The humble ball bearing–that herald of modern industry–is basis for this lovely kinetic sculpture, on view at Berlin’s Esther Schipper Gallery this month. Installed atop a small motor, thousands of the tiny steel balls move in random formation, creating organic swirls and Turing patterns that quickly dissolve as the table tilts.
The sculpture is called Unstable Matter, and it was built by a pair of Finnish artists named Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen. A thin plate of MDF supports several thousand bearings, just enough to cover about two thirds of the five-foot-square table. As the motor moves, the bearings stream toward the floor, reaggregating into new variations. The video above gives us a sense of what Unstable Matter actually sounds like–a cacophony of cold clicking that comes in waves as the table moves.
Unstable Matter is only one of several interesting pieces on view in the show. In one room, Grönlund and Nisunen have built a forest of wires, each starting at the ceiling and floor and meeting with a gap in the middle–perfectly balanced by two magnets at their ends. In another room, super-sized versions of Swiss watch innards whirr silently in protective glass vitrines. In another piece, a network of about a dozen vertical metal coils click and clack together as they’re stimulated by small electrical currents. It’s fascinating work, and it’s clearly meant to be seen in person. Let’s hope that Grönlund and Nisunen–who maintain a studio in Helsinki–will eventually end up showing on this side of the ocean.