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Jan '07 - Jun '07

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# Sticky Masses

Jan 15, '07 3:37 PM EST

Our six week summer studio engaged the sport of bouldering. A form of rock-climbing, bouldering limits its terrain to a single boulder. The climber works without ropes and stays typically within a few feet of the ground. Individual hand and foot holds become the intense focus of the boulderer as they must read the surface, both visually and tactilely. The holds are so subtle that often a fraction of an inch provides the necessary leverage and friction. For this reason, the studio began with field research through lessons at a local gym as well as a weekend trip to boulder fields at Joshua Tree. Upon compiling a catalog of configurations and terminology each group mapped an individual boulder, focusing on a single path of holds. After modeling the surface in Maya, a second primitive was introduced. Rather than represent the climber, this primitive was more an abstract figure employed to demonstrate the forces required to traverse or ascend the surface.

The examination of topology through the physics of climbing allowed the studio to conduct an indexical study concerned with the describing of morphology through forces acted upon it. The professor, Jason Payne, often focuses his classes on the performance of forms and a Manuel Delanda view that forms are best described through a vectoral, relational model (as opposed to an undifferentiated Cartesian field). The output of the studio was 3d prints as well as line drawings that employed color and vector arrows as analytical tools.

My partner and I sliced our first primitive (the boulder) into a series of horizontal ribbons. This created a series of cantilevers intensifying forces where each ribbon met the second primitive. Hold conditions were then thought through the intersection of rotational forces as opposed to just representing gravity as a vertical force. Spending more time on micro conditions than the other groups, the various holds were translated into fluctuations of the ribbons.
-aaron

• cobra

You did an excellent job of emphasizing the connections, instead of focusing on the surfaces. The four typologies you explored, based on different common bouldering hand and foot holds, seem very literal in form. How do you think these will ultimately reveal themselves in future projects?

cobra

Why does it look like a transformer?

aha

The jury slammed our main model for being way too simple. They did't like to have something readable presented to them. But it wasn't about the form, we cared about indexically exploring the forces. To do so in the medium and time given, we kept many factors basic, and maybe we considered the individual holds too much in isolation. The last picture is of a model we did in the final week as a proposition of the future potential of the project. Its a hybrid combinging holds to see how they could compliment each other and also compund differences between the two primitives.

Our holds were highly intensional not literal. As I said earlier maybe they act too much in isolation which is what I think you are reacting. But to be honest there were too many groups that stumbled their way throught the physics aspect of the project by draping one primitive over the other. In particular, there was one project the professor and jury highly complimented for its "subtle", almost nonexistant connections. If you have enough points in your field you are bound to catch some sort of edge. This has NOTHING to do with the operation of a boulderer. The path of the boulderer is highly intentional as they move from one individual hold to the other. Look at the documentation of paths in a bouldering guide.

What impressed me most about the lessons out at Joshua Tree is the distance the climber must keep between them and the rock. This provides the leverage to catch edges with your feet (more climbing is done with your legs than your arms). The intuitive thing for the novice to do is to lunge their body forward to keep it tight to the climbing surface. When you do this you lose your connection, your feet slip and you scrape the surface until you hit the ground or a rope catches you.

Its happened a few times now. Projects set up the problem of indexing somthing beyond form such as physics, glow, or affect. Yet at the beginining and end of the review the jury will critique the project for its formal organization and in worst cases formal "beauty".

cobra

do you have a picture of the other piece in its assembled state?

cobra

I think the juries have a tendancy to critique the weakest parts of any given project in their eyes -notwithstanding particulars outside of the project scope. Here, maybe the articulation of surface. The connections are quite intentional, but the development of the project did not reach the point when these connections are integrated into a surface or pair of interacting surfaces. Right now, I would describe the pieces as being closer in logic to bolts and nuts in the way they are extremely specific to one another in their connectivity, yet isolated from any surface topology. This begins to forget the surface aspects of the project. Maybe that is the root of the question, with more development, how would this excercise begin to integrate into surface connections/deformations? Or, is that even important?

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