We decided recently to start meeting with people from other departments. Because we now know enough about what questions we want to ask and how we want to express them, we feel capable of addressing others without fear that the momentum of our conversation will lead us astray. It is important that we consult with others because we need to know if our ideas our coming through. Art is nothing if the message is completely lost and no new message arises. We also hope to glean knowledge from the expertise of others. By seeing what specialists are excited about, we know what is interesting to be asking about. For instance, after talking to Timur we realized that his interests in quantum entanglement and recursion are not outside the realm of art, and are most definitely interesting concepts to think about.
We listed out questions we are asking and sought after departments that might help us either deepen the question or lead us to new and interesting paths. We then tried to see how each person we want to meet with ties together with the others, because asking many disjointed questions can be didactic without a common thread. The hope for our meetings, then, is not a simple answer to logistical questions but rather an ability to see the same ideas from many perspectives.
After broadly deciding what is important to us (sustainable materials, energy needs, biological environments, climate, ect.), we decided to see how our perception of the sculpture has changed. I said we should ground ourself to what is physically there, then we could go into the ideas behind the physical structure later.
We started with what was most important to us. Jane and I really like the idea of magnetic suspension/levitation, so we made this a priority. If it were suspended above the water by magnets, we said it would be interesting if the magnet's strength varied (change in electromagnetic current) so the sculpture rocks like it is on the surface. It would make physical contact become a force at a distance. The rocking may be arbitrary, or it could respond to something environmental (rocks faster in the heat, ect. Though the balance of whether it is totally reflexive in response, or acts like it has synesthesia may be difficult). We also agreed before that transparency would be interesting because we could look within the piece, and possibly fill or compartmentalize it. In order to suspend it with magnets (and also have circuitry for anything else we do), we would have to have either exposed wires and magnets or some internal compartment. Obviously we liked the idea of a compartment within the transparent material we use. The surface of the transparent shell could be covered in clear photovoltaics, and these could possibly use fiberoptics to get messages/energy to the core. If not, perhaps wires could be concealed when they go from PV surface to the core.
The shape of the core was the next problem. We had spoken earlier about evolutionary biology, and I mentioned it would be interesting to think about the old sculpture as evolving. What parts are useful and therefore amplified? What becomes "useless" with time and is vestigial. I commented that the original is so close to two separate entities connected by the thin neck. If this neck were to disappear, perhaps the inner core would actually be the original in 2 parts. In the past we had also mentioned limestone corroded by acid rain, and it would be interesting to subject a limestone model of the original to acid. The inner form, then, would be the original after a long time. It would be worn by its environment, and evolve to cope. The clear part around it could have plasma jolting through it. We decided this just due to the fact that plasma could exist in this hollow space, though when we thought about it grew to like the idea more. If the core is the sculpture affected by the environment, the space between shell and core could be the environment itself. Plasma, perhaps acidic clouds, and other untapped ideas could fill this space with a future or past climate. If we could make acidic clouds inside, the core could have a surface that responds to pH. Also, when water condenses on the shell and drips on the core, we could make a ripple in the underlying water (as if it dripped onto the water. This is another force at a distance, so it is interesting to see how the original "core" really still affects/is affected by contact with the water). On the surface of the shell, diatoms could grow their glass viral batteries. Perhaps somewhere GFP would be expressed. With both of these, the food source is still a problem. We do not really want to have a person hired to feed the sculpture's bacteria indefinitely.
A lot of logistical issues still stand in the way, and we need to think more about whether every message we want is getting through. However, we are definitely making progress. Hopefully our meetings with a series of specialists will help broaden and narrow our ideas in the optimal way.
Neal and Jane started categorizing what the sculpture will experience and what the sculpture will express. We decided on some interesting things to look into such as: pH, pressure, sound, wind, sunshine and heat. We want to carefully look at what these different experiences would possibly mean in the future and how the sculpture can express these changes.
While looking into the future, Jane decided that a good idea would be to try and create a a history of the future and what our future predictions could possibly be. This is a really great proposal and we decided that it could be very interesting to create sculptures with different futures since each action or decision that we make today could potentially forever change the future. Whatever the current situation was, its future self's effects would be amplified over the longer time scale. This could be expressed through smaller scale models that would share the exhibit.
Another possible idea that was mentioned was using diatoms to help create a microenvironment in the sculpture. This would be a very interesting process since diatoms are all so very different and take on different sizes and can be genetically engineered to take on different shapes.
Another idea that could possibly be added to the project is the concept of the carbon cycle and how where the carbon is stored in the carbon cycle could potentially really effect the environmental change that could possibly take place in the future.
Another interesting part of the carbon cycle is the effect of atomic testing has had on the carbon that has been release in the atmosphere. There was a massive peak in the 1950s.
At the end of the meeting we all decided that a good way to approach this entire project would be to find different people in different departments and ask for their visions for the sculpture. This is really great proposal because we can get so much insight from so many people with different backgrounds. This would truly be using all the resources that are available to us at MIT.
We decided on a thesis sentence to describe the work that we're doing for the sculpture.
Thesis: By combining environmentally safe and responsive materials (pH, pressure, sound etc.) and using the artist's original work as guidance, we are trying to model the impact that this piece has on the environment and vice versa and incorporating that information into our design.
Some Further Notes on the Model (which we think of as performing the future we anticipate):
Neal proposes that "to exist is to shelter." He also observes that the sculpture needn't process/evaluate its sensory input the way we (and animals and plants) do.
