A Chance Encounter with the Grand Wazoo

by Janet Roos   (Michigan Art Journal– January 1976)

 For several years Jim Pallas has been creating works that involve computer circuitry which gathers information from its environment and transforms it into patterns of sculptural light, sound and movement. On one level, he considers the works to be like organisms in that they sense environmental phenomena, process the perception in electronioc logic and behave accordingly. The works themselves have an organic appearance both in structure and behavior. 
To the uninitiated, Pallas's use of technology is impressive.
 "I was trained in the traditional art media. To break away from carving stone and cast metal and use the new technology was difficult but necessary for the development of my ideas. It is exciting but seductive and it took some time to realize that the new tecnology is an aspect of craftsmanship."
With the aid of engineer Dick Dudchik, he employs basic computing circuits. These are primarily logic chips interfaced with the "outside world" through photocells, reed and mercury switches and microphones for input. The output is generally light, sound and motor and solenoid actuated movements.

"Science in general is of interest to me because it joins with art and spirituality to increase awareness."  Pallas says He thinks of his work as organisms." The universe is known to each individual creature as a result of it's panoply of senses and the significance it attributes to them. Attribution of significance is determined by the individual's perception processing structure with some kind of memory and environmental goals. This and its environment influence its behavior. These are some of the concepts involved in my artworks."

A Chance Encounter with the Grand Wazoo is the most recent of Pallas's sculptures. This project was commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. B. Courtney Rankin. It consists of two sculptures, a 6 1/2 foot high Wind attendant outside (left) and an interior sculpture.    

The Wind Attendant is made of bronze and aluminum and a 6 1/2 foot high. It is painted with automotive lacquers, contains two wind sensors, and a photocell eye. It sends its data to the Grand Wazoo (below)  by an underground cable.

The Grand Wazoo in progress in Palals' Grosse Pointe studio.

Consciousness begins with an awareness of environmental stimuli. A human being, having jiggled a specialized appendage on the Alter Ego, determines which which two of the four other environmental stimuli (wind 1, wind 2, interior and exterior eye ) will operate the Grand Wazoo's memory. The coordinated memories are shifted then counted by a high-capacity (4096 max.) counter. Independent of the jiggles
determinism, the pulse of the inside eye and combined wind pulses are counted on separate, low capacil  (16 max.) counters. The state of all this logic animates a 183 colored pinpoints of light emitting diodes. The movement of feelers, dots and blue flags is also controlled by this logic.
  Consciousness chart for the Grand Wazoo

  Detail of counters and welded wire body. 
The head of the Grand Wazoo is 19 inches long and made of steel, plastic, circuitry, paint and horsehair.  The array of light emitting diodes shift and move with the Grand Wazoo's memory.

Environmental Stimuli
Outside Eye: Incorporated in the outside sculpture and thus wind
directed, This provides a steady pulse in in varying in rate from 1 to
40 per second depending on the light level of its small field vision:
It's more active at night.

Inside Eye: Incorporated in the Grand Wazoo, its frequency is directly
related to the brightness of its large field of vision. Its direction is
manually adjustable and monitors the Grand Wazoo's immediate area.

Wind 1 and wind 2: propeller–shaped vanes rotate in the wind.  Each
provides one pulse per revolution.

Pallas shaking the Jiggle, a chance encounter, which directs the
Grand Wazoo's attention.  Jiggle: a Mercury switch responds to its
handling by a human by changing the Grand Wazoo's data selection.
This enables the viewer to randomly direct the Grand Wazoo attention to the various stimulus inputs described above.

Wind Attendant Connector pin outs

Flow Chart