Back-and-forth

Back-and-forth
Custom-made plotter
150x150x40 cm, 2.500 kg of sand
Installation view
Into The Great Wide Open
© Myles Merckel

Back-and-forth is the result of several residencies in Vlieland (NL), where Sébastien discovered that at irregular intervals - but according to a ritual schedule - a powerful electromagnetic signal passes through the island for 20 minutes, before disappearing again into silence. This signal turned out to be a Weatherfax (or WEFAX), a weather map transmitted via radio waves from Hamburg (DE).

This obsolete technology, used since the 1940s to share information with ships at sea and remote locations, originated from the work of Dutch cartographer and meteorologist Nicolas Kruik (1678-1754). Born in now disappeared West-Vlieland, he was the first to graphically represent weather data and to introduce symbols which are considered the forerunners of those used in today's weather maps.






Extract from research (2021 — 2022)
 From L to R: Graphs of weather observations (1722).
Source: Nicolaus Cruquius (1678 — 1754) and his meteorological observations. De Bilt, 1985.
— Weatherfax received on Vlieland (2021) © Sébastien Robert


In the form of a site-specific generative installation, Back-and-forth, captures incoming Weatherfaxes transmissions, decodes them and draws them in the island’s sand, before being overwritten again. In addition to the literal visualisation of the data sent, the work gives the island the opportunity to express itself during the creative process: the surface of the sand changes over time according to variations in  temperature, humidity and wind.

The project brings a forgotten technology back to its birthplace while offering a critical look at our Cartesian desire to constantly predict the future, in contrast to the unpredictable reality of the island, as Sébastien experienced during his visits. The result is the creation of ever-changing abstract cartography and archives, materialised through a dialogue between technology and the forces of nature.




Back-and-forth
From L to R 
Magnetic loop antenna — Custom-made plotter 
Into The Great Wide Open
© Myles Merckel





Back-and-forth
2021 — 2022

Site-specific generative installation
Custom-made plotter, magnetic loop antenna, 50-inch monito, 150x150x40 cm, 2.500 kg of sand


Commissioned by Into The Great Wide Open

With the technical help of Zois Loumakis (G-code), Mark IJzerman (Python) and Myles Merckel (on-site)