Philip Vermeulen – Physical Rhythm Machine / Boem BOem


Bouncing balls provide an endless supply of fun and learning both within games of physical dexterity and through the study of elementary physics. But the capacity to either intuitively or mathematically predict the future trajectory of a spherical object is not only pertinent to sporting games and scientific inquiry: understanding ballistics enables purposes often threatening if not destructive. Philip Vermeulen’s large scale sound installation Physical Rhythm Machine / Boem BOem artfully combines the basic ingredients of play and calculation with our instinct for self-preservation. The work is centered around a pair of repurposed baseball pitching machines, originally designed for training baseball batters. In their new application, the two machines shoot a steady stream of tennis balls across the presentation space at 150 km/h, colliding with thundering effect against a pair of giant sound boxes. The wooden acoustic resonators are inclined at carefully oriented angles, causing incoming balls to bounce back across the room and fall into a pair of catchers. These in turn feed the shooting machines, thereby forming a closed loop. The shooting machines are controlled by a midi sequencer, which plays rhythmical compositions that push the system to its limits. The audience is placed in the line of fire of this space that is both machinic and tribal. The result can be described as an automated percussion instrument of architectural proportions that with its inhuman strength humbles the body and terrifies the senses, with some of the effects usually associated with the vertiginous contraptions found in amusement parks. Here the alertness of listeners is tested by an unsimulated threat. Unable to compete with the machine in both musical and sporting prowess, the body is forced into a strategy of avoidance while the senses surrender to its inebriating effect, captured by the aerial dance of the balls and entrained by the throb of their quaking impact.


  • Philip Vermeulen – Physical Rhythm Machine / Boem Boem

  • Hümeyra Erdin– Installation by: Philip Vermeulen