Robot Report! (#3)

While writing last month’s Robot Report, I tried to track down a particular artist whose kinetic sculptures I had read about years ago. I couldn’t remember his name, and though my Googling skills are simply amazing, I failed to find any clues leading me to him.

Then, last week, while bouncing around the local cultural blog circuit, I landed on Hilary Pfeifer’s site, “Bunny with an ArtBlog.” And there, in one of her posts, was this amazing video:

Eureka! There he was: Arthur Ganson, an artist-in-residence at MIT (appropriately) who has been called “a modern-day creator of ‘twittering machines’ [who] uses simple, plain materials to build witty, mechanical art.” (I believe that description was written before “twitter” took on new meaning).

I’m enamored by Ganson’s inventive problem-solving and application of fundamental engineering to the creation of art. It takes some special kind of genius to figure out how to get gears, crankshafts, screws, cams and levers to make an object move the way you want it to. Take this example, in which Ganson must have asked himself, “How can I get a doll’s head to appear to be keeping eye contact with a blue ball moving erratically. Think of the number of problems that needed to solved to make this work:

Finally, a piece Ganson calls a “ballet” – a massive machine that accomplishes a single, simple task with elegance, grace and beauty. The first 1:20 minutes of the video show the machine being set up, then the "performance" begins.

By the way, Ganson also wrote and performed the guitar music that accompanies that piece. A slew of videos of Ganson’s other work can be found here on YouTube, and a DVD is available at his website.

You can also hear Ganson give a TED Lecture here. If you don't know about the TED Lectures, you should invest a few hours exploring the rest of the site.

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