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Afternoon Delight: Low-Tech, High-Concept – Making Wood Move in Waves


by Jerome Weeks 28 Mar 2011

These are not the usual kind of kinetic sculptures, with cute automatons moving their piston arms. Reuben Margolin’s hand-made pieces use wood, pulleys and string to replicate sine waves. They’re simple and devilishly complicated, and the results are almost dreamlike.

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Afternoon Delight is a daily diversion for when you’re just back from lunch, but not quite ready to get back to work. Check back tomorrow at 1 p.m. for another one.

Reuben Margolin is a Bay Area kinetic sculpture master who combines nature, science and art by using (mostly just) wood, cardboard, pulleys and string to replicate the sine waves that occur naturally (a caterpillar moving, spiral eddies, the ripples from a drop of water). This is not the kind of kinetic sculpture that has cute automatons moving their piston arms; Margolin’s hand-made pieces are both simple and devilishly complicated, and the results are dreamlike and delicate. Amazingly, they’re also completely mechanical. There’s no computer involved to control the thousands of separate pieces or their individual, fluid movements.

If you don’t have time for the 10-minute video, here’s the shortcut without any explanation or interview. It’s one of Margolin’s most complicated and beautiful works, Neko’s Nebula:

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