Ten Things I Can Count On is composed of nine small computer controlled machines on a long shelf. Each machine has a glowing digital display behind glass, driven by a microcontroller with a real time clock with battery backup. Each machine counts up or down, marking the passage of time relative to some event or documenting changes in some system over time.
Each of the elements has personal significance to me, and on one level their sum total can be seen as a kind of a systematic self portrait. At work in this portrait are both the choices of subjects and those not chosen. In this way, I also attempted to model the self-destructive futility of our compulsion to quantify; the way in which we attempt to capture, to own, to control through description. To complete such a process we must exclude all but a fraction of the object of our gaze.
There are nine machines in this project. The tenth thing is that there is no tenth thing: as a perfectionist, I’ll never accomplish all that I set out to achieve; I’ll always fall just short of my goals.
Breaths I Have Taken
This machine counts the breaths I have taken since birth, using a randomized model of my day. You will notice changes in it’s count rate which represent changes in my respiration due to sleeping, jogging, having sex, walking to work, reading, etc.
Breaths I Have Left
This machine counts the number of breaths I have yet to take in my life, based on insurance company actuarial tables. It uses an average day model as described above.
This machine manifests the various stages of love. Its mode is changed using the key switch. Initially it counts the duration of a relationship in seconds. When the relationship breaks up, the key is inserted, and it begins counting backward at double the rate it counted up. This behavior refers to the rule of thumb that it takes about half of the relationship’s length to recover. When the counter reaches zero, it begins counting up again, this time measuring the absence of love – since, when mourning the loss of a relationship, you are not truly alone.
Acres of Open Space Left in the Continental U.S.
Pavement claims 1.3 million acres of open space annually. This machine counts down to the day on which all the remaining open land will have been blacktopped.
Duration of My Career in Seconds
This machine began counting June 1, 1991, the date of my graduation from art school. Since I consider bailing out on my art career almost daily, I have built this box with a key. If I become so discouraged that I stop making artwork and pursue a “real” career instead, the counter can be turned off, thus creating a static sculpture which immortalizes the duration of my identity as an artist.
Seconds Since the Invention of the Microprocessor
The microprocessor is arguably the most significant invention of the end of this millennium, quietly but inexorably invading every facet of our environment. This machine counts the seconds elapsed since February 1, 1971, when the Intel 4004, the world’s first general purpose, programmable single chip computer was ready for production.
Gallons of Motor Oil Poured Down Drains This Year
This yearly cycle rapidly increments the millions of gallons of motor oil that we pour down our drains (many of which eventually end up in the ocean).
This machine counts the seconds remaining in the millennium. At midnight, December 31, 1999 it will load the number of seconds in the next 1,000 years and begin again. For most of its life, it will display a very large number, decrementing each second. However, once every thousand years it will display the following message: “Ah! my Beloved, come fill the cup that clears today of past regrets and future fears. For tomorrow– why tomorrow, I may be myself with yesterday’s seven thousand years.”
Average Attention Span of Viewers of This Sculpture
This machine senses and times the duration of viewer presence. It continually recalculates this average based on a running total saved each day in nonvolatile memory.