Motor attached to series of reduction gears – final gear fixed in concrete

One of Arthur Ganson's kinetic sculptures, shown above, is a motor that turns at 212 RPM. It's attached to a series of twelve 50-1 reduction gear couplings. The final gear is fixed in a block of concrete. If it were free to turn, it would make a complete revolution in about two trillion years.

Ganson gave a presentation at SALT in San Francisco last night. Here's Stewart Brand's recap, with links to videos of a few of his other mesmerizing sculptures:

As Ganson spoke, a tiny chair walked meditatively around and around on a rock on the right side of the stage, projected live onto a video screen. (Thinking Chair.) No part in any of his kinetic art pieces is superfluous, he pointed out; everything functions. The piece should be crystal clear and also completely ambiguous. That's what allows each viewer to create their own story.

He showed a video of "Machine with Concrete." On the left an electric motor drives a worm gear at 212 revolutions a minute. A sequence of twelve 50-to-1 gear reductions slows the rotation so far that the last gear, on the right, is set in concrete. It would take over two trillion years for that gear to rotate. "Intense activity on one end, quiet stillness on the other," Ganson said. "It's a duality I feel in my own being."

The next video, "Cory's Yellow Chair," showed a chair exploding into six pieces, which hover at a distance, then gently reassemble, and instantly explode again. Ganson said he wanted the chair pieces to explode at infinite speed, rest in stillness at the extreme, then reassemble gradually. The piece is stab at the question of "when is now?" Now is when the chair coalesces, but it doesn't last.

Some of Ganson's machines inspire people to sit and watch them for hours. "Machine With Oil" does nothing but drench itself with lubrication all day long. In "Margot's Other Cat" a soaring chair is set in random motion by an unsuspecting cat. The cat's motion is utterly determined; the chair has its own life.

During the Q&A, Alexander Rose asked the full-house audience how many of them of were makers of things. Ninety percent raised their hands in joy.

Arthur Ganson at SALT