Creating The Never-Ending Bloom


JOHN EDMARK: I am sometimes
asked, why am I so intrigued with spirals? What is it about spirals? And I think part of the
answer is that I just find them beautiful. But I think spirals also
make reference to the fact that you can never return
to the same place again, that nothing ever
does truly repeat. It goes infinitely small,
and it goes infinitely large. It’s endless. And we don’t know
where we came from. And we don’t know
where we’re going. And we’re just sort of this
piece of that larger picture. [MUSIC PLAYING] I’m john Edmark. I’m an artist,
designer, and inventor. And I teach at
Stanford University. I don’t think of
myself as a sculptor. Clearly, the works are
sculptures of sorts. But in a sense,
that’s a coincidence. They’re just a
medium that I’m using to ask and answer questions
that I am interested in. The driving
motivation of my work is a search for
unusual behaviors, things that are non-intuitive,
that maybe seem impossible. Math has a kind of
precision and a way of clarifying
relationships that allows me to achieve some of these
behaviors and patterns that I’m trying to create. I was working with
essentially flat puzzles. I noticed that that perimeter
never changed shape. It just changed in scale as
you added or moved pieces. And that then led to the notion
of stacking these one on top of the other and rotating
them relative to each other to cause these
patterns to appear in the form of plateaus that
can move up and down the tower. And I’m rotating it. Each time, I’m rotating
it 137.5 degrees, the golden angle, which is
based on the golden ratio. The golden ratio
is the ratio where the smaller is to the larger,
as the larger is to the whole. And it ends up, this is a very
powerful generative ratio. Anytime you create a pattern
using the golden angle, you’re going to end up
with spirals appearing. And it’s actually been
shown mathematically to be the best way
to distribute leaves on a stem to minimize overlap. Let’s say a leaf, or a petal,
of a seed gets put out here, the next one will get put out
137 degrees around over here. And the next one then gets
put out 137 degrees over here, and around, and around,
and around, placing these, and placing these. And when that’s done
in that fashion, you end up getting these kinds
of very evenly distributed seed heads. But the spirals are
actually a symptom of this process of placing
each bud 137 degrees around from the previous but. When I was wanting
to demonstrate this transforming
nature of the towers, I decided to animate them. And when I animated it, I was
surprised to discover that, not only did it show plateaus
appearing and disappearing, but there was this
very strong sense of continuity of the plateaus
moving down the tower or up the tower. About five years
later, I suddenly realized, oh, what
if I just keep on rotating the entire tower,
not just the next level. And in fact, blooms
are a direct descendant of a multi-year-long
sequence and explorations on these golden angle,
spiral geometry studies. I call them blooms
because they tend to have a sense of blossoming,
opening, and expanding to them as they animate. When a bloom is
animating, it’s endless. If a plant could
grow forever, it would kind be doing that
blooming behavior forever. The first thing I do is I have
to create the structure for it. And that is, of course, based
on using the golden angle. So I place where the
elements are going to be. And then I shape those elements. Depending on what I
want the behavior to be, I will then animate
them, making them expand, making them rotate. Blooms can be
filmed in two ways. You can actually run a
strobe that is synchronized to the camera’s film rate. Or, if you set the camera to
use a very short shutter speed, it will behave,
effectively, like a strobe. Because the elements
of the bloom are essentially frames
of an animation. If the frames aren’t
exactly aligned, you’re going to get
a non-smooth flow. The kind of the distortions and
warpings that you see happening are a result of me slightly
breaking the rule of rotating by the golden angle. And so they’re
moving back and forth in terms of hovering
around that angle. And that causes them
to have this kind of warped distorted effect. I think my work is
most successful when it evokes a sense
of wonder, when it sort of seems to be magical. What I’m trying to
achieve in my work is something that will
evoke that in somebody else, that they’ll say Wow. What’s going on there? How is that possible? [MUSIC PLAYING]

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