False Creek Mandala

Buster Simpson

1998 (Upgraded in 2009) • False Creek, Vancouver, BC, Canada.  Vancouver Public Art Program with Concord Pacific.

Solar panels, microprocessors, computer lasers, strobe batteries, environmental sensors, stainless steel construction with light transmitting cursor. 

30' x 28' x 31'.

The movement of the sculpture in three dimensions, as well as temperature, solar power and barometric pressure, are sent wirelessly to shore and then continuously logged via the internet. Via these datastreams, continual interpretation of the environment's influence on the Brush creates an ongoing movie of closely linked images and sounds.

The movie's images center around a sundial presentation. A camera in the brush takes a picture once per hour throughout the day. These pictures are arranged around the center of the screen to form a visual record of the previous day's weather. Viewers can see at a glance how much of the previous day was dark and how much was light, as well as subtler changes from the effects of the weather on the sky and water. Periodically, on top of this sundial, an abstract calligraphic character is drawn by moving a virtual brush based on the previous day's weather data and the current conditions in False Creek. By mapping environmental data to writing motion, over time this visualization forms a new calligraphic language.

In synchrony with the image generation, sound is generated directly from the data stream itself; that is to say, the curve of the height of the tide against time, when sped up by a factor of approximately one million, becomes audible as an acoustic waveform. Thus, the basic sound generated is the tidal motion itself. This sound is then modulated in pitch by the same waveform at a slower time-scale, creating a modulating curve, identical to the tide, that is audible as the rise and fall of pitch. Meanwhile, the side-to-side rocking motion of the sculpture is performed in real time by controlling a comb filter’s delay; this changes the spectrum of the sound. In this way, the sound produced reflects the movement of the sculpture in False Creek by following (at various time scales) the diurnal rise and fall of tidal motion, the lunar cycle, and the annual cycle.

These time scales will make sense over brief contacts and then, through continual change, reward a longer engagement. Both the sounds and images created are derived from the same signals, so they read to viewers as parts of a coherent whole. The result is interlocking, long-term rhythms in continual evolution; the sounds and images have no beginning and no end, just like the tides themselves.

Design/Technical Team 2009:

Buster Simpson, Bryan Newson, Scott Massey, Fabrication Specialties, Norman Courtney, Scott Newell, Dale Stammen, Randy Jones, Andy Schloss, Todd Metten, Kevin Spitzer, Graham Stachowiak.

© 1998 Buster Simpson

Site Design by Todd Metten