Morpho Tower / Two Standing Spirals (2007) Sachiko Kodama

Collaborator: Yasushi Miyajima (Sony CSL)

“Morpho Towers--Two Standing Spirals” is an installation that consists of two ferrofluid sculptures that moves synthetically to music. The two spiral towers stand on a large plate holding ferrofluid. When the music starts, the magnetic field around the tower is strengthened. Spikes of ferrofluid are formed at the bottom of the plate and move up, trembling and rotating around the edge of the iron spiral.
This new technique is called “ferrofluid sculpture” that enables artists to create dynamic sculptures with fluid materials. This technique uses one electromagnet, and an extended sculpted iron core. The ferrofluid covers the sculpted surface of the iron core that was made on an electronic NC lathe. The movement of the spikes in the fluid is controlled dynamically on the surface by adjusting the power of the electromagnet. The shape of the iron body is designed as helical so that the fluid can migrate to the top of the helical tower with the strength of the magnetic field.
The spikes of ferrofluid rotating around the edge of the spiral cone oscillate between large and small, depending on the strength of the magnetic field. The speed of the rotation can be controlled without motors. It is simply control by magnetic power.
In this work, we are trying to precisely activate analogue physical phenomena (fluid) by utilizing digital music metadata. To control the real time synchronization of the ferrofluid with the music playback, time series metadata are added to the music beforehand. The metadata consist of musical information, such as beat position, chord progression, and melody block information, and ferrofluid control information such as DC bias voltage and AC pattern. Each data record has a time stamp that indicates the timing of presentation. All data are stored in time-series order.
These time series metadata must be accurate for precise control of timing, so we can eliminate any time delay of the fluid movement. This precision allows us to calibrate the protrusion of the spike to reach its maximum size in sync with the beat of the music. As a result, the rhythm of the fluid movement coincides with the musical rhythm. And when there is no sound, the fluid drips back into the plate.
because the dynamic of two towers are involved, the complexity of surface patterns can be expressed as if the two towers were in a dialogue.
Fluid movement synchronized with the music, emulates breathing, and the condition of the fluid's surface emerges as autonomous but complex. We wanted to harmonize several opposing properties, such as the hardness of the iron and the softness of fluid, freedom in the fluid design and its natural restriction such as gravity. This work emerges as an autonomous transformation of the material itself: sometimes it seems like a horn, sometimes a fir tree, and sometimes even like the Tower of Babel.

(Public Collection)