What happens to all of your things when you die? Where do your clothes go? Who gets your books, your records, your knickknacks? Who will sit in the chairs you ate breakfast in?
This research paper is not a soliloquy about death, nor is it a proposal for ultra minimalism. This research paper is a piece of documentation for a lifetime of connections. Not just mine, yours too—everyone’s.
From the moment we are born, we become a node in a web. From the moment anything is created, that object, creature, what have you, joins a network with infinitesimal links depending on the scale at which it is being examined. A water molecule is a node, and it is made up of three nodes: 2 hydrogen molecules hugging 1 oxygen molecule. A drop of water is many water molecules, and an ocean is many drops of water.
Everything is connected. In the 60s, American social psychologist Stanley Milgram demonstrated that any two people in the world are separated by five personal connections, on average. I cannot posit a figure, but I will claim that everything and everyone that has ever existed in the world is connected, living or dead. Unlike this social network, I believe that in this interconnected global network across scale, nothing dies. When a living creature, human, or object no longer has a physical presence, it still lives in memory and legacy and continues to exist in this network.
What would it look like to map that out? I imagine that this entire network looks like this wall drawing by Sol Lewitt, with so many nodes that their links are indiscernible. However, maps are 2-dimensional representations of multidimensional spaces, places, and experiences. Everything in this world, everything we experience, and all our senses and feelings are reduced to a flat representation.
Caption: Sol Lewitt Wall Drawing #1180, installed at the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Luckily, I make multidimensional spaces, places, and experiences.
Mapping the world is a daunting task. There’s a lot of stuff going on.
The goal is to create a large-scale hanging kinetic sculpture of a very small part of our networked world. This installation is: participatory, dynamic, growing, evolving, fast and slow at the same time.
This project is an exercise in spatial cartography. The installation is actually a secondary goal. My primary goal is to devise a language to process networks to translate them to sculpture. Like a legend on a map, this framework becomes a system to create an infinite number of installations simply by examining different parts of the network.
This exercise bridges two lines of research: cartography and kinetic sculpture. My initial search queries included ‘spatial cartography,’ ‘3D mapping,’ ‘spatial mapping,’ and ‘cartography as art.’ Most of these queries were not fruitful, but ‘cartography as art’ began to scratch the surface. However, this signals that I might be investigating something novel.
In researching cartography, I moved to the fundamentals of cartography and map-making. I wanted to understand the history of map-making and the techniques and tools used to produce them. I found the most engaging analogies from a book titled Maps of the Imagination by Peter Turchi, who draws connections between map-making, world building, and writing.
In an office hour with Tom Igoe, he recommended a book about networks, Linked: The New Science of Networks by Albert-László Barabási, a network scientist. He explains network structures through the lens of mathematicians and scientists, which is providing great context for network theories.
I transitioned to examining artistic experiments in cartography and was rewarded with a wealth of examples. However, nearly all of the results are 2-dimensional and are content-heavy with the exception of Joyce Kozloff’s sculpture The Tempest. One book, Mapping it Out: An Alternative Atlas of Contemporary Cartographies, edited by Hans Ulrich Obrist, includes ‘maps of the future’ from a wide range of artists and non-artists that I found inspiring. Mark Lombardi’s Narrative Structures were also an early reference for abstracting narrative.
Caption: Mark Lombardi's Narrative Structures
The other half of my research in kinetic sculpture is very focused on Alexander Calder. Nearly all mobile art is inspired by his work, simply because he made so much of it, and it’s heavily documented. Other artists that I’m taking notes from include Sarah Sze, Studio Drift, Tomas Saraceno, David Judelson, Man Ray, Jean Tinguely, and more.
Here is a basic overview of my plan moving forward. I think I would like to do at least 1 prototype a week, and dial in and do 1 prototype a day over winter break. Let’s see how realistic that is.
Prototyping alongside 365 days of P Comp
Add physical computing
One prototype a day
Jan 24: Check in
Prototyping and playtesting
Feb 07: Sharing preliminary prototypes
Feb 21: Prep for Feedback session
Playtesting and prototyping
Crafting the design system based on prototyping experience
March 07: Alumni Feedback Session
Note: Is it possible to do this in person?
March 28: Demo Day
Work on presentation, crafting narrative
mid-April: stage full scale installation
April 11: Checking Timeline + Preparing Thesis Archive
April 25: Final Review to experts
Presentation to the public