Meeting today with Mark Zahn, Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems, to show him the Crealev Levitation Module that arrived from Eindhoven. We discuss the challenges of floating mulitiple objects, how, if possible, to shield magnetic polarities to keep the objects from clumping together or repelling each other--really (really) difficult!
Another studio visit with Enno Lenzmann about composing our soundwork derived from the geometric flow of the original "Sculpture flottante." We will begin with a small-scale model I fabricate working from my photographs taken at the Kröller-Müller Museum.
Katharine and I touch base on her meeting with Charles Marshall, evolutionary biologist at Harvard, to talk about camouflage and iridescence. A very successful example of camouflage, Katharine learned, is the okapi, whose dirt-colored fur is striped, like a zebra. The mind doesn't connect this combination of color and pattern, which helped the okapi to remain undiscovered until the 1950s. Discussing our thoughts for the gallery installation of the Floating Sculpture 08, Charles observed that our project is like evolution itself because we want "camouflage to hide from predators but not so perfectly that the 'animal' is incapable of finding a mate."
Katharine meets later today with Mike Tarkanian, DMSE Technical Instructor, about CAD instruction and casting with beautiful iridescent films, samples of which we received from Eric Baer's laboratory at Case Western University through an introduction from DMSE Professor Michael Rubner. Case Western graduate student, Mike Ponting, has been our very generour liaison.
Back in Cambridge, I have a follow-up studio visit with MIT theoretical mathematician and CLE Moore Instructor Enno Lenzmann to discuss collaborating on a sound piece to express the formal voice of the Sculpture flottante based on the sculpture's curves.
Katharine and I meet with MIT Building Engineering and Sustainable Technologies Professor John Ochsendorf in the Architecture Department to review our research on the Rammed Earth Sculpture Garden in Baastad and Harplinge. With Professor Ochsendorf's guidance, Katharine uses the moment equation to assess the stresses on the proposed armature for the sculpture.
We catch Professor Zahn up on our meeting with the mag lev company Crealev in Eindhoven. We agree the next step is to make a prototype of our Floating Sculpture.
MIT Materials Science Professor Michael Rubner advises us on possible plastics and films for our proposed sculpture. He recommends we contact his colleague Eric Baer at Case Western University. At Professor Rubner's suggestion, we also contact 3M.
Meanwhile, Katharine visits again with Charles Marshall, evolutionary biologist at Harvard, to update him on our proposed gallery installation for our Floating Sculpture. And I meet again with Brain and Cognition post-doc Micah Kimo Johnson to continue our conversation on the idea of the copy and the technical challenges of composing a sound score based on the dynamic curves of the Sculpture flottante.
We make plans to meet with MIT philosopher Professor Lee Perlman, who co-taught with physicist Professor Troutman, the spring term course, "A Philosophical History of Energy." We will also meet with Neuroscience Professor Gerald Schneider to discuss animal behavior.
Our Floating Sculpture model is on view with other projects at CAVS at the St Louis Museum for Contemporary Art: https://www.contemporarystl.org/centerforadvancedvisualstudies.php
We spend our first day in Amsterdam visiting museums--Rembrandt House, Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh, and De Appel. The sea and skyscapes of the Dutch Golden Age in the Rijksmuseum collection are wonderful to see in person, especially our discovery of Willem van de Velde's monochromatic pen paintings and the glinting, refracting light in the still lifes of Willem Claesz Heda. Imagining the shadow fall of evening in the deep and narrow, tall stacked rooms of Rembrandt House, where the artist lived and worked, heightens understanding of the interplay of light and dark in his painting and etching. We see the top-floor painting studio, bathed in beautiful north light, his curio room full of sundry plaster models, sea shells, old coins, pelts, and stuffed animals, and a recreation of Rembrandt's printing studio, where etchings pinned to a line hang like laundry out to dry.
We arrive in Otterlo via train and bus. Conservator Lydia Beerkens, who restored Pan's "Sculpture flottante" in 2006, kindly collects us at our b&b, where we are waylaid in pelting rain. We drive through the vast state park to the Kröller-Müller Museum. After a brief tour of the Museum's conservation labs, we head outside to see the sculpture in person.
The decorative pond is smaller than I'd anticipated. It takes a moment to adjust to this unexpected shift in scale. The rains (briefly) subside. In the saturated light of a brooding gunmetal sky, the bank and surrounding lawn are vivid electric green. The pond is mirror still, and the "Sculpture flottante" appears one with its reflection.
I am reminded of a studio conversation with MIT Brain and Cognitive Science postdoc Kimo Johnson back at the Center, in which Kimo explained that in computer optics, a computer can't tell the difference between an original and its mirror reflection. This prompted a sustained discussion on the fugitive nature of the copy in the age of digital reproduction, whereby the copy doesn't necessarily mean a duplicate.
