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‘Signal to Noise’ by LAb[au] – 512 mechanical split-flaps and the noise of data


‘Signal To Noise’ is the latest installation by LAb[au], immersing the spectator in patterns of sonic motion produced by 512 recycled mechanical split-flaps.

The expression ‘signal-to-noise’ is a measure used to quantify how much a signal has been lost to noise; it’s a ratio of useful to un-useful information in a data exchange. The circular installation invites the visitor to plunge into a kinetic composition in the midst of the eternal calculation process of an auto-poetic machine. The split-flaps are constantly spinning on a variable speed/rhythm which is dependant upon on the underlying algorithm, analyzing in the maze of information the appearance of a word-equals-meaning.

The works consists of a circular structure, containing 4 horizontal rows of 128 split-flaps at eye height. It is an interesting hybrid between digital and analog technology based on mechanics, visual and sonic characteristics that have been carved in our memory – train stations and airports. It is sad that these displays once covered entire walls of train stations and airports have nowadays almost entirely disappeared from public space – replaced with much cheaper LED displays. By pure accident in January 2011, LAb[au] had the opportunity to recuperate a stock of old split-flaps coming from Bruges’ train-station which had been stocked for several years in Ghent. The team now own a big stock of split-flaps after having spent months restoring them.

Today, 512 of these split-flaps sit at eye height at Pearson International Airport, Toronto. The signal is the silence and noise being the one of the (rotating) split-flaps communicate the ratio of useful information to false or irrelevant data in a conversation or a data exchange. The split-flaps are constantly spinning but on a variable speed/rhythm depending on the processing limitations of the underlying algorithm, analyzing in the maze of information. Once a word has been recognized the corresponding split-flaps, those characters stand still for several iterations. The circular installation invites the visitor to plunge into an audio-visual composition right in the center of a calculation process of an auto-poetic machine.

‘Signal to Noise’ will be exhibited at Pearson International Airport, Toronto, June 8th – Must see!


  • Why is it that no matter how much I try I can’t find these anywhere, yet these guys just stumble upon them!

    Been building my own for 3 years now, intend to finish this year!

  • Paweljanicki

    This work is awesome. Absolutely one of the best “media-oriented” works created during last 3 years. In my opinion… but I’m pretty sure ;-)

  • Marco

    wow! inspirational and impressive! I have made a kinetic installation with 26 Solari Split flap modules, hope to expand it to a few hundreds too! >> http://www.marcodemutiis.com/arrivals