|Sachiko Kodama "Morpho Towers -- Two Standing Spirals" (2007)|
Collaborator: Yasushi Miyajima (Sony CSL)
“Morpho Towers--Two Standing Spirals” is an installation that consists of two ferrofluid sculptures that moves synthetically to music. The two spiral towers stand on a large plate that hold ferrofluid. When the music starts, the magnetic field around the tower is strengthened. Spikes of ferrofluid are born from the bottom plate and move up, trembling and rotating around the edge of the iron spiral.
The body of the tower was made by a new technique called “ferrofluid sculpture” that enables artists to create dynamic sculptures with fluid materials. This technique uses one electromagnet, and its iron core is extended and sculpted. The ferrofluid covers the sculpted surface of a three-dimensional iron shape that was made on an electronic NC lathe. The movement of the spikes in the fluid is controlled dynamically on the surface by adjusting the power of the electromagnet. The shape of the iron body is designed as helical so that the fluid can move to the top of the helical tower when the magnetic field is strong enough.
The surface of the tower responds dynamically to its magnetic environment.
When there is no magnetic field, the tower appears to be a simple spiral shape. But when the magnetic field around the tower is strengthened, spikes of ferrofluid are born; at the same time, the tower’s surface dynamically morphs into a variety of textures ranging from soft fluid to minute moss, or to spiky shark’s teeth, or again to a hard iron surface. The ferrofluid, with its smooth, black surface that seems to draw people in, reaches the top of the tower, spreading like a fractal, defying gravity.
The spikes of ferrofluid are made to rotate around the edge of the spiral cone, becoming large or small depending on the strength of the magnetic field. In this work the speed of this rotation can be controlled without motors or shaft mechanisms ? we simply control the magnetic power.
In this work, we are trying to activate analogue physical phenomena (= fluid) precisely by utilizing digital music metadata. To control the synchronization of the ferrofluid with the music playback in real time, time series metadata are added to the music beforehand. The metadata consist of musical information, such as beat position, chord progression, and melody block information, and ferrofluid control information such as DC bias voltage and AC pattern. Each data record has a time stamp that indicates the timing of presentation. All data are stored in time-series order.
These time series metadata must be accurate for precise control of timing, so as to cancel the time delay of fluid movement. By this correction, the time when the protuberance of the spike reaches its maximum size is coincident with the beat of the music. As a result, the rhythm of the fluid movement coincides with the musical rhythm. When there is no sound, the fluid falls down into the plate.
As there are two towers in the installation, complicated expressions of surfaces become possible. Each tower’s surface pulsates, like one creature calling to the other.
Fluid moves synthetically with the music, as if it breathes, and the condition of the fluid's surface emerges as autonomous and complex. In this art we want to harmonize several opposing properties, such as hardness (iron) / softness (fluid) and freedom (desire for design) / restriction (natural powers such as gravity). This work emerges as an autonomous transformation of the material itself: sometimes it seems like a horn, sometimes a fir tree, and sometimes even like the Tower of Babel.