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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Joe Gilbertson and Art+Com

  • On April 8, 2009


About once every couple of months one of my students sends me a video of ART+COM‘s mechatronic installation, made up of 714 metal balls for the BMW museum. ART+COM describe it as “a spatial translation of a design process. Seemingly weightless and guided solely by the power of the mind, the sculpture moves through a cycle of free abstractions and typical BMW vehicle forms.”

I just came accross the work of Joe Gilbertsons formally similar kinetic installation and thought I’d place the two side by side. While one is majestic in its use of precision motors and software systems, there is something equally majestic in Gilbertson’s use of simple motors and cranks.


  1. appearently those ball-installations are quite on the run now. ibm had something similar at their cebit stand.

    i think the first one who did this was christopher bauda from whitevoid:

    actually, it was a diploma thesis and his supervisor was Joachim Sauter from art+com. somehow it’s a bit shameless to be »inspired« by the creations of your students in such a way without crediting them at all. but it appears to be legal still.

  2. To be honest I think electric moons probably wasn’t first either and I don’t necessarily care which was the first field of moving balls. The whole get something small to be intelligent with some kind of light or movement or sound etc and then “multiply till beautiful” is a little cliche joke we make at the Bartlett. I think this work is a classic example of how this can be successful.

    Exchange of ideas and inspiration goes both ways between students and tutors, I often feel like I’m giving my best ideas away but at the same time, if I kept them to myself I probably wouldn’t get round to them. On the other foot students often make something with some potential and then head off in other directions and the tutor might think theres more legs on an idea. Ultimately its hard to always determine where an idea comes from in academic development of work. Whitevoid are doing well for themselves whether or not this was a ripoff and It would be hard to argue that Art+COM are not great designers themselves so the juries out but thanks for your thoughts.

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