My test setup has been holding fine for 44 hours and counting.
The window in the Project Space, where the setup is at, is just outside my little studio. From time to time I would hear people walking through the Project Space and exclaimed things like, “Look at this!” or “Did you see this?” – “Oh wow it’s a razor blade!” – “Nice” – “How cool is that?” – “Oh I really love it!” – “But how … ?” – “They’re magnets!” – “Ah!”
And once a group of people ended up like, “Oh no we ruined it!”
I rushed out smiling, said to them that it’s okay and it’s really easy to put the setup back again. They said sorry, asked whether it’s mine, I said yes, and that I’m testing how long it could hold. Which doesn’t really make sense, I think, because logically if the magnets would do anything it would only magnetize the razor blade, and so instead of becoming weaker the attraction will only get stronger.
I also noticed that when I – while away from the setup – refer to it as “the magnet thingy”, people don’t really get it. When I mention the location, however, they would say, “Oh that! I was wondering! Is that yours?” – “That is interesting … At first I thought you were doing magic; but then, of course, it must be magnet” – So I guess “the magnet thingy” doesn’t mean anything – it’s the razor blade that catches attention. Of course. It is the razor blade that triggers memory in people when they see it. That particular shape has meaning. Perhaps the texts on it as well. The magnets, however, are just 2 tiny blocks of shiny metal.
People’s reaction, however, made me think a lot. It made me re-realize that perhaps Art is supposed to entertain. Yes, I am doing a somersault here to entertain them, not unlike a clown in a circus. A clown would entertain people by doing things with their body and their presence, whereas I would do it with tools and representation in my absence. But both a clown and I are actually doing somersaults in our minds in order to entertain.
In order to entertain? Perhaps not. Not only that, at least. Entertainment is just the surface of it – the somersault is only to attract people’s attention. To give the audience something to grab on and remember. A point of reference. The whole story then would come behind it, hopefully inseparable from the grip.
The idea for the setup initially came to me last year as I was thinking to use natural phenomena to redescribe social phenomena. After some research reading Science Activities for Children books, I collected some experiments that were interesting for me.
When I took off to read those books I already have the story in mind. I was specifically hoping to find out how to build my own Perpetual Motion Pendulum – you know, the one with a row of marbles that could go click-clack forever once you let the marble at one end hit the row of marbles (and the marble at the other end would hit the row back, et cetera). My point of departure was the thought that the Perpetual Motion Pendulums setup simply illustrate movements back and forth around a balance … or in order to reach balance in the very end (which might not be achieved at all in our lifetimes). In fact, back in 2001 I did use the Perpetual Motion Pendulums in my draft for a documentary (unfinished due to lost footage).
Anyway. Around April 2006 while staying at Zeno’s place (thanks to his generosity) during my research for the Diaspora project, I tried out the “Making Plastic” (from milk!) experiment, and for a while I tried to build the Perpetual Motion Pendulums with glass marbles, nylon strings, and melted-plastic glue. The “Moving Clip” experiment is one that lingered in my mind for longer.
I also tried to blow on the setup, imagining the wind coming from the small plastic fan. At a certain strength the wind will eventually blow the razor blade away from the magnetic field. So I just have to try to find out which strength that is. Also, the pull strength of the magnets in this setup is 2.6 kg each (5.2 kg for both of them? Not sure whether I can only just add them up like that). I actually have another pair in the shape of a small cylinder that says 9.9 kg as its strength. I wonder whether with that other one I wouldn’t have to use two in a setup. But will the shape be problematic?