Foucault’s Dream

Submitted by David Griggs

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Client: Augustana University

Location: Sioux Falls, United States

Completion date: 2016

Artwork budget: $190,000

Project Team

Artist

David Griggs

David Griggs LLC

Artist

Scott Parsons

Damn Fine Art

Industry Resource

Silo Workshop

Silo Workshop

Overview

This is a functioning Foucault pendulum in the stairwell of a new Science building at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, SD. Three stories above the stairwell floor, the pendulum’s cable emerges from a void in the ceiling. Underneath that void is a colorful sphere of hoops below which a series of iridescent rings descend to forming a conical shape demarcating the swing of the pendulum. The design also features an illuminated glass disk, along with a tiered terrazzo floor with embedded LED lights that sequence as the pendulum swings.

Goals

This work was inspired by the scientific instrument of the pendulum, as related to the motions described in the physical play of orbits and spheres. These motions are evident in everything from subatomic particles to the orbits of comets and planets. The project makes visible these curvilinear motions as they repeat throughout the artwork, echoing this same movement as in the procession of planets and stars. In this way, Science and art share a connective thread in the ways that they point to the interconnectedness of all things—a thread that binds the experience of this artwork with the larger realization of our unique place in the universe.

Process

We worked with the faculty and students of the University's Physics Department to integrate the motion of the pendulum into the design of the artwork. The pendulum's swing is made possible by a strong magnet embedded into the cast bronze "bob" of the pendulum, activated by a sequential magnetic field created underneath the glass disk. A universal connection allows for the "precession" of the pendulum, allowing for measuring time and demonstrating the rotation of the earth. In addition to these moving elements, the piece includes 45 LED lights embedded into the terrazzo floor that are sequentially activated by the rhythm of the pendulum.