I was introduced to the concept of spinning string by a project called “String Theory” in July of 2013. Months later, I began my own experiments using two small 12 volt motors, 2 cymbal stands, a piece of common string and a hand held flashlight. That night, the “science experiment” revealed its inner “artistic nature”. I set out to create something bigger and grander. What emerged is so much more than I ever dreamed of.
The String experiment is interactive
When supervised, the elevated String is lowered down to ground level. Once the rules are explained and consent is granted, The String becomes an interactive experiential art installation. The lowered end of String can safely be tugged thereby altering the number and length of the waves and their place in space.
The String also plays with itself, seeming to have a life of its own and strives to reach equilibrium and harmony. It takes up its own slack by twirling itself into little “fingers” of string which branch out into beautiful, fractal-like growths
Various filaments are passed out to participants. The filaments are tied to the String in many ways, each has an impact on the overall display. These filaments can be relocated or otherwise manipulated by participants throughout the night, every quick interaction creates a new experience.
Lighting is the key to the visual effects. Participants pan through lighting effects that alter color, intensity and speed of the art.
Unlike art, science can be explained with facts. The following information addresses the physical properties of the art experiment for those that want to learn more about the phenomenon they are experiencing and the problems as I understand them.
The wave form before you can be made smaller or much larger. However, the size and duration of the wave form is limited by the motor’s horsepower. Two factors that affect the size of the wave form are the weight of the filament and its stiffness. A stiffer filament produces a larger wave. A heavier filament has more momentum as centripetal force carries it away from its axis of rotation thereby increasing the size of the wave.
The weight of the filament and its aerodynamic properties determine the amount of work the motor must perform. Wheel wobble causes additional work if the wheel is not balanced and true. Therefore the size and stability of the wave is limited by the motor’s horsepower. When the motor is overworked, it fails.
This motor spins 2 filaments tied together in the middle with a total length of 26 feet; 200 pound test deep sea fishing string and a metallic woven tube. These filaments span a distance of only 14 feet. The filament’s properties also determine how the light will refract off of it. A wide filament is easier to see, metallic filaments add Pizzazz! Filaments that create excess wind drag are also a problem that has been removed. Additional smaller pieces are tied onto the string creating the “Whippers” and “Twirlers” that make the piece more interesting.
To my surprise, the speed of the motor does not impact the size of the waveform. I prefer a motor that spins at 900 Revolutions per minute. The timed lighting effects are synchronized to this speed. Higher speeds are not necessary and often result in problems, while lower speeds are less impressive.
The piece uses xenon strobes and various LED lighting fixtures. The xenon strobes produce crisp stop action effects while the LEDs produce the illusion of fishnet effects, wide color changing ribbons and rainbows of continuity.
The key factor to increasing the size of the wave is achieved by increasing the distance between the central axis of the motor and the point where the filament is attached (its radius). The revolving wheel is a 26 inch diameter bike wheel with additional spokes extending the point of attachment outward creating a 48” diameter throw. Look closely at the wheel, it’s an art piece in itself. Can you see the hand holding the string?
Of all the problems removed, one was essential for success. If a motor it spinning at 900 revolutions per minute and a string is tied between it and a stationary point, what prevents it from winding up? Removing that problem was my biggest achievement and I have a patent pending on that technology. I had to design something capable of counter spinning at 900 RPMS. The answer is simple, I use a Callor-Brand Counter Spinning Microscopic Motor at the end of the string.
The piece was developed over a 20 month period (this is version 14). I am so proud of this creation, she is my baby. With each installation, more is revealed. Her simple yet intelligent design has auto correcting features. She naturally finds frequencies that are harmonious, she spools string in order to maximize efficiency while creating intricate detailed “whipper” displays and she has never tied herself into a knot. I can think of no better example that blends art with science in a 3 dimensional interactive experience.
This is the small version. I have a much larger and more impressive piece that is more suited to an outdoor venue and we are planning a USA road trip tour this summer. We have 6 planned events over 3 months with spontaneous appearances in city parks and public campgrounds along the way.
I really love this piece. If you do as well, please spread the word and share this page. Contributed monies will help fund the tour as well as provide funding for the next piece; a 20’wide 80’tall “Tornado” that whisks images up, down and around its swirling tower.
Thank you for your support,