all i knew at the start was that i wanted to make a piece with moving parts. a piece that a viewer could interact with, to alter the finished form of the work.
i was inspired by automata, optical and navigational instruments, and the game of thrones opening credits 😀 this sequence was produced with cgi, but each city was constructed as a working mechanism – in theory at least they could be built.
i investigated a range of mechanisms by constructing paper models from the downloads at robives.com. this helped me understand the translation of rotary movement into other directions, as well as the effect of different gearing ratios. this is a development of my previous use of paper folding and cutting in my work – albeit from published designs – it takes a high degree of accuracy and patience to construct the working models.
i was wary that any design incorporating cogs, gears and other mechanisms immediately runs the risk of heading in a too-well-troden steampunk direction. my response is that i’d manufacture the moving parts in laser-cut acrylic and sls nylon print (white, stone-like texture) which would give it a much sleeker, modernist aesthetic, while hopefully still conveying some echo of the scientific instruments that inspired it.
while i knew i wanted an analogue mechanism, what to *do* with that movement took a little longer to crystallise. my first idea was to make some form of drawing machine, the light-bulb moment being joining that with my experiments in using magnified sunlight for mark-making. i decided to make a solar powered analogue laser cutter/etcher.
it turned out i’m not the first person to think this up and i drew influences from markus kayser’s work, in particular his use of a spherical glass lens. this brought me back around to the orreries that amongst other instruments inspired my initial ideas. however i felt that i had the chance to create a machine that was much more elegantly designed than his, that could be a beautiful object in its own right. he also uses motors in his design, i want to rely on purely analogue power, possibly investigating clockwork mechanisms. this idea was also influenced by the ball nogues insta-llator – i just adore this digitally designed and driven analogue machine, more than the installation it was constructed to produce.
it gradually dawned on me that the final machine would have quite significant potential for health&safety hazards to have it working in a public show, not under full supervision, producing as it does controlled combustion. but perhaps the machine didn’t have to be the final piece – perhaps the drawings it produced could be instead. this would change the experience of the viewer – taking the option of configuration out of their hands and putting it instead into the mechanism.
i still have no fixed ideas for the final design/form of the contraption. i want to extend my exploration of geometric design and through the use of mirrors and lenses i hope to produce intriguing work. i would love if i could produce final pieces that have some of the qualities of roger ackling’s sun drawings, which were my initial impetus to pick up a magnifying glass and see how else i could draw with light (photograph).
“for this project we would like you to visit museums and/or galleries and select an object which best speaks of the values and qualities, some of the things you are attempting to achieve in your own work.”
my chosen object appeared in the show automatic art: human and machine processes that make art at the gv gallery in london, which fosters dialogues between contemporary art and science. scientific imagery and concepts often underpin and inform my work.
i was immediately drawn to this piece by the urge to see if it moved. a gentle nudge confirmed that it did, in a satisfyingly fluid way. the piece was clearly precision engineered and i was drawn to the tactile qualities of the materials as well as the opportunity to interact. quite often i’m drawn to give sculptures a gentle push – to discover more about the materials and construction – in this piece i was explicitly invited to do so.
the piece was manufactured in 2013, one of a pair, the other having round- rather than square-section aluminium rods. it is a development of an idea peter lowe initially explored in 1960. he also produced other pieces of transformable art which invite the viewer to take an active part in forming the artworks, partly transferring authorship from the artist to the viewer.