Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments

AREE (mechanized chronos), Urethane painting on aluminum panel, 20 x 20 inches

AREE (prototype clock), Heat treated steel and clock components, 7.5 x 7 x 5 inches 

In collaboration with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments is a mechanized rover being developed to travel to the planet Venus. Its design is inspired and engineered using the first mechanical computer and orrery, the anachronistic Antikythera mechanism developed ca 60BC.

Research, consultation, and guidance on this undertaking came from multiple sources including: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers Evan Hilgemann and Jonathan Sauder, Dr. Alexander Jones author of A Portable Cosmos: Revealing the Antikythera Mechanism, Scientific Wonder of the Ancient World and Inscriptions of the Antikythera Mechanism, Fred Gettings’ Dictionary of Occult, Hermetic and Alchemical Sigils, and Donal Buchanan’s consultation from the Epigraphic Society of Occasional Papers.

The graphic identity of the Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE) was developed utilizing alchemical sigils from the middle ages that invoke an era in which mechanization came to represent a transmutation of forms. In medieval alchemical symbology glyphs and pictograms conjured or summoned as much as they represented and illustrated, and frequently contained multiple meanings. This process of conjuring many times consisted of writing out the intentions that the glyph was supposed to achieve or its desired effect, then; through contemplating the meanings of both the intent and the symbols used to literally spell it out the letters were composited into a singular glyph which consisted of overlaying, stacking, and manipulating the characters. This process of structuring language into condensed glyphs or pictograms has its own mechanized effect as it deals with choosing formal attributes to implement and build a greater sum of parts that is simultaneously a scaffolding to consider its meaning and the object-subject of its operation.

Using this morphological premise to consider how best to represent AREE’s graphic design, symbols representing “ancients” and “mechanic” from an alchemical text from the 1500’s were merged into a form resembling a rover. Contained within the center of this rover like form are concentric circles invoking the schematics of clockwork recalling the Antikythera mechanism, a 2,300-year-old clock computer which influenced the engineering for AREE. Beyond the historical references, the graphic identity of the rover contains within its form the view of the planets Venus and Mercury from Earth and thereby becomes a literal framing or mediating device between the planet Venus and our understanding of it. The symbolism evoked in this graphic rendering seeks to distill the past and present by synthesizing symbology that strangely identifies the future by reinterpreting the past and has the ability to elicit our imaginations through historical slippage.

Copyright © 2021 Daniel R. Small. All rights reserved.