Tension Machine steel umbrella arms, wood, rope, glass beads, toy train motor, fishing line 120x48x6
This semester I’ve been taking 3 studio classes, one of which is beginning sculpture. This class, like most of my classes are pretty open when it comes to assignments. For this piece we were given the idea of shelter as a starting point. The shelter I chose to work with was the umbrella. Using the graceful movement of many umbrella arms, I went about creating this automated structure. I do have a video clip that shows the movement of the piece, but I can’t post it without paying WordPress for that capability. So I may end up posting that video elsewhere. In the meantime, try to imagine this: the long, twisting assembly of the umbrella arms is attached to a rope belt of the pulley system. As the motor drives the belt around, the attached end of the assembly expands and contracts. Also, as the assembly goes round it catches itself on the red directional control arm of the toy train motor control. This causes the motor to groan and the assembly to bend. To the viewer, it looks like the assembly will snap in half or that something else might break, but at a critical moment the entire wood piece swings toward the assembly and in a thud the tension is released, allowing the motion to continue and the whole process to repeat itself over and over and over. Because the entire piece is flexible none of the pieces break.
I’ve shown this sculpture to several people, and there’s always an audible gasp when the piece snags. What’s interesting is that even though the viewer (including myself) may have seen it snag and safely release many times in a row, there’s always a questioning of whether or not this time will be different. I think this might open new doors for some interesting sculptures and perhaps even in some 2D work that involve near failure. This questionable failure is present at every step of almost every endeavor, and the tension and release that comes with narrowly pulling something off that doesn’t seem very likely is perhaps why we pursue anything. And the fact that a piece of art could allow someone to experience that over and over and over is a very compelling idea to me.