A poetic and artistic tribute to Alan Turing using digiLED ITe16 display screen technology has been officially unveiled near the entrance to Paddington Station, London – close to the pioneering scientist’ s birthplace. United Visual Artists who devised the artwork, titled ‘Message from the Unseen World’, have confirmed it will be a permanent fixture.
The piece comprises large screen LED display technology and has perforated aluminium panels displaying a hard-coded version of extracts from Turing’s ground-breaking Computing Machinery and Intelligence (first published in 1950), visually represented as patterns based on Baudot code. Inside the artwork’s software is an additional text, a specially commissioned poem by Nick Drake, inspired by Turing’s work.
Specifically constructed for the outdoor fixed installation market, ITe tiles use the highest quality LEDs for a full colour video display with exceptional contrast. The LED screen, situated at Paddington Central, underneath Bishops Bridge Road, has a pixel pitch of 16mm and offers clear images in all weather conditions. The digiLED ITe is a top-quality product which features single bin / batch LEDs for perfect screen uniformity and is configured with remote diagnostics for performance monitoring.
“Due to the length of the structure, it was critical that each module lined up precisely with the holes,” explained Tonie Wishart, digiLED Install & Maintenance Manager. “Instead of drilling, we achieved this by clamping to the existing bridge framework as we only had 2-3mm of tolerance.”
The dynamic artwork acts as “a literal in memoriam for Turing”, suggested Matt Clark from United Visual Artists, providing passers-by an opportunity to witness a system attempt to imitate a poet writing, whilst maintaining the thought-process of a machine.
Curator of the work, Rachael McNabb, said that seeing the diversification in content appearing was like watching a brain process its thoughts. “It was really wonderful to see how many people pause and take a minute out of their commute to see this and you walk along and you’re still experiencing the words, the texts and the thoughts as they are being processed.
“It is great that people will experience this on a daily basis because they will never see the same thing twice and I think there is something quite wonderful about that.”
Considered a founding father of modern computer science, Turing was an extraordinary mathematician and codebreaker who not only outlined the concept of the general-purpose computer, but also defined and instituted the field of Artificial Intelligence. Turing was influential in accelerating efforts of the Allies in attempting to decipher German Naval messages using the Enigma code-cracking machine during World War II. Apart from a statue in Manchester, and a minor appearance near Paddington, there is little public art devoted to Turing commemorating his work and enduring legacy. United Visual Artists deemed it appropriate to fashion a public homage to Turing, as his work had been the inspiration for their studio using algorithmic design principles.