Over the last several weeks I’ve blogged about the design element of Motion (Chapter 15 in Design: A Beginner’s Handbook). In this week’s post you’ll find the work of several artists/designers who employ natural forces to impart movement into their work.
Sculptor Anthony Howe fabricates large metal kinetic artworks that are powered by wind. He begins the designs digitally, figuring out exactly how the force of the wind will interact with each metal component. The repetitive movement found in Howe’s work is mesmerizing. Of the work he says “…I attempt, with an economy of means, to construct objects whose visual references range from lo-tech sci-fi paraphernalia to microbiological or astronomical models…I hope the pieces assume a spare, linear elegance when conditions are still, mutating to raucous animation when the wind picks up.”
Part scientist, part engineer, part artist, Ned Kahn is known for projects that meet at the intersection of art and science. If you visit his website and look at his portfolio you’ll find that he has categorized the work under headings such as Fog, Water, Fire, Wind… all forces of nature. The piece shown above is titled “Windswept (Breathing Sea).” Here is his description of the project – “A fountain that used the energy of ocean waves to create a blow hole on the end of the pier. Air pressure surges from passing waves blew a spray of seawater out of the spiral structure. The spray cascaded back down to the ocean through a slot in the pier deck that also framed the view of the sea below. The shape and power of the spray varied with the changing rhythms of the waves as well as with the tides and winds.”
The Lebanese architectural firm Najjar and Najjar has proposed building a series of viewing structures along the coast that would harness the energy generated by the motion of ocean waves. They call the buildings “Iris” structures since they would open and close like an eye. They envision these as public spaces in an area that is increasingly being overrun with private development that excludes local inhabitants. The energy generated by the waves would provide electricity to nearby fishing communities.
“Windswept,” by the artist Charles Sowers, transforms a mundane exterior wall into a fanciful show of moving lines. Sowers has attached 612 aluminum weathervanes parallel to the wall, allowing them to move freely as they interact with the prevailing wind currents.
Theo Jansen is both an artist and an engineer. For over 25 years he has built what he calls “StrandBeests (Beach Animals),” pvc plastic forms that appear to walk on their own. Most of Jansen’s beasts spend their life on the sandy shore where their complex gear systems are powered by the wind. As they have evolved they have learned to react to the environment, newer beasts being able to avoid obstacles as well as generate a source of movement from stored air pressure when the wind is low.
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These last two artists extend the idea of nature and movement.
Yes, there is wind, fire, and water but what about the natural forces found within the human body? Artist Lisa Park exploited the electrical impulses that are part of human brainwaves to move pools of water in the installation “Eunoia ll.” Park attached an EEG headset to her head which captured her emotions. These electrical waves were translated into sound waves which were fed to the bottom of each pool of water, causing it to vibrate. She was able to control the level of movement by controlling her thoughts.
Aganetha Dyck’s sculptures don’t move but in an odd way they do represent motion in the form of change over time. Dyck employs honeybees as her studio assistants – she builds a place for the bees, includes an object for them to use and they do the rest. The artwork isn’t just the singular object but rather the process from start to finish. She sees the work as a type of interspecies communication.