3D UNIT VIII: Dynamics

Project VIIIH

Natural Forces


studio fundamentals: To understand and experiment with the elements of "time, change, and motion" in the construction of three-dimensional forms.

concepts: To explore how sculptural form can be understood as the product of dynamic forces. To understand the potential and kinetic energy available through natural systems and real-world phenomena.

technical: To introduce a range of methods for creating kinetic sculptures.


Project Overview Your challenge is to create a kinetic sculpture that is powered by some "natural" phenomena such as wind movement, the flow of water, gravity, etc.

Project References

Lew Alquist, Umberto Boccioni, Hans Haacke, Doug Hollis, Ned Kahn, Laurie Lundquist, Vollis Simpson, Robert Smithson, Paul Stout, Art at the Exploratorium, Whirlygigs and Papalotes.
Vocabulary kinetic, dynamic, aeolian, solar, photovoltaic, hydraulic, pneumatic, radioactive, phenomena, friction, airflow, turbine, whirlygigs, waterwheels, potential energy, entropy, inertia


Materials for this project are open-ended.


1. Before coming to class read the concept area of Natural World and the Unit VIII Discussion on Dynamics in the 3D matrix. Check out the Unit references.

2. Do some research in the library and on the Web in the area of "Kinetic Sculpture." Look in particular for sculptures powered by natural forces (as opposed to electric motors and the like).


a) Make some initial "thumbnail sketches" of some kinetic sculptures you feel were successful from your research.

b) Identify and design the key features that will make up the mechanical components of your sculpture. What will you use as the "motive force?" Consider the following as possible forces to harness: a garden hose, wind energy, a steel marble at the top of a series of ramps, a dropping weight, gases that expand when heated, etc.

c) How can the mechanical motion of your sculpture be integrated with the imagery you have selected? What materials, colors, supplemental surface markings, types of connectors, symbolism, figuration are appropriate?

d) Using your initial research, your thumbnail sketches, and your finished sculpture as resources, write a page that discusses your ideas and the final project. Put this page into your notebook.

Critique Ideas


When you have completed your sculpture, pair up with another artist and trade critiques. Consider the following:

1. Describe the techniques used to create the sculptures and explain how various aspects of the problem were addressed such as material choice, the harnessing of natural forces, the integration of mechanical and aesthetic issues, etc.

2. How does the kinetic sculpture compare with others you have seen?

3. Discuss ideas the artwork seems to communicate. After some sharing of interpretations, attempt to describe the effect of the work in one sentence. (This artwork is about...)



Your notebook should include the following:

1. Evidence of your research (print-outs from magazines, web searches, interviews with kids, teachers, young parents, etc.).

2. Your design process (drawings, computer-printouts, photos, etc).

3. Supplemental materials (receipts, notes about techniques or materials)

4. Documentation of the final work and, if possible, a video clip of your kinetic sculpture in operation. Consider translating video clip into "Quicktime" movie suitable for viewing over the Web.

The above project was developed by Dan Collins.

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