We have talked about "expression" as a kind of vital force. If we say that the sculpture "expresses" its environment, how can it not be processing/evaluating it? --Because we (the creators) are doing that and thereby making the sculpture "merely" a passive, "played upon" thing? --Is there someway for it to (or will it inevitably) outperform us? If so, is the sculpture then processing?
Human beings loop information. We integrate all our current and past sensory information and thereby develop fluencies and dispositions. By contrast, we can think of the sculpture's responses as reflexes; i.e., here's how "I" respond to the wind, here's how "I" respond to the rain.
The viewer observing does the processing that the sculpture is not doing. The sculpture can feel things that we can't feel yet (as in an anticipated future) and things that we can't feel now (i.e., micro-environments of the water, on the skin, vibrations for echolocation).
This reminds me of a discussion with Timur Sahin during his studio visit at the end of February and of the conversation that preceded it with Katharine, Neal, and Daniel about conceiving the sculpture's possible mate or conjugate as a discrete sculpture. --Of course, viewers, and artists, are the artwork's implicit (and active) mate and conjugate.
All is (tainted
ruling out) noise.
Do we filter (corpo)reality
from entangled superposition?
of translation: displacing chaos
to assemble fragments--adding
by removing) like a sculptor
We then discussed the sounds of the sculpture. Jane had mentioned before the idea of auditory resonance as a result of the shape of a cavity. Looking at the cavity we were dealing with I was reminded of a seashell, and how we “hear the ocean” in it. We then questioned whether the wind could be playing it like an instrument of sorts. I mentioned that we could perhaps coat it with pressure sensors, each correlating to a specific pitch, and the pressure applied increases that frequency’s volume. I mentioned how it reminded me of the Ohm, and I really liked the idea of all the sounds being present in varying levels due to wind pressure. In the rain the sensors would be experiencing higher pressure on the surface exposed to falling water, so there would be an entirely different sound characteristic of rain. With time, perhaps those who learn every nuance and facet of this sculpture might know a heavy, angled rain by the sound of the sculpture.
Katharine, in the meantime, was working on our submission for a grant run by the IDEAS competition. In spite of how capable we seem of speaking about this project endlessly and flowing into new ideas, writing a summary of “what we do and why we do it” seems very difficult.
Jane and I then started talking about amplification—she had mentioned how nice it is for the sculpture to just “be,” to perceive without processing its senses. We discussed how thoughts can be recursively looped through our mind, such that one bit of sensory information can feed a loop for what seems an eternity. The matrix of neuronal cells sends billions of messages among the network, each message just a change from -30mV to 70mV. Though each field produced is small, the complexity is huge because of how plastic and interconnected our brains are. This leads us to discuss recursion. Jane shows me a picture that looks at first like a contemporary building, but where are the seams? Not a building or a skyline, what I saw was a room of mirrors, with a mirrored table and chair in the middle. The effect was striking, to se eternity span before me without even recognizing what it was. She discussed the idea of plasma in such a room, a possible entrance into the Skiss. I was awestruck by this idea.
Katharine continued typing, looking at the monitor before her with frustrated determination.
We then returned to the sculpture and discussed how the model will be suspended. I think we all have agreed that Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6) in a glass cube (or rectangular prism) seems like a nice idea. Jane mentioned using one of those magnetic stirring rods used in chemistry to spin the gas so the model would gracefully turn. We also discussed how to emulate its environmental responsiveness, as it will be in a glass case isolated from stimuli like pH changes. Jane suggested that we pre-program this, and have 1,000 years of expected change to take place every day for the model. I think this seems fine, because my fear of “performing” only holds true of the sculpture itself. A model in a glass case is born to perform and flaunt its capabilities, is it not?
Katharine, Neal, and Jane make clay models of the Sculpture flottante. We are amazed by the complexities of the sculpture's curves and balances. Although we will be working with a CAD-generated 3-D model for our turbulence testing, it is illuminating to experience first-hand the gravity-defying resistance and release of the sculpture's elegant formal dynamic.
We met on Friday afternoon to do some work on our sculpture with modeling clay. We started with several different sorts of clay and each started modeling our interpretation of the floating sculpture to better visualize the sculpture and better understand the sculpture's dialogue. We hoped by creating the sculpture, we would understand the elements of the sculpture.
I started work on the hood of the sculpture and continued to try and smooth out the top. However, I was getting a little worried that my sculpture wasn't on scale and the base that I would build wouldn't be able to sustain the hood that I was building. Therefore, I started working on the base, trying to ensure that the base might be able to support itself.
Meanwhile, Neal started off making the base and carefully shaping the sculpture. After making a very pretty base, he started making the hood.
I think both of us were realizing how difficult creating the floating sculpture actually was. The hood was extremely difficult to mold, not to mention create to the scale of the base. Another incredibly difficult part of creating the hood was the fact that after shaping the hood, the clay would gradually drift and the bottom angle of the hood wouldn't be correct anymore. Another problem was having the base support the hood. Jane gave us some paperclips, but it was still not enough to keep the hood from sagging. Another problem was that the clay would harden and crack, making it very difficult to mold. I tried to weight the hood so the center of mass was on the base, but the sculpture still only stood for a minute or so.
Jane mentioned that she had seen some mesh that could really help hold up the hood of the sculpture. She decided that she would start making a sculpture using the mesh and the sculptures turned out great!