[Image from here, originally located via a google image search.]
This is a kinetic sculpture by Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum. Its current incarnation, housed in the MoMA, is a larger version of the 1979 original. When I first visited the museum a few years ago, I was completely captivated by the piece, which occupies the center of a moderately-sized space.
If I read that it was entitled, “Self-Erasing Drawing” at the time, I don’t remember that now. What I did commit to memory was that a rake was continuously making lines in sand, while simultaneously smoothing the sand 180 degrees away. I did not conceive that the machine was drawing, but took it as some reflection on meditation; a mechanized zen exercise. Rather than contemplate while performing the simple, impermanent action ourselves, we robotized the task. To my mind, however, the sweeping was just as mesmerizing, and I was not the only patron completely captivated.
As I think about it now, I am less satisfied by the paradigm that this machine is drawing, than if it is some mindless meditation object. This is perhaps to be expected, but still, it’s not like it’s making a very interesting drawing. If it had even one more degree of freedom, and a simple, random algorithm for determining the angle between rake and sweep, it could produce a variety of drawings while remaining self-erasing. It would even be deceptively autonomous.
But perhaps I’ve missed the point. After all, it is the simplicity of the arrangement that most powerfully evokes the dualities of, “building and destroying, existence and disappearance, displacement and migration,” as the source post says.
I’ve also found the following video, which is the natural medium for relating moving artwork:
[Source unknown, as I found it via google video search.]