Windmills and metronomes meet in a new kinetic sculpture

The rhythm of the wind by Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Canet. Based in Sancy, France. Photograph by Mar Canet. Photo courtesy of the artists.

Somewhere in the French countryside, a windmill spins at the right time with the wind flowing through it. Windmill and metronome in equal parts, this mechanical mash-up, called The rhythm of the wind, is the brainchild of the artist duo Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Canet, who create works that draw our attention to hidden information in unusual ways. According to Guljajeva, “All [of our] the works have a similarity: we do [the] invisible visible, and even audible, distorting meaning and adding poetry to the concept.

The rhythm of the wind This is not the first time Varvara and Mar have worked with metronomes. They first used them in a play called The rhythm of the city to illustrate geolocation data transmitted by social media applications such as Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. The piece consists of a series of hacked digital metronomes that move in response to a live data stream, rather than a regular time signature. The more people share tagged content in a particular city, the faster the designated metronome for that city works, providing the viewer with a real-time sensory experience of social media activity happening in multiple different locations at once.


Speed ​​of markets in action. Photograph by Mar Canet. Photo courtesy of the artists.

They apply the same process to global financial data by Market speed. This time around, the metronomes move according to the amount of real-time financial activity that is taking place in markets around the world. In a way, these works play on the idea of ​​a line of scrolling clocks on the wall, all set to the time in different cities around the world, but these works also give the viewer a new understanding of the data that might make them feel more connected to information than just seeing a graph, statistics or clocks.


A scarf knitted from a pattern generated by brain waves. Photograph by Mar Canet. Photo courtesy of the artists.

In addition to metronomes, they worked with other devices, such as knitting machines. Once again, they reveal never-before-seen information in a series of brainwave-based scarves. While the finished scarves aren’t necessarily kinetic or responsive like metronomes, they’re quite functional as garments that remind us that there’s a lot more going on around us than it seems.

Le Rythme du Vent in action at Horizons 2016. Video: Mar Canet

Now Varvara and Mar have stepped off the grid with The rhythm of the wind, a new work currently on display at the annual Horizons exhibition. This time it is not the digital information that travels in the air that they visualize or make audible, but the air itself.


Make plans to build The Rhythm of Wind. Photograph by Mar Canet. Photo courtesy of the artists.

The rhythm of the wind consists of a functioning windmill connected to a mechanism that uses the rotational energy of the fan blades to move a giant metronome pendulum back and forth. The speed of the pendulum’s movement – which Guljajeva says The Creators Project actually makes a ticking sound – is defined by the unpredictable speed of the wind. This subtle twist is meant to make the viewer unexpectedly aware of their surroundings when they feel the wind pick up or go out and see the piece in action. “People talk about [the] speed and direction of [the] wind, but nobody notices its rhythm, ”explains Guljajeva.


The rhythm of the wind up close. Photograph by Mar Canet. Photo courtesy of the artists.

There is a striking simplicity in this purely mechanical piece, and the fortuitous similarities between the shape of metronomes and windmills. It’s a wonderful contrast to Varvara and Mar’s earlier work with metronomes, as seeing these works side by side illustrates how the ebb and flow of human behavior mirrors the rest of nature. Perhaps what makes this work so effective is that metronomes are specifically designed to be predictable and objective. So when they are changed to be subjective based on real-time data, we suddenly see and hear evidence of the hidden displayed by their erratic behavior. As viewers, it is surprising for us to be made aware of these invisible influences, not only because we can be subject to them ourselves, but because we can also create them.

Click here to learn more about the artists.


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