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Sunday, June 14, 2015

"Untitled" : A Performance Art Piece

This is project #3 from the Spring semester of my Junior Sculpture (or Block) program. Please watch this 1 minute video, and if you find yourself intrigued then you can read the "inside story" below. Enjoy!

I became aware of these "Drawing Robots" a few years ago, and thought that at some point I'd like to do something with them.  These little robots run on batteries and have a small motor with a short axle. At the end of the axle is a small yellow plastic disc mounted in an off-center fashion. As the motor turns the axle, the weight of the off-center rotating disc, creates a wobbling motion which then causes the robot to move in a circular way.

My goal was to make these little robots do something they weren't designed to do. In this case, to make sound. On one robot I substituted the pen-legs for a ping-pong ball, the spring from a doorstop, and a wire brush. This one became known as "the Sweep Bot". Also, I glued a short metal rod onto the "wobble disc" and added a nut to the end. This put substantially more weight further out from the center, and created a very exaggerated wobble.

The same enhanced weight arrangement was added to the second robot along with golf tees for legs. This one I named "Tap-Bot" as it literally tap danced when the motor was turned on.

The third robot was given the same weight set-up as the other two. Long, thin dowels were added for the legs. Bells were affixed to the legs and the whole thing was wrapped in a sheet of Mylar. This one I named the "Tall Bot".

The two short bots were placed in small wooden boxes with holes drilled into the sides. These enclosures amplified the sound produced by each one. The Tap Bot was especially loud as you can hear in the video. The Sweep Bot did produce a "whooshing" sound, but it was not loud enough. I purchased special light bulbs to use as footlights that were designed to change colors automatically or in response to a remote control.

In the video the flying bot finale was a complete surprise to my audience. When I'm working on a project I tend to keep some aspect of it a secret. I like to surprise my professors and the other students when it comes time for our presentation and critique. The professor who was grading my project said "I've been teaching a long time and I've seen a lot of  strange things. That was one of the strangest! I want to congratulate you Buck, on allowing yourself to get so...weird".

I was at loss as to what to call this piece. In the past I have stated that naming something "Untitled" can be a bit of a cop out.  But in this case I made an exception.

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