Made On Earth — The Nature of Microcontrollers

Craft & Design Technology
Made On Earth — The Nature of Microcontrollers

pretty lights

A Washington native, Claude Zervas brings his background as a software engineer to a fine art practice using technology and related apparatuses rather than paint and canvas as a medium.

Zervas’ predominant subject matter for the past few years has been the Northwest’s verdant and extreme landscape: dense evergreen forests, glacier-melt rivers, and strange roadside attractions.

In his 2005 sculpture Skagit, a section of the 150-mile-long river is rendered in glowing green cold cathode fluorescent (CCFL) lamps that climb down from the wall, clamber atop a series of thin steel rods, and eventually split into two forks. Wires and inverters splayed on the floor resemble additional tributaries.

Considering the subject matter, the choice of materials might seem an unusual substitute for the real thing. Zervas’ work begs an increasingly important and complex question: what is nature anymore?

In his Forest series of computer animations, “forest” is misleading as parts of the landscape have fallen prey to logging. Clear-cuts and swaths of spindly new-growth trees populate the frame until a single-channel computer algorithm set on a continuous cycle slowly morphs and blots the view from existence. Then the cycle begins anew.

“I’m more interested in the memory associations that arise out of perceptions of landscape,” Zervas says of his work.

The artist has recently gone from the macro of the forest to the micro of marine life. A new series of wall-mounted sculptures uses what Zervas calls “motons” (small circuit boards studded with alternating blinking lights run by a microcontroller) to investigate the phenomenology of simple life forms.

Their movement is so quick that it’s hard to tell anything is happening at all. What the brain registers instead is the space between — similar to how Zervas situates the viewer between dying landscapes and new technology.

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Katie Kurtz

Katie Kurtz writes art previews, art reviews, and artist profiles for various publications.

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