wavelength, amplitude and frequency: Reuben Margolin

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Reubin Margolin’s Pentagonal Wave photographed by Dave Chatting, shot at the Kinetica Museum‘s Creatures Great and Small show, part of the Concrete and Glass festival, London. Here’s a video of Pentagonal Wave from the exhibition.

Even though he’s been making complex and huge art machines locally (San Francisco Bay Area) for over a decade, I hadn’t encountered the astonishing work of Reuben Margolin until I saw this short video segment on Make TV, where he explains who he is and we get a quick glimpse of his work and shop:

From that video, I only had the impression that his art machines were largely wood-centric, and being a girl who loves her metal machines, it took me a minute to dig into Margolin’s work — and I’m ever so glad I did.
In December of 2008, Margolin combined forces with Technorama Science (in Switzerland) to create one of the largest and possibly the most complicated mechanical art machines in the world. Measuring 25 square meters, Margolin’s Magic Wave contains more than 50,000 individually fabricated pieces, and demonstrates three characteristics of waves: wavelength, amplitude and frequency. Here’s the official video from the exhibition: note the complex series of slowly turning pulleys around the ceiling of the piece. All told, the Magic Wave contains 3000 pulleys, 5 kilometers of steel cable, and 9 motors.

And they made it all — Margolin and the Technorama staff. It’s exciting me to pieces just thinking about how much fun it must have been to work on this project; to make matters more frothy for me, Margolin thoughtfully put together this incredible video compilation of the making of the Magic Wave — and YAY for women in the machine shop! It takes a special kind of machine art geek (like me, and hopefully you, dear reader) to sit through this silent video detailing the construction process, but if you’ve ever run a lathe before (I have), you’ll thrill when you see an incredibly skillful lathe-fetish moment. Geek out with me on this:

Of course, the Magic Wave isn’t all you should see of Margolin’s work (as evidenced by the Pentagonal Wave at the top of this post). His website is in need of an update, but that’s okay: His YouTube channel is full of treats and art machines aplenty — many shot in his Emeryville, California shop. He’s created many different kinetic, mechanical waves (and the videos of them in action are small, but of higher quality than most of the YouTube clips). See even more higher quality videos and photos of his various (and recent) installations on Flickr.

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