A giant mass rising up out of the burning sand, disguising its size with a cloak of mirrors and distorted forms. A thousand images of the sky, sand and everything in between, reflected a million times. Skewed views and unusual reflections make it seem as though it is warping its surroundings, creating confusion and affecting the ability to distinguish what is and isn’t there. Is it a mirage? An optical illusion, perhaps? Or a physical manifestation of something far greater in meaning? It could be, but actually it’s just a giant disco ball melting in the sun.
With its beginnings set in the humble meaning behind the infinity or ‘lemniscate’ (∞) symbol, Finding Infinity is as much about experiencing apparent physical endlessness as it is about looking inwards to our own possible limitless options for ourselves and our lives.
The Meaning of Infinity
Introduced by 17th century english mathematician John Wallis, the symbol was originally referred to as the lemniscate (meaning ‘ribbon’) by ancient greek mathematicians and philosophers. Wallis reintroduced the symbol to represent the mathematical concept of infinity: a quantity bigger than any number. the word ‘infinity’ comes from the latin word ‘infinitas’, meaning boundlessness. [image src]
Infinity in Different Cultures:
Through the ages, different countries and cultures have used the infinity sign to represent many concepts and ideas. In ancient India and Tibet, the infinity symbol represented perfection, dualism, and equality between male and female while in the occult tarot the infinity symbol is found on the magician card and represents equilibrium or the balance of surrounding forces. [image src]
Popularity of Infinity:
The infinity sign represented in jewellery encompasses the idea of forever and although the concept of infinity or eternity cannot truly be grasped, it represents the desire for something to be everlasting. For this reason the sign has come to represent everlasting love and friendship, particularly in the form of jewellery and tattoos. [image src]
The above manipulations were created using a combination of Grasshopper and Rhino, to experiment with the literal form of the infinity symbol in a 2D and 3D format. Manipulating the symbol in this way helped me to understand new design techniques and systems.
Rather than creating a proposal that took its physical inspiration from the Lemniscate itself, I decided to look instead into the concept of infinity and how to represent that in a tangible way. My first idea lead me to mirrors, and the possibilities they hold – especially when reflections reflect each other. One way I experimented with this was to create a mirrored cube, and test with objects, lights and angles to discover how the feelings of infinite space could be created.
I further developed this research by looking into existing installations (both at Burning Man and in the wider world) which used mirrors for different reasons, and analysed what the effect would be on the user/viewer.
Essentially, the key design consideration for a mirrored installation is the effect of the reflections, which are controlled by the angle of the mirrors to the users. I then looked into creating a design which could use the multiple angles of the reflections of multiple mirrors to create the best sense of infinity. These designs were in the form of geodesic solids as well as a type of Mirror Maze.
Ultimately, however, these basic forms were not creating the type of space or experience that I had envisioned, so I took my research into a more physical direction and focused on creating simpler versions of mirror infinity by simplifying its form crafting a small-scale model out of mosaic mirrors:
On creating this model, it became clear that there could be a more abstract way of approaching creating infinity using mirrors, as the effect that the model had was not dissimilar to that of a Disco or Mirror Ball.
My initial idea was for a smashed disco ball which I looked into by digitally smashing a disco ball in Rhino. This was done my manually exploding a mirror ball type form and pulling pieces away from the main mass, to mimic physical destruction.
Night and Day Renders
Fragmenting this tiled sphere inspired me to look into manipulating its form in different ways and I came across an art installation of ‘Melted’ Disco Balls. Given the hot temperatures of Burning Man Festival I thought this seemed an appropriate way to deform an otherwise standard object.
Installation by ROTGANZEN in collaboration with Zara
An initial model designed to test a basic structural form and mirror tile arrangements/fixings onto it. At this point it was decided that acrylic mirrored tiles would be necessary due to the significant weight of glass mirrors and would also require a secondary structure to span the lengths between primary structural supports.
My hope for Finding Infinity is that it will inspire people, to see so many reflections of themselves and their surroundings can help to rethink the things we consider to be certain and show new ways of looking at them. There are so many opportunities that can be taken, paths that can be followed and choices that can be made…it only makes sense to try to see things from every angle.
by Georgina Gilbert of Studio DS10, University of Westminster