When my Eyes were Stabbed by the Flash of a Neon Light

Posted in Art by Julyan Arbel on 30 January 2011

Second visit of a museum since the begining of the blog, second post on art for me. Random and bilingual neon light (Néon bilingue et aléatoire, 1971) by the french artist François Morellet, is exposed in Centre Pompidou in Paris. Random it says?…
Basically it is a kind of alarm clock, with digital figures. But not really the kind of alarm you would like at home, because its digits are random. The 21 tubes of neon light switch on and off randomly (according to the caption: with equiprobability). This makes a bit more than two million different combinations. Out of them, the caption in the museum says that 32 are words (english or french), like SEE, or APE, etc. The odds on this are more than 65 000 to one. When one of these words is picked out, it keeps flashing for five seconds, to make sure you won’t miss it.

I have been looking at the piece for only a few seconds. And, of course, I had the occasion to see such a word, the BUS word. It makes me think the draws might be biased, for example to make it more attractive. Or the draws are very quick, but it does not seems so. Any of you knows those neon lights?

Well I go back to the Sounds of Silence.


2 Responses

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  1. Robin Ryder said, on 31 January 2011 at 13:08

    Only 32 are words? The artist needs to spend more time playing Scrabble or doing crosswords: using only the letters ABCEFHIJLOPSU, it is easy to find over 100 3-letter words. But that is not enough to make it likely to see one…

  2. Julyan Arbel said, on 2 February 2011 at 12:30

    According to my friend and Scrabble champion Yak, there are about 700 3-letter french words. With the 13 letters, which are commonly used, one can form at least 1/8 of that. There are more words in English, so this would make something over 200…

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