What is the comparison of the art sculptures Emotor and Pentecost by Tim Hawkinson?

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Tim Hawkinson’s piece, Emoter, is a large 2 dimensional, motorized self portrait of the artist’s face.  The eyes, eyebrows, mouth, and nose have been broken apart into small pieces that slide and move along motorized tracks, creating different facial expressions.  The wires and tracks that move the parts are visible and add to the composition of the piece.  Some of the expressions made by Emoter are realistic, but many cannot be made by a human face.  Since the piece changes every few seconds, it gives the face a strange, unearthly feel.  The motorized changes are controlled and operated by a mechanical device that stands beside the piece adding a sculptural element.  The expressions themselves are triggered by sensors that are attached to a small TV screen.  Each censor is triggered by the light from the screen, and it in turn changes the expressions of the face.

Pentecost is a larger piece that was created to fill a large gallery room.  It consists of a tree-like form constructed out of cardboard tubes.  Positioned around and in this tree form are 12 mechanical figures created by Tim Hawkinson to be life size self portraits.  The piece is equipped with a motion sensor, and when a viewer approaches the sculpture, the mechanical figures each strike the tree with a different body part creating a rhythmic beat

The eNotes/Wikipedia page devoted to Tim Hawkinson says,

The source of inspiration for many of Hawkinson’s pieces has been the re-imagining of his own body and what it means to make a self-portrait of this new or fictionalized body.

This is indeed what the artist is doing with both these pieces.  In Emoter the artist is allowing a TV to control his own face.  In Pentecost Hawkinson is using life size sculptural self-portraits to alter the space both visually and with sound and rhythm.

Most artists only offer up their art to the scrutiny of the viewer, but Hawkinson continually offers up both his art and his own body image to the viewer for scrutiny and analysis.  His artistic message, in the case of these two pieces, seems to be filtered through his own image.  In his interview with Art 21, the PBS documentary, Hawkinson admits that he often uses his own likeness in his work because he feels it is more honest. Through both these pieces the viewer can have a direct encounter with the artist through his self portraits.

They are both about communication.  Emoter is about communicating through facial expression, and Pentecost is about universal communication through sound and interpretation of visual imagery.

Both pieces utilize movement and sound.  In Emoter, as the expressions on the face change, there is a faint but distinct mechanical sound along with an audible clicking when the change begins and ends.  This reminds the viewer that what he/she is looking at is not the expressions of a real human face, and emphasizes the alien-ness of many of the expressions.

In Pentecost, sound is very important.  It is usually the thing the viewer encounters first about the piece.  Then it is discovered that the sounds are indeed made by human figures tapping the tree with various body parts.

To view Hawkinson’s interview with Art 21 that features the piece Emoter, follow the link below.


He is the last artist interviewed in the episode.