Week 5 Response / Interactive and Educational Art

As an engineering student, I really enjoyed Norman Tuck’s pieces. His pieces reminded me of things I would see at the Exploratorium in San Francisco; they’re very nerdy, interactive, and sometimes a little make-shifty. According to his website, he actually did showcase his Art Machine Exhibition at the Exploratorium in 1994. Pieces like Wave Generator, Uroborus, There will be Time, and Three balls on a String all include many physics ideas I was taught in school. Though they don’t serve any purposeful functions, I feel like they are great educational pieces. Here’s a video that demonstrates a couple of his pieces. Since they’re more interactive, photos won’t do them justice.

I have played with Uroborus: A Snake Chasing its Tail in person. Here is what is looks like:

At first I thought it was a really pointless piece because it was just a rotating arm moving a lever left and right. But then I tried to interrupt the process by moving the lever to the left before the arm could reach it and the arm responded by rotating the other direction to move the lever back to the right. It looks it could be digitally coded but I looked closer to try to figure out how it worked and here’s my theory:

Circuit Explanation for Norman Tuck's Uroborus

Depending on which way the current is flowing, the rotating arm will either rotate clockwise or counterclockwise. My guess is he’s using a double-pole double-throw switch. The top configuration is for when the shaft of the motor is rotating counterclockwise, which is when the lever is touching the right side. The rotating arm when eventually hit the lever, moving it to the left, and causing the top configuration to disconnect and switch to the bottom configuration. The bottom configuration is when the shaft is rotating clockwise. You can tell that the two will rotate in different directions by looking at the direction of current in the loop with the motor. The top one is going CCW (+ >> -), while the bottom is going CW (- >> +).

This is just my guess of how the power circuit would look like, I would have to wire them and try it out if I want to confirm.

Though this piece did not serve a purpose, I enjoyed thinking about and working out how it worked and as people who don’t particularly enjoy physics, it would either drive their curiosity or drive them nuts. Many of his other works involved great timing and used the wave equation which I have interest doing an in-depth analysis on for my midterm project. Pieces like this definitely has a stronger effect on me when learning about the history of art and technology.

-Kelly Kwok

 

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