The Maneki Neko (jap., literally Beckoning Cat; aka Lucky Cat, Money Cat) is a common Japanese figurine which is believed to bring luck, attract customers and bring prosperity. The Lucky Cat waves with the raised left paw and holds a historic coin in front of itself with the right one. The Lucky Cat as talisman and selling product is wide-spread in Asia and meanwhile almost all over the world.
Luck is associated here with monetary and material prosperity. As talisman it is spread all over asian countries. For tourists the Lucky Cat became a kind of pop style Manga character which appears in growing numbers in western private households. As kitschy-petite like exotic souvenir it refers to a certain idea of western lifestyle.
The material element of the installation»The Global Pursuit of Happiness, or: The Army of Luck« is the »Lucky Cats' Matrix«. It contains 520 shiny golden XXL Lucky Cats made of plastics which are arranged in 40 rows and 13 columns on a ramp-like stand made of aluminum (W 8 m, H 3 m, D 2 m).
Visitors experience the Lucky Cats' Matrix as a dot-matrix display which consists of 520 waving paw grid points as its »pixels«. In each cat a servomotor is built in to control the paws move exactly in position and speed.
The visitors are requested imaginarily by the cats to interact as users: "Your concept of happiness is our lucky command. Write it on the keyboard".
Words and sentences up to 40 characters can be put in and are displayed clearly visible with the paws letter by letter as sliding text marquee. So to say, the users »choreograph« the Lucky Cats performance wordwise. Literally it is the »inscription« of an idea of happiness or a wish in the Lucky Cats' bodies by moving their paws forward and backward.
For users, the Lucky Cats become multiplied »avatars« in the world of chance and happiness. But the Lucky Cats are also able to perform spontaneously as well: they can show 25 different salutatory and signalizing gestures as well as mass movements like the »Mexican Wave« or an ecstatic »hyperkinesis«. Every displayed sentence triggers audio events – sound samples of mass or group events, like entertainment shows, political speeches, demonstrations, sport events, parades, accidents, etc. from the beginning of the last century until today. The sounds express auditorily different states of mind, like joy, euphoria, desire, fear, hate, aggression and resignation, astonishment, outrage, pain, panic, desperation and fanatical excitement. The sounds are played in random order and unpredictable combinations. Different contexts and changing settings are emerging.
Are the Lucky Cats »one-armed bandits«? Or is it a gesture in the context of a political or religious movement? Is it a just a happy waving of the fun-loving, hedonistic society? Or is the assembly of Lucky Cats a revolutionary deployment of »wish machines« as »army of luck« or is it just another marketing campaign?
The lined up, gold-reflecting mass of the Lucky Cats in the matrix appears almost as an insubstantially copy-paste-animation. The Lucky Cats in the matrix as an industrial made product become an »ornament of the masses« for repetetive-stererotype and globalized-industrialized ideals. Do we need more and more Lucky Cats to generate more and more prosperity for more and more people?
Boris Petrovsky 2012
Video and post production: Nina Martens stereomorph.net