Instead of AdBlock, enjoy ad-free CAN by becoming a member. Everybody wins!


Emerging trajectories in art, science, and technology.

226 pages of conversation, research, opinion, analysis. Step into artists' studios and workshops to discover the faces, personalities, and processes behind important work. Learn more!

HOLO is brought to you by the people behind CreativeApplications.Net

‘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!


    • Tom Lynch

      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! >>