Between the Currents

Between the Currents is a sculpture inspired by the invisible forces of nature, the hidden math behind them, and how unexpected beauty emerges when diverse sets of information converge. It brings hidden scientific beauty to life. 119 moving origami elements are hung from a floating frame, forming a 7 x 17 flowing surface. Invisible forces of nature pass through the sculpture as waves of information, moving elements in gentle harmony as a vector-like flow field. As waves move through the sculpture, elements sometimes move together when forces are aligned, but sometimes move disparately, blooming into unexpected forms of color and shape. In these patterns, we observe the beauty that is created when diverse sets of information converge. 
The sculpture will cycle through animations showing the underlying mathematics of wave forces in nature.  An interpretive screen at the first-floor level explains the animations being shown, and displays the mathematics driving the forces for further understanding and exploration.  The sculpture is composed of 119 tyvek folded elements hung on a lightweight frame, forming a flowing surface. Each element is made of two movable arms, with a blue dyed origami Tyvek membrane folded between them. 

Two stepper motors control each element, one for each arm, totaling 238 motors. Each motor can move independently, controlled by a custom software animation. The 119 elements are attached to a rigid steel frame, which is hung from four wire-rope cables via cable-hoists – mounted to the ceiling of the atrium. The four hoists can be used to lower the frame, allowing access to the sculpture from the ground for maintenance and cleaning.  The sculpture weighs approximately 800 lbs total. It runs on 48vdc power, consuming roughly 250 watts of power.  A screen on the first floor-wall displays information about the animations, the science behind them, and further information on the development of the sculpture for an understanding of the process it took to create this piece. 

Inspired by the everchanging blueness found in both the sky and on a rushing water surface, each element is dyed a shade of blue. The three shades of blue are randomly distributed over the surface of the sculpture. The natural dispersion of color in unison with the gentle movement of the elements, creates a harmony where nature and mechanics intertwine. 

The flashspun tyvek membrane with its meandering fibers provides a translucent canvas with organic qualities. When rays of sunshine through the clear-story windows and directly onto the surface of the sculpture, the elements grazed by the light reveal a deeper, more saturated blue. 

Forces in nature move as information, information moves in waves. Whether in the form of water ripples, acoustic vibrations, stress/strain flows, electric currents, gravity, or words as people communicate - science and math help us understand how forces interact, and how those exchanges create beautiful reactions. We can illustrate and elucidate those flows to understand them, and make sense of the world in which we live.

Between the Currents is a sculpture, but it is also a process. We want to show that process, and make it part of the experience. It is important that students have access to a resource of deeper learning about what the piece is illustrating, and also what the process was to develop this sculpture. A video-screen mounted on the first floor wall will display the state of the sculpture in real-time, along with the scientific representations it is displaying.  Lastly, we will invite students to participate in the future of the sculpture - creating their own content showing forces in nature, which can be uploaded on the sculpture.

About the Team

  • Bill Washabaugh - Creative Director/Founder
  • Gwylim Johnstone - Creative Engineer
  • Katie Treidl - Creative Engineer
  • Heather Blind - Project Manager
  • Anna Torvaldsdotter - Creative Engineer
  • Alex Garcia - Creative Technologist