Final / Harmonograph: Art Meets Physics

Artist: Kelly Ching Ki Kwok

Completion Date: March 16, 2015

Place of Creation: At home, in front yard

Style: Mechanical, function, interactive art

Technique: Woodwork, physics

Material: Wood (plywood, wooden dowels, balsa), hardware (ball and socket joints, washers, screws), free weights

From lecture I was extremely inspired by the harmonograph. Artists like Karl Sims and mathematician, Hugh Blackburn were predecessors on building machines like this. Like my midterm, this is an art machine that incorporated ideas of physics. Instead of mechanical forces, this time is oscillatory waves. This machine contains 3 pendulums; I decided I want mine to have maximum movement, thus maximizing the number of degrees of freedom, which is 2.  I enjoy art machines like these so much because they are interactive and educational. This could definitely be something at the Exploratorium. P1330457 P1330507 P1330508



Week 10 Response / chi-MAN-zee

I saw Rachel Mayeri’s work about a year back in an anthropology class. I didn’t think much of it the first time but now that I have a chance to revisit it, I thought Primate Cinema took a very interesting take on simplifying emotions through the reactions of chimpanzees and it helped me gain a greater understanding of how human emotions arrived the point today.

Mayeri did a series of research regarding chimpanzee and with the help of psychologist, Dr. Sarah-Jane Vick, they created a human disguised as chimp drama and filmed a group of chimpanzee’s reaction alongside with it. The film the chimps watched triggered many emotions that would otherwise take longer to unleash if it was just a regular day, some of the drama included status, territory, and sex. The part that fascinated me the most is how the chimps did not have their full attention on the television. It might be because of their short attention span but I would like to think that they do it because they want to see other chimps’ reactions to certain scenes. I think often times people forget that a drama is a form of art and entertainment, and is created to manifest some sort of reaction. Our daily lives are usually not as interesting and amusing as television shows, and sometimes these television shows can create false expectations when viewers get really into it. Through Mayeri’s work, I was able to see how television is used as a social portal rather than a space people use to escape from reality. Having so many different things happen in 11 minutes is definitely not normal and for them to have this kind of reaction is quite extraordinary because they recognized that this is something unfamiliar and they questioned it. Another part that I like is how the mom and daughter reacted to and treated during the sex scene. Because they cannot conceal their arousal, it created a very interesting environment that would not otherwise happen in a human social environment. The film uncovered many reactions that people in our society has already categorized as ordinary and uninteresting. I think it is great that the artist was able to get such a great reaction out of the chimps given that they can only communicate through body language and prerecorded sounds.

I think it would be interesting to include a third screen to the installation and see how other group of chimps from a totally different location reacts to the original chimps’ reaction. The chimps at the Edinburgh zoo probably watched people every day and through that, a common norm might have been established between them. A group from America from might react totally differently. It would be cool if she tried playing with some of the dynamics around too, like separating the males and females between a glass window or with an opaque barrier to see how they react with and without the presence of the opposite sex.

-Kelly Kwok

Week 8 Response / Frachedelic

Mathematics is the study of structure, order, and relation of any kind. Its methods can be applied to imaginary worlds as well as to the “real” world.

Many people think that math is more closely related to science but fractal is a great example of mathematical art. The topic that interests me the most this week was fractals. I enjoy how mathematically logical it is, they’re so chaotic, yet ordered. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns formed by repetition of one pattern at different scales. They are found all throughout our bodies, they can be found on out skin, palm, tissues, and bones. They are reminiscent of the kaleidoscope and psychedelic patterns.buddha_buddahbrot3mandelbulbs_3

mandelbulbs_slice romanesco_fractal_analog

If you look closely, you can see that there are repeating patterns of the same thing within each simulation. I like these because the artists utilizing three dimensions in their digital simulations and renderings. When I think about how cells and how subatomic particles interact, it makes sense to me that they would look like fractals because their form do not vary a lot, it just in the matter of how closely you look at them.


This weekend I took a photo of the sky, the way the clouds were lined up in such order, reminded me of fractals, and if you look close enough, the same patterns would show up over and over. It is quite magical.

