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DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS: THE ART OF CHARLES GAINES

Charles Gaines, Falling Rock (detail), 2000, wood, electronics, metal, acrylic, granite, glass, electronic motors, gears, pulleys, 120 x 38 x 38.

IN CHARLES GAINES’S SCULPTURE FALLING ROCK, 2000, a sixty-five-pound chunk of granite suddenly and repeatedly drops onto—or just short of—a sheet of glass. We have no way of knowing which of these outcomes to expect; it is determined by a computerized mechanism. When I first encountered the piece roughly a decade ago, I had little idea what to make of its recurrent, timed brutality—the rationality of clockwork married to the irrationality of violence. Or, more accurately, I had no idea what the artist intended me to make of it. After being similarly confounded by later bodies of work, I was only partly relieved to find out that Gaines claims no control over his work’s reception. He goes further, recently noting that he was “interested in how remarkably meaningful things could be produced in situations that didn’t use the apparatus of subjectivity.”¹ To be clear,

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