The Bouncing Infinity Gadget - CODAworx

The Bouncing Infinity Gadget

Submitted by Sarah Gonsalves

Client: Burning Man Arts; Love Burn Arts

Location: Black Rock City, NV, United States

Completion date: 2023

Artwork budget: $85,000

Project Team

Honorarium

Burning Man Arts

Honorarium

Love Burn Arts

Overview

Created initially for Burning Man, this artwork is the realization of a childhood dream — colored with grown-up ruminations on life. A human-powered kinetic machine combines industrial equipment and leisure time objects and expresses the juxtapositions of work and play that fluctuate with time, resources, culture and health. Comprised of two connected 24’ tall, steel and Lexan towers, it utilizes a grain bucket-elevator to toss hundreds of colorful bouncy balls from on high to bounce chaotically in splash of movement, color and sound. The tiny spheres make analog music as they fall and bounce off cymbals suspended inside. The two tower structures are connected by an infinity loop for the superballs to roll back to the buckets and continue their never-ending journey, making a spectacle. One tower, dubbed the “Bounce Jar” is elevated to provide an exciting view from below. The sculpture is adorned with murals, poems and secret messages relating to the themes. The spheres symbolize any number of things one can imagine as they did for me when I was a kid: ideas, time, planets, souls, traffic, problems…the list goes on. One thing is certain, when the machine is activated and the cymbals ring and ding as the balls tumble down, cheers and laughter abound from everyone around.

Goals

I intended to build a machine to toss superballs (the kind you buy from a gumball machine) from on high and watch them bounce, which I did as a kid all the time at home. But I had to make the whole thing contained, so they didn't become M.O.O.P. (Matter Out Of Place) at Burning Man, because we have to leave the Black Rock Desert cleaner than when we arrived. I also wanted a gorgeous, tall structure with hints of a larger story behind the sculpture itself. I wanted it to be human-powered so people could interact with the machine and see their effort and energy transferred to the machine and thus be directly involved in creating the spectacle. Burning man emphasizes interactivity in their selection process so I created many opportunities for interaction. My passion is to spread joy and creativity through art and interaction is a powerful way to do that. So this one you can touch, activate, investigate, walk around and under, read poems and the storybook, decipher secret messages, leave messages, watch and listen to the sculpture. It also provides wayfinding because it is tall, colorful and lit at night!

Process

After earning an Art Honorarium from Burning Man Arts, I designed and built V1 in 2019 - called "Bounce Back". After the Pandemic, I decided to rebuild the installation on my own dime, to add interaction opportunities, change how the music was created and install view chambers so you can see the gears and drive components at work. Everyone involved volunteered their time (except the engineers who were paid). Over time, the ideas morphed and I saw that there was a tension between work and play going on and I emphasized that, as this tension is very relevant to mine and a lot of people's lives. When the original sound system broke, my husband suggested cymbals for analog music and I incorporated that idea! I had help with certified structural welding, some finish details, and the final engineering analysis to show my design was indeed safe and stable. My volunteer art crew helped me with certain details and a lot of lifting, carrying and holding parts and some painting and hardware installations, etc. It also took heavy equipment operators to lift or lower and get it on trucks for transport! I consider every volunteer as an invested creator on this project! The Burning Man Arts Team supported with money, placement and equipment! I am forever grateful to all who helped.

Additional Information

This project grew and morphed from the original installation due to challenges in the original design, because of feedback from people who experienced it in 2019, and from own desires and imagination to explore new themes and story lines that kept creeping in. It has been a huge learning experience to my creative process and growth as an artist. I also endeavored to teach skills to any volunteers who were interested. My original art crew was mostly women, then I had some teens and some men join in year 2 and I taught people how to weld, use power tools with a variety of materials, and paint with different mediums and substrates.