Test Execution Host


[Prototype. Dissolutions. Perte de Signal. 2016]

Installation for rocks, custom Turing machine travelling head and rails, cyanotype and water pumping station, custom Python software, desktop PC. 2016 ongoing.

Alan asks me if I know the composition, or constitution of the waters, and of the movement, and the growth, and the removal and restitution of corporeal nature. There is gold drowned in the lake. The given gold fibres dissolved in the lake are set to colour it blood-red as a sunset.

[T.E.H. Martin Howse]

Test Execution Host (T.E.H) explores the way in which geological materials are embedded in the history and functioning of technology and the way in which they are subjected to environmental change, linking computation to processes of natural material formation, transformation and decay.

T.E.H references the life and work of computing pioneer Alan Turing. The work takes the form of a primitive, leaky computing machine, a Turing Machine (TM) which writes, computes and reads ones and zeroes on a physical tape composed of rocks and samples from local mining regions, alongside obsolete computing parts. For the machine to function, pre-mixed cyanotype fluid (ammonium iron(III) citrate and potassium ferricyanide - when exposed to daylight this liquid will darken to a deep blue) is dripped onto these rocks and water is pumped from the adjacent nozzle. Information is read back from the tape by the moving TM reader head which registers relative light and dark. As the head moves, the Turing program or software is executed poorly due to the raw materials involved.

This cyanotype photographic process, introduced in the 19th century and used to make blueprints from technical diagrams, involves cyanide, a compound which is used in the industrial extraction of gold from low grade mineral ores. Alan Turing committed suicide through the ingestion of cyanide.

The software which controls the Turing Machine also plots the real-time, over-the-horizon positions of two stars, Regulus (associated with antimony) and Gienah Corvi in the Corvus constellation (the crow), for the exhibited location and orientation. A geomantic interpretation/divination of the readings of light and darkness taken from the Turing Machine is also provided.

Test Execution Host (T.E.H) instantiates physically and logically both the process of a loss of digital identity and a kind of washing of encoded elements which flips them to the purely physical; a process of the draining of meaning. The most simple computing or logical machine, the Turing Machine, operates here as a leaky, liquid, barely functional apparatus retelling the fairy-tale story of its inventor Alan Turing. The Turing Machine, a conceptual conceit in the first instance, is rendered physical. It consists of a kind of playback head, which writes ones or zeroes to an endless tape which the head can move back and forth across. The Turing Machine reads data from the tape and changes state according to both data and instruction, in the process storing further data, writing to the tape. This is the essence of computation. In the case of T.E.H the indentity-driven logic of the machine is rendered leaky - a one is dripped on to a tape which consists of rocks and obselete computer junk, a zero washes that one away towards the zero. The operation of the machine is fluid, sketchy and bound to material constraints of light and liquid.

Test Execution Host was first produced as a prototype with Peter Flemming as part of the Dissolutions residency at OBORO, Montreal and exhibited at Perte de Signal, Montreal in 2016. It is also a book.

Test Execution Host has been exhibited as part of:

Machines will watch us die The Holden Gallery, Manchester 09.04.18 - 11.05.18

With thanks to Peter Flemming, all at OBORO, Patrizia Constantin, The Holden Gallery

Further images


[Machines will watch us die. Holden Gallery. 2018]


[Prototype. Dissolutions. Perte de Signal. 2016]


[Prototype. Dissolutions. Perte de Signal. 2016]


[Prototype. Dissolutions. Perte de Signal. 2016]


[Prototype. Dissolutions. Perte de Signal. 2016]

Author: root

Created: 2018-08-23 Thu 22:16

Emacs 25.1.1 (Org mode 8.2.10)