The Art of Science: Both Sides of the Cloud

Yuriko Yamaguchi, Cloud, 2014 (detail)
Yuriko Yamaguchi, Cloud, 2014 (detail)

Yuriko Yamaguchi’s ethereal sculptures are mostly made of wire and resin, but she has also included LED lights, wood, minerals, and bits of electronics. Reminiscent of organic shapes such as clouds, swarms, and neural networks, they symbolize the interconnectedness of all human and organic systems.

Yamaguchi says that her work was influenced by the work of physicist and systems theorist Fritjof Capra, whose book “The Web of Life” explored the tension between the part and the whole in many different systems.

The artist described one of her recent sculptures rather poetically:  “Creative energy is in a way like rain that comes down from the sky when the accumulated humidity can no longer remain suspended in the air and drops to the earth.”

The cloudlike form refers not only to atmospheric phenomena but to the modern, technological meaning of “the cloud”, emphasizing Yamaguchi’s belief that science, nature and technology are intimately intertwined.

Several pieces of her recent work are on display in “Interconnected: Science, Nature, and Technologies” at the Adamson Gallery in Washington, DC through August 31.

You can see more of her work on her website.


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

The Art of Science – Crowdsourcing Sheep

Aaron Koblin is an American tech-design prodigy who gave a TED talk in his 20s and now has an amazing job with Google. So why was he paying people 2 cents a pop to draw pictures of sheep on computers? I’ll let him explain in his own words.

“The Sheep Market is a collection of 10,000 hand-drawn sheep from online workers collected through the Mechanical Turk. The Mechanical Turk is a web service created by Amazon to provide “artificial artificial intelligence,” now known more commonly as “crowdsourcing.” I was immediately intrigued by the concept of using thousands of idle brains, and have long been impressed by projects like SETI@home, which use idle CPU time on people’s computers to tackle problems too big for a single machine or cluster. This however, was different; these aren’t idle boxes, these are people. I wanted to visualize this and think about this kind of system, which will inevitably become more common.”  (source)

Koblin created a tool for recording drawings and posted the tool online paying $.02 (USD) for each worker’s sheep.  He was able to view, approve, and reject each sheep (662 drawings didn’t meet “sheep-like” criteria). Finally, he gathered all 10,000 sheep into a matrix on a website, which he describes as “a market place for inspecting and collecting the individual sheep.”

The resulting artwork has been exhibited in Spain, Japan, the US, the Netherlands and Australia. You can examine it at the macro and micro level (even see how each sheep was drawn) at the Sheep Market website and see many more projects at Koblin’s own site.