douglas irving repetto

horse table

wood, aluminum, teflon,
motors, custom circuitry

In the fall of 2002 choreographer/director Ralph Lemon contacted me about building a walking table for his new work COME HOME CHARLEY PATTON, Part 3 of the Geography Trilogy. We had many conversations about the "horse table" as it came to be known (a horse figures prominently in the texts used in the work), and went through several design/build/program iterations as we worked to understand exactly what it would mean for a horse table to walk in the context of CHCP.

Various things happen during the show that are strange, unexplained, and usually not commented upon by the performers. A chair breaks, a microphone stand glides away from a singer, ladders descend from a ceiling. The horse table that suddenly walks is meant to be one of those things, while at the same time functioning as a regular, unexceptional table for most of the show.

In designing the table I purposely made many decisions that made the job of teaching the table how to walk a little harder than it needed to be. I tried to imagine what would happen if a plain, homemade table, as opposed to a fancy high-tech robotic table, tried to walk. I didn't give it complicated legs with multiple articulations (like the ones on most walking things) or precise control of its limbs or lots of sensors for gathering information about its world. Instead I built a very simple, direct walking mechanism and then explored the various gaits and walking strategies that were available with such a simple setup.

It's not easy being a walking table. But our little table was brave, and with a lot of hard work it learned to walk, and even to lie down and fold itself up. (Part of Ralph's original idea was that the table would be transformed into a platform that people could walk on.) It's a chaotic kind of walking, and it always looks like it's just on the edge of falling over or giving up. But it doesn't give up -- it walks!

COME HOME CHARLEY PATTON toured the United States in fall 2004 and spring 2005.

A review in the Village Voice: online

The horse table had a baby: the foal

small model
(4.6MB Quicktime)

gait tests
(6.1MB Quicktime)

teflon & marley tests
(3.1MB Quicktime)

final routine
(1.9MB Quicktime)

first performance
(2.5MB Quicktime)