Margolin’s first work of this ilk was created in 1996 after he noticed that a caterpillar moved much like a sine wave – a waveform that has equally repetitive oscillations. Over 15 years later he has gone onto construct increasingly complex kinetic works. Humans Invent caught up with Margolin to learn more about these compelling creations.
One of them is certainly a real fascination with nature. To see movement in water looks so beautiful
He believes there are three different sources of inspiration: “One of them is certainly a real fascination with nature. To see movement in water looks so beautiful. I also like math, I’m not great but I will use high school level trigonometry to solve certain problems for example. Last of all, I just really like making stuff, so a huge drive to make my sculptures is just to satisfy that need.”
After seeing two raindrops landing near each other in water and noticing the effect the joint disruption of each drop made on the other’s wave patterns, Margolin tried to model this with a moving wooden sculpture that took nine months to make. “Instead of expanding circles it is made up of expanding hexagons. I made it at a time when I had no money and more time and so the parts are almost entirely scavenged. The stair railing banisters make the levers and all the wood is salvaged. It was really time consuming.”
6,000 feet of cable moved by 500 pulleys and six motors are needed to create this hypnotic piece that you could quite easily watch undulating for hours on end.
However, when Margolin first saw it in action he was unsure whether he was pleased with the outcome. He says, “It doesn’t look anything like I expected it to look. When I first turned it on I was shocked because it didn’t look like what was in my head at all. It had a lot more of a visceral nature to it and a life to it and it was a little bit scary. Now I love it but my initial reaction was, whoa, what did I make?”
The largest sculpture he has made is called Nebula. It was commissioned by the Hilton Anatole in Dallas Texas and completed in 2010. It is suspended from the ceiling, 140ft in the air, in the atrium of the hotel. It weighs 14,000 pounds, is 100ft long and contains more than 14,000 bicycle reflectors. It is utterly mesmerising as it glows in soft light, moving like a stingray meditatively through water.
At a talk he gave at TED this year he said, “The world is not flat, nor is it round, it is wavy.” It’s a curious statement but it seems Margolin is referring to the repetitive, cyclical systems so often found in nature. Like waves, nature is a succession of repeating patterns.
Margolin expalins, “The more I’ve been studying waves for the last 15 years the more I see them everywhere. Everything has its ups and downs and peaks and valleys. Everything that has to do with a cycle in nature can be expressed as a wave. It seems like a really universal movement.”
The more I’ve been studying waves for the last 15 years the more I see them everywhere. Everything has its ups and downs and peaks and valleys
However, he also believes there are times when it is inappropriate to look for waves in life. He says, “It is equally important that you let the visual world and the immediate world hit you directly. If you are trying to look for a pattern then you are missing what is actually there.”
A couple of years ago, Margolin collaborated with acclaimed Australian choreographer Gideon Obarzanek for his dance company Chuncky Move. In place of motors, the dancers were tied to the strings, their dance movements in turn moving the sculptures.
You can watch some of his sculptures in action below, which you’ll find are incredibly therapeutic and calming to watch. But be warned, you could lose a whole day watching them.