Tracing the sinuous lines of the "Sculpture flottante" with my eyes, I follow the seamless flow of volumes and hollows from solid air to watery reflection. Image/illusion and material form are mutually whole, dynamically rapt. A breeze sways the hood of the sculpture left, and solid form radially dials away from reflected self, mirror image reading simultaneously as widening embrace and opening breach. Achingly slow separation and fanning reach.
Rain returns, halting at first, then falling steadily. Beads of water edge the sculpture's hood, raindrops kaleidoscope reflection.
We retreat to comfortable chairs in the Museum lobby, with "Sculpture flottante" in view. Lydia walks us through the careful conservation process of restoring the floating sculpture in 2006. We learn that Marta Pan also created a companion to the sculpture in wood, designed to rest on the floor of the Museum gallery. Lydia recounts Pan's arrival at the Kröller-Müller to advise on the restoration process. She describes Pan running her hands along the sides of the sculpture, asking, "Where is my line?," as she searched for the crisp edge that marked the rim of the base, now softened by coats of paint accumulated during the sculpture's nearly half-century life.
July 16. Many Dutch trains later, we arrive in a small town outside Eindhoven, HQ for Crealev. We have a productive meeting with Rob and Ger Jansen.
Next stop Amsterdam, Copenhagen-bound, en route to Malmö, to Lund and the Skissernas Museum.
As hurricanes churn up cold water, more carbon dioxide also gets mixed into the water. This alters the pH slightly and has the possibility of depleting coral. Again, climate change is filled with uncertainty, but more atmospheric CO2 quite possibly leads to more coral depletion due to pH changes. As hurricanes warm the water by churning up cold water to get heated, the warm water also contributes to the melting of ice caps.
He also told us that time lapse films of rotating thunder storms are really interesting. Thunder is something I would love to understand more, for my own sake and because we may incorporate plasma and a "thunder-storm-like" environment into the piece. Generating clouds also sounds interesting, and potentially non-trivial if we want interesting looking cloud formations juxtaposed with plasma displays. The magnets due to levitation will also greatly affect the plasma, and deciding how to do this constructively will be a logistic challenge.
One phenomena that Kerry Emmanuel showed us was just different cloud shapes in general. It feels nice returning to the childhood dreams of knowing why clouds are shaped as they are. A cloud that is relevant to tornadoes is a wall cloud: it is the cloud that exists right before a tornado starts to funnel. It looks quite like a wall, and eventually the entire entity spins around the central axis, or eye. One in particular that Jane loved, though it is just a chance picture and does not exemplify what always happens, was a wall cloud that had an hourglass shape because some of the top part was pulling away from the bottom part. The only thing that unifies all of these as they become tornadoes is that they spin, and the do not always have the same motion in the up and down direction. However I agree that the look of it was quite reminiscent of the sculpture itself. The two portions with a tendril of cloud between seemed like the base, neck, and hood of the sculpture. The motion we pictured in pulling created a sort of tension, which gives an interesting thought of the two portions of the sculpture being pulled by a tensile force in the neck itself. While this does not actually happen, our job is to find natural phenomena with similar forms and think about how parts in the form interrelate, and in the wall cloud picture there was definitely a strong appearance of tension in the separating portions of cloud.
He then began to mention logistics of plasma as I mentioned it, and he said there would be need for high charge density to create plasma. This would likely just be a matter of having a metal with high voltage fed into it. Upon talking to Sarah I've learned that a lot of things are possible, but doing them with only the energy from solar membranes and potentially wind could prove difficult. Logistically it may be best to have some external source of energy that could also be done in a green manner. Then we get into the ugly idea of wires being fed to the sculpture, which is something I would love to avoid.
He then pitched the idea of flotation by Helium, which we have been over and toyed with some. He also discussed Dutch painters and how in painting for a while landscapes did not include varying entities like the sky and water. It is interesting that art learns to cope with different entities and questions with time, and knowing that the horizon levels used to be very high on paintings just to avoid the sky makes me realize how far art has come, yet we still are tackling the sky as an issue in the sculpture. Art is so much about asking and re-asking questions.
Finally, we get to one idea he mentioned that I find very important and prominent in the sculpture and art in general. He discussed how he disliked how much nature was "fractal" and art, along with other man-made objects, is not. He showed us side-by-side pictures of a spiral galaxy and a hurricane, and I was amazed to see how similar they were. I think that is part of what he was getting at with the fractal comment: in fractals you can zoom in with increasing complexity/detail levels and find similar patterns that are different (so it is different from recursion, with infinite repetitions of same-ness). In the galaxy itself we zoom in and find more spirals: hurricanes, sunflower seeds, ect. It is also interesting to notice how many proportions are conserved in nature--circles and so much involve pi, and then even more naturally phi (around 1.618) is a ratio prevalent in spirals, human proportions, art history, and so much in our lives it is hard to grapple with. It is also prevalent in math, because as you approach infinity in the Fibbonacci sequence (1,1,2,3,5,8...add the two numbers before forever)the ratio of a number to the number before it approaches phi (it is actually an irrational number). One of my friends commented recently that math must be found, not made, because all our math continues to cope with and explain nature. In people the ratio of the full length of an arm to the forearm is around phi, we have facial ratios near it, and neuroscience experiments have shown it is the most "attractive" dimensions of rectangles. I would love to learn more about neuroaesthetics. I think many man-made objects do not have higher levels of detail like this, and namely the details do not reflect the picture of the whole. I saw one of the most beautiful pictures I've seen in a long time this weekend, and it was the furthest picture taken from space. I think it is just called the deep space picture, I will ask my friend Gene for the website. It was amazing realizing just how fractal nature is: you could zoom in forever and find more interesting spirals, balls of color and energy, and each time you looked closer there were similarities and differences. I don't know if an interesting way to do this would be to in some way have sub-sculptures with similar forms inside it. I guess that may happen if we use a core shaped like the original subject to some form of degradation--an anticipation of the current sculpture in the future environment. In a way the human brain can even be thought of as fractal in that many similar neurons form networks that create something more than each part, and as you look closer no two neurons are identical yet have similar principles. Our thoughts then too form feedback loops as we learn and enforce thoughts, and each reinforcement (recently I learned this is because of NMDA recpetors that promote dendritic growth factors in cells being used...neurons that wire together fire together. This is another topic altogether). Fractals and recursion are two similar but by definition opposing forces that in some way seem to affect so much of our lives and the universe as a whole, why not try to grapple with them?
Today we celebrated our work on the sculpture with a tea party bringing together a group of students that have helped us throughout the semester working the floating sculpture. Invitations had gone out earlier that week for tea at three thirty and tea and gorgeous tart were prepared for the group. We made an impromptu board to allow our guests to express their ideas.
As guests started to show up, we took each one and showed them the floating sculpture and other works by Marta Pan. We also showed them our progress and different thought processes from cloud creation to Turkish dances. Our guests were shown different blog entries and each person contributed to the conversation.
I talked to Doris a mathematician and she explained to me about the different contours and how the floating sculpture was really interesting. She explained to us that even though we could not find an exact equation to map out the floating sculpture, but she did recall seeing the different shapes that eventually made up the floating sculpture in some of her work.
As the guests sat down for tea, our conversation progressed into a story-telling party and we were introduced to a very interesting physicist named Sarah who was working on her final project on feedback loops and magnetic levitation. She was truly a great find and we were very excited to have her on board.
After everyone left, I was given an assignment to look up different magnetic materials and determine the magnetic strength to density ratio to better find the right materials to find best materials to make the sculpture out of. I have found 15Co2.7MnFe that seemed extremely promising since the density was small and the strength was extremely high. Since this material is recently patented, I wasn't sure how easily accessible this would be. I've sent and e-mail to try and discuss the different possibilities with Professor Zahn.
From Katharine (April 5): For our next salon we met with Professor James D. Livingston, whose expertise is magnets. This was incredibly interesting because we are considering creating our floating sculpture with magnets.
We talked for a little and provided different ideas that could be applied to our sculpture. One of the possibilities that came up was using the same concept as the floating globe that Professor Livingston has on his desk. He went over the concept of how magnets has a point that acts as both a minimum and a maximum or a saddle point. This is why we cannot use different magnets to try and control the floatation of the sculpture. What we can do, however, is to use a capacitor to track the floatation of the sculpture and maintain the correct distance so that the sculpture is always at an equilibrium and doesn't sway or tip over. All of this has to be carefully monitored and taken care of.
After discussing the possibilities, we left early to finish the Eloranta Scholarship.
From Katharine (April 3): For our second salon, we met with Professor C. Adam Schlosser, who works with water in the ground. He explained to us some of the projects he was working on using computer simulations and explained one very important concept: Nature has an uncanny ability to achieve equilibrium. If we intend to push nature in a certain direction, it isn't long before nature begins to push back and sometimes with devastating consequences.
The following example was given: If the temperatures rise on average of two degrees, most people would hardly notice. There might be a slight increase in everyone's electricity bill, but no one would really notice, right? Not quite. Apparently, with the rise of these two degrees would trap over half of the world's freshwater, making it inaccessible.
Another interesting idea presented by Professor Schlosser: there are so many possibilities, so many scenarios of how the earth's future could play out, that all there really is... is chaos. He explained that any small alteration could eventually cause changes in other places, which in turn would change something else.
After the talk, we decided to pursue these two important points. We wanted to know exactly, what was equilibrium. The earth's climate has been known to cycle and scientists have always tried to predict the future using past cycles. So where exactly is the equilibrium in the cycle? What qualifications would we have to use to decide? All of these things were ideas that we wanted to pursue a little more later after the meeting.
On the topic of chaos, all of us were interested in looking at ways to filter out all by the most important and probable possibilities to try and accurately predict the different futures to create the final sculpture.