Gabriella Levine
Genevieve Hoffman

In the future gardens will grow on motors

"Crude Landscapes: In the future gardens will grow on motors" is a data-driven sculpture in which light nourishes a dynamic landscape of magnetically-generated ecosystems

Basic Analog Circuits,Mechanisms and Things That Move,Sustainable Energy

This project is the first in a series of works entitled Crude Landscapes. It deals with the translation of naturally occurring energy into lifelike properties within an inorganic built system. The project suggests that elements derived from natural phenomena are not lost through digital conversions but recreated in another form, and even when filtered through the sieve of technology, retain their organic qualities.

This particular piece transforms light energy into motion. It is comprised of anthropomorphic structures filled with ferrofluid, a magnetic liquid that takes on the form of nearby magnetic fields. The ferrofluid’s reaction is driven by electromagnetic pulsations informed by data from the solar panels that power this piece. This technologically-generated motion waxes and wanes along with the environmental light conditions. The light both supports and determines the motion. The animated nature of the synthetic, though morbid landscape and the data-driven fluidity, reveals that the digital world is not necessarily an alienating force but rather a bridge between the human internal world and the natural external world.

For the past month we have been logging the voltage levels from a large solar panel. We used this data to drive interactions with electromagnetic fields and a landscape of ferrofluid. The notion of solar energy as sustainable became clouded by the reality that it is both unpredictable, spatially consumptive, and time-consuming.

Our ideal audience would encounter this in a gallery setting, in which the piece would span from wall to wall along a horizontal plane on ground level.

User Scenario
The viewer becomes an onlooker of an eerie, monochromatic landscape of anthropomorphic creatures. Though cold and dead from afar, when approached, it becomes clear that there is fluctuating, yet unstable motion occurring throughout the visual field. The growing and shrinking of the puddles of synthetic liquid in each bulb sprouting from the artificial landscape are indeniably life-like. The connected solar panels provide the connection between the energies at play in the piece, and the forces that ultimately give this ecosystem life.

glass bulbs, vinyl tubing, rare earth magnets, ferrofluid, arduino microcontroller, datalogger, gravel, gel, ink, wood

The notion of solar energy as sustainable is confusing and mysterious. It requires large amounts of space and time in order to harness even enough energy to run this prototype of a piece. Even when natural phenomena are turned into statistics, when put back into a dynamic system, the natural qualities are not lost from the system.