The Sonic Articulation of Sunbeams

Bakken Museum Commission

Bakken Museum Commission – The Sonic Articulation of Sunbeams

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This a blog to document the project development for our commission for the Bakken Museum.

Project Proposal:

Artists Daniel Dean, Ben Moren and Emily Stover (The Center for Advanced Applications) propose to create a solar-powered acoustic sculpture. The shape of the work is based on a large-scale megaphone, exploring the act of collecting and amplifying sound by converting solar power into electricity to power small percussive devices. These small devices, or robotic “critters”, attached along a steel exterior of the sculpture’s body, produce intermittent percussive sounds in direct response to the amount of sunlight converted by solar cells. Our intention is to allow the energy of the sun to be articulated as sound through the attached “critters.” Its aesthetic and construction is reminiscent of the antique electrical devices found in the Bakken’s collection, connecting its green energy operation to the museum’s educational mission. Visitors can walk around the sculpture and experience the sound in different ways or feel the vibrations that cause the sounds. Visitors can also control sound generation by using their hands to cover the solar cells, minimizing sun exposure and therefore how often it activates and creates sound. Imagine visitors listening to the sound of the sun as its light brightens and fades over the course of a day. The clear acrylic boxes allow inspection of how the sounds are animated by the actions of the robotic critters inside them.

The sculpture will be constructed of patina treated steel panels coated in a protective finish. In-kind steel fabrication will be donated by designer/fabricators Nate & Erin Moren of Tandem Made. In the center of each of the sculpture’s panels, an small, clear acrylic box will house the solar robot components and kinetic device (e.g. buzzer, solenoid, or motor.) These will be closed loop circuits (sun > solar cell > capacitor > solenoid > action) that operate independently (see diagram.) The more sunlight collected by the solar cell, the more often critter activates and strikes the surface of the steel panels. Approximately 25 of these devices will be attached along the exterior. By customizing each solar cell housing, a variety of sounds can be created resulting in a solar symphony that changes with the passing sun. A small LED light will be incorporated into each device housing and will act as a visual cue for the origin of each sound.

The sculpture will be bolted onto milled crossed-wood beams leaving both the ends of the megaphone shape about 3 feet from the ground so that it has an skyward orientation.The sculpture will require little or no maintenance as all components tare self-contained and weatherproof. Security and reliability has been considered in relation to activity and weight (approx. 300 lbs total) to ensure safety and stability, as visitors are welcome and expected to touch the sculpture. With some collective effort, the entire object and its support can be lifted and reoriented within the green energy art garden roof allowing variety of interaction, spatial orientations, sound directions and solar power reception. We propose to do a reorientation bi-weekly during the course of the exhibition in consultation with the Bakken Museum staff. The reorientation will follow the sun’s cycles and allow the sculpture to dynamically articulate the sun’s energy through sound.


Written by danieldean

April 24, 2011 at 3:36 pm

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