Peter Coppin | Main menu | Projects | Mobile Throne [1995]

In 1995 Coppin worked with Doug Easterly and Kent Decardenas under the group alias "ASDF" to create and exhibit Mobile Throne at the Forest Park Art Space in Ft. Worth, Texas. Mobile Throne consisted of a live lab rat running along the floor inside a motorized bronze cage that was affixed to a large steel armature hinged on an axis in the middle of the room.

At either end of the cage were tunnels leading to freedom. When the rat attempted to run towards the tunnels, however, sensors caused the motorized cage to move with it. No matter how fast the rat ran, it could not outrun the sensor-induced movements of the cage. The tunnels provided an illusion of possible freedom for the rat that induced it to keep running within the arc dictated by the axis of the machine. The rat’s race for freedom caused the machine to enact a process that perpetuated the rat’s imprisonment.  In other words, the system created an illusion that caused the rat to seek freedom, but the rat’s response to this illusion was the very thing that caused the sculpture to move according to the design, imprisoning the rat.

Mobile Throne was a conscious image of the workaday world Coppin had experienced, especially during his time at at varous companies, expressing the universal need to seek freedom—or, where freedom is impossible, to pursue illusory representations of freedom.