Life of Tree

Submitted by Bill Washabaugh

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Project

Client: University of Utah

Location: Salt Lake City, United States

Completion date: 2018

Artwork budget: $450,000

Project Team

Artist

Bill Washabaugh

Hypersonic

Artist

Caitlin Morris

Hypersonic

Artist

Heather Blind

Hypersonic

Artist

Jeff Lieberman

Plebian Design

Overview

Life of Tree is a permanent kinetic sculpture in the lobby of the Crocker Science Building at the University of Utah. It is 30' tall, 15' wide, and 15' deep. It weighs approximately 1,200 lbs. It is made of steel, aluminum, springs, 3d printed plastic, a servo motor, and computer animation code.

Goals

Life of Tree is a kinetic sculpture that simulates a tree’s reflection in water; a metaphor for how all scientific theories are only a reflection of the underlying reality. Depending on the distortions of our theories, the reality is seen more or less clearly. The sculpture was inspired by the biological tree of life, which highlights the underlying connection between all parts of our natural world, linking patterns across seemingly disparate disciplines.The movement of Life of Tree embodies the scientific principles of resonance and frequency response - how systems exhibit a wide range of responses across the vast scales of space and time — sometimes known, sometimes hidden, and sometimes completely unexpected. Life of Tree creates a reflection of the natural world that keeps our eyes open toward the unknown.

Process

Life of Tree was inspired by past works including Alexander Calder’s tree-like sculptures, Natalie Jeremijenko’s Tree Logic, Andy Goldsworthy’s works, Janet Echelman’s fishnet structures, and more historical references to the tree of life and the motions of mass-spring systems.