NEAR UNISON is an installation that allows participants to visualize the harmonic relationships between them. Pairs of sit-on pendulum swings create several large scale harmonographs that scratch drawings onto the surface of the Black Rock Playa. The structure that holds these harmonographs is itself a physical representation of a harmonographic form that can be seen from a distance across the Black Rock Playa.
The harmonograph was a 19th century machine that was invented to explore the geometry of sine waves. It was soon developed into a popular parlour room toy that was capable of producing beautiful and delicate drawings simply by mapping the relationship between two swinging pendulums. By changing the lengths of the pendulums, their wavelength and oscillating frequency are changed. When the ratio of these two frequencies is something complex like 35:73, there is no discernible pattern, but as soon as it hits a simple ratio such as 3:5 or 2:3 a clear pattern emerges. The relationship between visual harmony and mathematical ratio is exactly the same those found in musical harmonies: the ratios that produce beautiful drawings are the same as produce harmonious musical chords.
The title ‘NEAR UNISON’ is derived from the set of patterns that occur when the ratio of the two pendulums is very close to 1:1, as will occur when people of a similar weight are using the interactive harmonograph. It is expected that the patterns produced by these interactive harmonographs will describe, in an abstracted manner, the similarity of all human beings, while emphasizing the subtle differences between individuals.
The overall form of the structure is also derived from a 3D harmonographic surface with a ratio that is in this ‘near unison’ region. A plywood structure supports pipes that trace the harmonographic lines through space to create a delicately curved sculptural form that sits directly on the Playa. Suspended from this structure are a series of connected pendulums that participants are able to ride like swings. When they are are used, these pendulums trace harmonographic patterns onto the surface of Playa. The drawings that are created will map the interaction between pairs of participants.
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