Kinetic Sculpture : Replication

Replicating an existing sculpture

Our second week of Kinetic Sculptures dealt with fine-tuning of what we learnt in the first week. With a basic knowledge of simple mechanisms under our belt, we were to choose among the artworks of contemporary artists and replicate a life scale model of the same. I have already discussed few mechanisms in the previous section which dealt with an 'engineers' approach. The teams and rules remained the same. 2 team members, 2 week. Our task this week went a lot deeper. While its important to learn how to build a sculpture, its even more important to know WHY to build it! But first, we chose to replicate Anne Lilly's Conductor/Composer. Her website describes her as follows:

Kinetic sculptor Anne Lilly uses carefully engineered motion to shift and manipulate our perceptions of time, space and energy. Her ordered and precisely constructed interactive sculptures move in strikingly organic, fluid and mesmeric ways. Employing opposing modalities -- analytical and intuitive, rational and emotional -- Lilly's sculptures elicit new connections between the physical space outside ourselves and our own private, psychological domain. They are usually fabricated in machined stainless steel, but require the viewer's touch to initiate movement: pressing clinical qualities against the sensuous response of each piece. Read more..

This sculpture now lives in the lobby of the Dana building in the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

This is trickier than it sounds! Of all the reasons that I could of, here's why chose this sculpture as my project: What intrigues me most in this Anne Lilly’s sculpture is the smooth and fluid movement of the individual components and its perpetual engagement with the observer even when stationary. The full metallic body of the sculpture gives it a mechanical look and the motion of the rings seem to mimic the motion of the planets (like the models one sees at a planetarium). In some sense, it depicts an attempt to project the constant movement and symmetry of the cosmos for me.


Applying the concepts learned in Week 1, I dissected the sculpture in many components. Our material would be metal, specifically mild steel, so there was a need of very precise measurements. We searched for the bearing that resembled the shape of a rolling pin, but failed to find a dealer. Hence, we decided to manufacture the joints on our own. The sculpture, hence, got divided into many more components, namely:

  1. 4 rings (32 cm diameter, 6mm thickness, MS)
  2. 4 Connecting rods (2 x 1ft, 2 x 0.5ft, 6mm diameter, MS)
  3. 1 Primary joint/rotator (19mm outer diameter, 5cm long, MS)
  4. 4 Secondary joints/rotators (19mm outer diameter, 3cm long, MS)
  5. 4 Ring holders (T-shaped, 2.3 cm long, 19mm outer diameter, 3 x 6mm holes drilled, MS)
  6. Metal base (2 ft long, varying outer diameter)

For facilitating the rotation among the joints, we used ball bearing which were easily available in the market. The specification were 17mm outer diameter, 6mm inner diameter, 5mm thick. The linkage of the ball bearings in the joint and how they interact with individual components was the challenge since the thickness of the bearing and their tight fit was a necessity in completion of the sculpture. All cylinders were lathed, polished to decrease the friction between individual parts.

Dimension of joints and subsequent assembly
1 Primary joint/rotator (19mm outer diameter, 5cm long, MS)
4 Secondary joints/rotators (19mm outer diameter, 3cm long, MS)

Dimensions and possible concepts, weight chart
Sculpture base (varying thickness, 19cm - 31cm - 50cm)
4 Ring holder (2.3 cm long, 19 mm diameter, 6mm drills longitudinal, 6mm cross)

The sculpture obviously does not match the smoothness and finish of the original sculpture. The bearing are of an inferior quality, the outer dimensions based on hunch and our craftsmanship not up to the mark. There was definite wobbling, and many loose ends that were ignored in the final sculpture. But this is the 1st iteration of the final sculpture that we managed to install:

Special thanks to Vivekanand sir, Dr Ranjit Konkar, Dr Jignesh Khakhar and workshop folks for making our endeavours easier.

Behind the scenes: