‘The principle of the control for the Square Dance is that an arm is required to travel to and stop at a defined position which then activates the next function for the arm. If the arm is not exactly at the set position then it is not possible for the program to continue.’

‘The machinery is very simple.’

‘What happens is that I outline a scheme giving dimensions and functions and general mechanical design to my engineer either in the form of a model or a drawing. He then specifies what is necessary and manufactures the mechanical parts and between us we put them together. I don’t spray the work myself but have it done in a spray shop under my supervision. I stated the functions for the control unit, which Electrosonics then designed and built.’

‘The Square Dance comes from my experiments with Mechanical Ballet for several reasons. The element of performance in the abstract has always fascinated me and having seen the Schlemmer and Bauhaus M. B. projects I decided that the most inhibiting single factor was the stage itself and preferred to use a found open space for the presenting of a mechanical performance.

‘This and the scale of structures then brought the work into more recognised sculptural terms. I placed in the space various descriptions of spatial relationships within each structure via a source of rotary motion investigating the rhythm or time element presented by each structure. The Square Dance is the most advanced and complete work from this investigation.

‘On the Square Dance we used an electronic score especially composed for it, remember that the dance was originally hand operated and we were able to use the sound as a guide for giving performances. The score worked very well at this level. However, when I built the automated Square Dance to a set program the sound wasn’t made synchronous with the movement which made it a superfluous element.’

‘When I last showed the work in Berlin I used a loop tape I had composed for my very first experiments for the Pavilions in the Park pilot scheme at Albert Bridge. This was composed very much as a gestural piece to the idea of M.B.I found this worked very well with the automated program and although it was basically background audial decoration it does seem to help the audience relax into watching the program. And what dance doesn’t have music? Brian Hodgeson composed it for me.’

In 1968 the artist made the following note about Mechanical Ballet:

‘Because the Ballet/Dance has made a study of rhythmic movement to express ideas to an audience, it was a good source of inspiration for investigation into the possibilities of assembling non-human movement as a language for the expression of ideas. An investigation into movement was made and those movements which were obtainable, given very small resources, were presented in my first experiments in the “Pavilions in the Parks Scheme” in the summer of 1968. These movements were ascending, descending, rotary orbital, gliding and floating. These were performed at an enforced slow speed in order to gain the fullest control of the movement and to enable further thought and investigation to take place during movement. These were set to a single electronic score lasting ten minutes.’

In 1971 the artist wrote that Square Dance is based on a minimal description of a square and a cube, and that it sets out to investigate the possibility and consequences of inverting a described form comprised of four right angles set on a cyclic mechanism responding to 45° and 135° drive situation. He noted:’ The rhythm is set by the revolution per minute of each arm which is 0-6766. This is a constant and the form variation is arrived at by the timing of the switch system. This can be programmed or manually operated. Within the formal structure countless spatial and timing combinations are possible.’

The artist told the compiler (February 1972) that the precise movements of the Dance could be determined by the music which accompanied the performance (in this case, the music composed by Brian Hodgeson); ‘Square Dance was a successful design because it was enormously variable with its formations, offering simple or complex relationships; and the speed 75 rpm was correct.’

He made out the following note for the exhibition of Mechanical Dance at the Royal College of Art, May 1970: ‘I hope that each dance will be able to perform within its own terms and relate to the other dances by physical movement. I hope to explore the possibilities of mood changes within a 30 minute time span. I do not propose to restrict my audience to a seated area, but let them position themselves at will, and costumed hosts will prevent any calamities. I also intend to exhibit working drawings and models.’

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.

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