A Gamelatron is a sound-producing kinetic sculpture presented as site-specific installations and stand-alone art works by Aaron Taylor Kuffner. Gamelatrons are made from bronze and iron instruments derived from Indonesia’s gamelan tradition, retrofitted with mechanical mallets on sculptural mounts. The pieces are connected to a physical computing system that transcribes digital compositions into an array of electrical pulsations, resulting in a ghostly, musical automaton.
Following a diverse career working in a variety of mediums, Kuffner immersed himself in the study of Indonesian gamelan music. While living for several years in Java and Bali he learned to play the gamelan, researched the process of making the instruments, cataloged various tuning modalities, and developed his own electronic notation system, all the while gleaning gamelan’s cultural and spiritual significance. Shortly after returning to New York in 2008, he was awarded an Artist in Residency with renowned engineer and technologist Eric Singer at the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots. The fruit of their collaboration would be the construction of the first Gamelatron, fully realized in September 2008.
Over the last 13 years, Kuffner has integrated numerous art practices into the project, creating a hybrid art form dedicated to facilitating encounters with resonance with a unique visual aesthetic. He has built more than 70 Gamelatrons of various sizes, instrumentations and intentions. These works are shown around the globe in settings ranging from museums to retreat centers, spas, private homes, unique public spaces, educational institutions, cultural centers and exceptional events.
The instruments, robotic mechanisms, and sculptural mounting systems are all handmade. The instruments used in Gamelatrons are either archival, commissioned from master craftsmen or made by the artist. The bronze instruments are forged from recycled copper and tin. The instrument’s final tuning and surface finishing, as well as all machining, metal and woodwork is done in Brooklyn, primarily out of the artist’s studio. Gamelatrons feature proprietary hardware and software developed with industry-leading technologists, including Eric Singer (beta versions), Lumigeek (JoeJoe Martin and John Parts Taylor) and Mark Slee. All compositions are written and performed by the artist. Scores are unique for every Gamelatron artwork and are often site- responsive, composed after installation.
Aaron Taylor Kuffner’s dynamic work reaches far outside conventional forms of representation: it actively engages its audience and pushes art to serve society. Through his Gamelatrons, he creates viscerally-powerful encounters with resonance through visually compelling works of art, creating sanctuaries both in public and private spaces. He views the body of the work as an offering to the observer.