-Kelly Kwok

Week 7 Response / Earth as a Canvas

One of the most practical benefits of space exploration has been the Gloabal Positioning System. This allows people on the earth to locate themselves anywhere to within one meter precision.
– Stephen Wilson

In Wilson’s book, I came across Andrea Di Castro, an artist that explores with travel, pilgrimage, and memory. He used the precision capabilities of GPS to create geographical pieces. Utilizing movement as a medium and nature as a canvas, he used GPS technologies to create virtual drawings. To draw, he would have to travel though roads, lakes, oceans, air, and etc. Roads and lakes include constraints as to where the artist can go because blocks and river flows are already defined but flying and being in the water provides more freedom. This is interesting to think about because even though you’re free to move anywhere on a plane or a boat, there is still things like wind and current to account for that can influence the strokes. It is also difficult to move in such a big scale and to control where you want to move, whereas for roads you can map out what you want to draw before going at it. Here is an example of Castro’s creation:


This is a piece called Fixing the Heart by Castro. As an action of goodwill for the new millennium in Ireland, Andrea di Castro was asked to do a monumental virtual drawing in the shape of a heart, big enough to contain the complete island. He used a handheld GPS to collect data of his location, and using those data points to create lines. Since this was created about 14 years ago, his process seemed extremely strenuous. The blue line on this picture is the path he actually took either by flying, driving, or walking, while the red is the corrected heart. With our current technology, this piece probably could have been done in one trip of flying, but Castro took about 4 days’ worth of travel to complete what he has done.

Castro’s work reminds me of a trend that started amongst runners in San Francisco. They use the Nike+ Running App to create images of mostly penises in their drawing. The apps tracks the route that you take from your start to your end point. Here are a couple of their drawings:

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One runner tweets, “it’s not easy. first, you have to spend a lot of time looking for dicks on maps… countless hours of dick searching…”

Castro’s use of GPS enabled us to see our movement on a greater scale, how small one human step is, how big earth is, and taking “large canvases” to a new level. I think it is a pretty cool way to use our current technology.

– Kelly Kwok

Week 6 / Midterm Project / Unconventional Switch

Title: Unconventional Switch
Artist: Kelly CK Kwok
Completion Date: Feb 16, 2015
Place of Creation: Front yard and Kitchen
Style: Mechanical art, functional art, interactive art
Technique: Wood and electrical work

This piece is inspired by Norman Tuck’s use of Physics in his Art Machines. This piece is made from a hand drill and two pulleys I acquired from the swap meet and the thrift store. A friend of mine helped me take apart an old wooden pallet to use for the frame of the piece. In the beginning, the piece was only a pulley system with the hand drill providing all the torque but I thought it was too boring and wanted it to do more. I decided to incorporate some electrical into it and bought a cheap flashlight, a toggle switch, and some wire. At first, I had a hard time deciding how to make the two, mechanical and electrical components work together but I decide it would be neat to use the mechanical system to turn on the electrical one.

Youtube link of the machine working:


The whole process was really fun. I got to be creative by doing nerdy things and using my engineering skills. I like this genre of art because it allows the participants to be instantly curious instead of having to look really closely and interpreting the piece.

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


Week 4 Response \ Implantation of Memory

In Eduardo Kac’s Time Capsule, he explores the relation between body and his technology. He named it Time Capsule because of the microchip he programmed with an ID number. It is integrated with a coil and a capacitor, all sealed in biocompatible glass. This piece is transient but it will stay in his body for the rest of his life. Where the event took place remains to be the gallery space. Where there are 7 sepia toned photos shot in Eastern Europe in the 1930s on one side of the room, and an X-ray and the Identichip ID and recovery database on the other. In the room, there are also a horizontal bedstead, a computer with internet, a telerobotic finger, and additional broadcasting equipment.



The procedure went as follows. On Tuesday, November 11, 1997, at 10:00 PM in Casa das Rosas Cultural Center, São Paulo, Brazil, Kac started the procedure by cleaning his ankle with an antiseptic and using a needle to subcutaneously inert the microchip. He scanned the chip and the LCD screen displayed his unique numerical code. He then registered himself in a remote database in the United States. This was the first time a human was added to the database, since this is more so for recovery of lost animals. Kac broadcasted this whole process live on Brazilian television via TV Bandeirantes.


Through this piece, Kac was trying to increase awareness of the direction technology was heading during that time. Throughout the 19th and 20th century, the development of photography encouraged many of its technology to function as social time capsules and preservation of our social beings. By the end of the 20th century, however, digital technology facilitated the erasures of photographic truths. The representation of imaging can never be trust, and people can go through plastic surgery to configure themselves just as easy as photo manipulation. With these possibilities, the ability to alter our memory is also very likely. The human body is traditionally seen as a place for storing our experiences and our DNA. In Time Capsule, the presence of the chip inside the body forces us to consider the co-presence of real and artificial memories within us. Experiences become implants in the body, “anticipating future instances in which events of this sort might become common practice and inquiring about the legitimacy and ethical implications of such procedures in the digital culture.”(Kac) Kac used this piece to show that technological advancements are taking a route that gearing humans away from their identities.

If I were to present this piece, I think it would have been a better idea if the walls of room remained empty, but the visitors will watch a video of the process prior to entering the room. That way they can have a sense of what once took place in that room. I would also leave a print out of the database page on the table as evidence. All in all, I think his idea was great in trying to push boundaries and proving his point. How far is too far when it comes to self-alteration? And what is it that really defines a person’s identity?

-Kelly Kwok