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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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David Rokeby – Cloud

  • On December 12, 2007


One project that caught my eye from Regine’s posts covering the VIDA awards was David Rokeby’s Cloud Installation currently suspended in the Great Hall at the Ontario Science Centre. One hundred identical sculptural elements, arranged in ten by ten grid, are rotated at slightly differing speeds by computer-controlled motors. The elements slowly shift in and out of synchronization. When the motors are just out of sync, huge waves ripple across the space. When completely in sync, the work appears almost solid then suddenly almost invisible. When far out of sync, the sculptural elements float in apparent chaos. Cloud creates constantly shifting fields and patterns in the space of the Great Hall, playing with the tension between chaos and order, between scientific theory and human experience, and between objectivity and subjectivity.

Cloud is large arrangement of identical simple elements. The smallest elements of the work are a pair of thin acrylic planes crossing each other perpendicularly on their short side. One is clear, the other is a light blue grey. Six sets of these planes are arranged in identical orientation along an acrylic shaft. A stepper motor slowly rotates each shaft. 100 of these motor shaft sets are set up in a 10 x 10 configuration to create an open form. The 100 units are identical, replaceable and interchangeable. They are attached to a 10 x 10 grid of aluminum. All motors are connected to a computer which maintains the desired relationship of rotations speeds and positions.


There are three distinct states of organization of this structure. When all rotations are identical, the structure resembles a solid, both subjectively and formally. As the rotations shift away from this solid state, the structure melts into a liquid-like flow, with waves clearly traversing the structure. Beyond a certain point, the relationships between the rotations becomes unclear and the structure resembles the random incoherence of a gas. The transitions between identifiable states reflect the transitions of melting, freezing, evaporating, condensing and sublimating.

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