Symbolic Grounding

an analog artificial neural network by Christian Faubel und Wolfgang Spahn.

Symbolic Grounding is an artistic exploration into the world of analogue computation and pattern generation. It is inspired by what appears to be simple biological control system, such as limb coordination, specifically finger tapping. The artist shows the underlying complexity at play, via electronic circuit that produces an ever-changing ensemble of rhythms.

The installations presents interaction of an artificial network similar to that of our nervous system. This allows the visitor to experience the complexity of communication that happens within all of us, through an installation of 100 artificial analogue connections. The on/off state of the switches is comparable to that behaviour of a neuron in the brain.

Symbolic Grounding is a kinetic light and sound installation that runs at its core by a network of 100 artificial analogue neurons. In this network function, temporal structures, ordered sequences and coordination patterns emerge from the interaction of the artificial neurons and the connectivity of the network. The installation renders these temporal structures and functions tangible and allows the visitor to experience the complexity of interactions happening in such a network.
Our approach is guided by systems theory, one the one hand theoretical models that explain inter-limb coordination, specifically the coordination dynamics of finger tapping [see link 3] and on the other hand by models from theoretical neuroscience [see link 4].
Similar to the technique of using analog computers for solving complex equations [see link 5], we use analogue electronics to run the equations for describing the temporal evolution of models of neural populations as proposed by Shun-Ichi Amari [link 3].
Unlike using the algorithmic software libraries for executing the feed-forward neural networks as they are provided by Google we are interested in non-algorithmic approaches to computation. In the systems we develop there is no central clock that steps through a set of instructions, no reading or writing of symbols as in the Turing machine, but a continuous flow of time and electrons. Our tools are the methods and equations as they have been developed for describing circular systems that feed back onto themselves by dynamics systems theory and earlier by cybernetics. We use these tools in a constructive and experimental approach to produce temporal patterns that may seem algorithmic, but are not.

Pop-Neuron Oscillator

The Pop-Neuron Oscillator is a neural Oscillator based on the work of Shun-Ichi Amari.

It's an analog electronic implementation of the model described in "Dynamics of pattern formation in lateral-inhibition type neural fields" by Shun-Ichi Amari.

Simulation of two coupled neurol oscillators by Christian Faubel.

The Pop Neurons by Wolfgang Spahn. They are part of the analog computer Confetti.

Ring of Integrate and Fire

A ring of 32 Pop Neurons generates patterns that are running in circles through the ring. These signals are send to the four other installations in the room. These signals trigger and influence their behavior in different ways.

Audio Visual Synth

A synthesizer based on 8 Pop Neurones. Two oscillators are ring modulated and their signal is amplified.

Another neural-oscillator modulates the oscillation and at the same time the installation is connected with 2 “Synapses” to the “Ring of Integration and Fire” which syncs and desyncs the two oscillation.

Kinetic Field

8 motors are driven by 8 oscillators made out of 16 neurons. The signal of the motors is feeds back into the neurons and influence them, too. Four other neuron oscillator will modulate the cross connection of the neurons, that will sync and desync the oscillation. The installation is also controlled over 4 “Synapse” to the “Ring of Integration and Fire”.

Liquid Pattern

12 oscillators made out of 24 Pop Neurons drive 12 magnetic coils in 3 projectors. In each projector is Ferro Fluid that reacts on the magnetic fields. One sees a projection of the liquids.
The installation is connected with 6 “Synapse” to the “Ring of Integration and Fire”. That will sync and desync the oscillation. Three other “Synapse” will switches the light of the projectors following the pattern of the “Ring of Integration and Fire”.

Signal Recording

4 Pop Neurons form two oscillator. The signal is live recorded by an XY.Recorder. Each day one drawing is made.
The installation is connected to the “Ring of Integration and Fire”. That will sync and desync the oscillation.


Open Labs

Science Gallery, Dublin
14. March - 03. June 2019


Kasseler Dokfest
14. November - 18. November 2018

Marler Medienkunst-Preise 2018

Skulpturenmuseum, Marl
14. Octtober 2018 - 03. February 2019

Museum Kesselhaus

5. - 8. July 2018


24.January - 10. March 2018
Curator: Baruch Gottlieb

Artists Talk, 15 Februar 2018:
Baruch Gottlieb, Christian Faubel and Wolfgang Spahn at Diskurs Berlin