Eyes of the Kinetic Beast – Part 1

Welcome back! Herein begins the first part of our journey to the final product!

During our consultation with Cheryl, she pointed out that the hierarchy of our model was messy, thus distracting the viewers from the key elements of the piece.

She also noted that the movement of the fish skeleton did not reflect enough of the animal and also did not work well because of the scale.

So, it was back to the drawing board to come up with a new concept for our clownfish! We wanted it to be the dominant object in the installation because of its relation with the sea anemone and its movement could be further explored.

We started to research on ways which we could better recreate the movement of a fish.

( Start at 7 Minutes)

These were the kinetic sculptures which we were studying. These sculptures seem to easy to make initially, however, they did not represent the movement we wanted to capture as it only  moved vertically instead of horizontally (the movement of a fish).

As we better understood the mechanics, we were able to come up with a working prototype to have a horizontal movement.

This is a breakdown of how our mechanism works. Essentially, instead of the weights being the wooden/metal objects hanging (as seen from the video), the weights are now placed at the side, to provide tension for when the string is being pulled.

In the second image, as the strings are being pulled in a certain direction, some strings are being pulled more than the rest, thus, resulting in different displacements of the block as seen from image 3. This movement can be seen from image 4, when the block is being shifted.

Tension is always needed for the blocks to return back to its original position, so that the cycle can repeat itself again.

Thus, we begin the creation of our prototype!

First, we had to build a frame strong enough to contain the model as we would need heavy weights to act as a tension on the string.

We then attached wire mesh to the side of the frames so that we had something to thread the cords through, as well as suspending the fish structure in air.

As this is only a prototype, we used foam as a representation of the clown fish. We attached fishing line (how apt) to the foam and connected it with the frame.

If you look closely, you can see that the foam has 3 intersecting points where the fishing line has been threaded through. This is to ensure that the foam stays in place and does not flop.

It was also important to get the measurements correct as alignment is crucial in making the model smooth. This can be seen from all of the letters and markings on the wooden frame.

Next, we had to find weights capable of creating tension on the fishing line. We stuck pieces of wood together, incrementally adding blocks till the desired tension is reached.

When dealing with this many cords, it was easy for the cords to get mixed up, which would result in the wrong tension for different segments, or even the entire model not working. Thus, we practiced good cable management by threading the cords though a small segment of perforated board and we labeled each cord that passed. This ensures that when we are adjusting the tension for each of the segments, it would be a lot less hassle and guesswork.

Different materials were considered during the selection of the board to contain the string mechanism (the Brain, as I call it). We tried using thick art card, but the string kept cutting through the board, resulting in a lost of tension! Eventually we used a thick piece of corkboard to ensure that the string does not move about.

This is the result of all our careful planning!

However, the weights kept getting obstructed by the wooden frame, and after using the mechanism for awhile, the fish slowly started to lean towards the left side as there was no limit to how much string could be pulled.

Next, we embarked on the Starfish. This mechanism was a development of my initial idea, which was to have something similar to a puppet. We attached strings onto metal rings of different diameters and hung them above the fish.

This would emulate the ‘jellyfish’ movement, where by all of the limbs are moving and warping in sync.

We brought our new model to Cheryl to get more feedback on what were the things we could further improve. She liked the mechanism, however, she left that the representation was too literal.

The starfish was also a distraction for her as she felt that it could become an SO rather than an SD. She mentioned how the starfish could be gliding across the bottom or the top of the frame, which would make our model more interactive and immersive.

We will be building upon these comments in the next post!

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