Awakening | Burning Man Honorarium

Artists | Ryan Elmendorf + Nick Geurts
Completed | 2016
Materials | Steel, stainless steel spheres, electronics
Dimensions | 16′ x 16′ – the distance between the head and hands can vary
Funding | Burning Man, crowdfunding
Engineering | re:engineering + yetiweurks

Awakening is both a large scale articulating sculpture and an immersive camera obscura space that represents our coming into existence. As a large scale articulating sculpture the piece is comprised of three separate related structures; the head facing toward two hands rising out of the ground.  Climb through the ear of the giant head and you find a massive camera obscura inside!

Practically, a camera obscura is a dark space with a small hole in one wall that lets light in. Directly across from the hole the image from the outside world is projected onto the wall upside down. A precursor to modern photography, the camera obscura also lead Leonardo DaVinci to discover that the human eye functions in exactly the same way. In this immersive space, you see things differently, the world looks familiar but different.

The head and hands are 16ft tall and the hands are placed an “arms” length away from the head with palms facing inward, as if the giant being is looking at its hands for the first time. The joints of the fingers are 12″ diameter polished stainless steel spheres, and they are actuated by an elegant and innovative arrangement of stainless steel aircraft cable and motors. The structure of the hands mimic the anatomy of the human hands, with the outline of the steel plates representing the skin of the hands and the negative space within following the shape of the bones.

Using optical lenses in the eyes, the head is a stereoscopic camera obscura that focuses light from the outside and projects an image onto the back surface of the room. Each eye has a colored filter, and participants are given cardboard 3D glasses to give the image 3 dimensional depth with the perspective of a giant being. The field of vision of the projected image is nearly 180 degrees vertically and horizontally, which gives the viewer a sense of immersion.

The human body is the most highly engineered object in existence, a machine of uncountable parts and unfathomable function. Its workings have served as inspiration for all of humanity’s greatest inventions. This work serves as an homage to two most amazing mechanisms in that machine: the human eye and hand. They represent what separates us/life from the rest of the universe, the ability to observe the world around us and manifest change in that world.

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