The Art of Science: Grandma’s Sofa meets Satellite Technology

Jacob Tonski, Balance From Within, 2010-12
Jacob Tonski, Balance From Within, 2010-12

Jacob Tonski’s Balance From Within looks like an illusionist’s trick, but it’s really a clever bit of engineering, applying space-age technology to an old-fashioned piece of furniture.

Tonski, an artist who teaches at the University of Miami, Ohio, found a broken-down sofa from the 1840s, took it apart and installed a reaction wheel, a rotating device often used to reorient satellites or telescopes.  He then added a second axis to the reaction wheel, which allowed the sofa to balance, as if by magic, on one leg.

Tonski says the piece is a “meditation on the nature of human relations, and the things we build to support them.” He notes that a wide range of human interactions take place on sofas, and that they need to be solidly built to support our delicate relationships.

The sofa’s mechanism self-corrects when the piece is touched gently, but if it is pushed too far, like a relationship, it can break apart. Fortunately, the pieces of the sofa are held together with strong magnets, allowing it to be rebuilt quickly and easily, unlike a relationship. Oh, well. Metaphors are never perfect.

Balance From Within is currently on display at the FILE festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil until September 1.   You can watch a video of the sofa in motion here.

HT  to The Creators Project