Celestial Mechanica

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Presented By:
Jessika Welz
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Tell us briefly about your project. Is it a work of art or does it serve another function?

Celestial Mechanica is a 16' tall, 50' diameter, kinetic steel art sculpture of the movement of the heavenly bodies, revolving around a fiery sun. As you approach Celestial Mechanica’s 16ft tall, 50ft diameter structure from a distance, you will immediately drawn to the power and beauty of the Sun, as flames lick and flash through it’s 6ft diameter steel shell. Getting closer, you will begin to hear the gears, chains, and motors responsible for choreographing the majestic planetary dance that occurs overhead. Ranging from 2 1/2in - 3ft diameter, the 8 major planets above will each be rotating around their own axis while simultaneously orbiting the sun. Each planet will be a unique artistic piece with its own tell-tale characteristics. Materials used to portray the individual personality and aesthetic of each planet will include: bronze, steel, aluminum, fiberglass, blown glass and of course, fire! At night, each planet will glow with a pulse of energy from within. Even the moons of Earth, Jupiter and others will be twirling loyally around their planets. Though smaller in scale, these moons will be painstakingly handcrafted so that there will be no trouble telling Io from Europa.

When did you start working on this project and how long did it take you to complete?

Work on the project officially started in early May, 2014. The project is still being worked on and will be completed by the second week of August 2014 in order to make it's debut at Burning Man 2014.

What was your goal in building this project?

As we soar through our solar system we are reminded daily of its omnipresence: tides ebbing and flowing, the sun rising and setting, and the waning of the moon. We’ve relied on the heavenly bodies for centuries to navigate, to farm, to reveal our very destinies, but few have had the opportunity to witness the elegant movements of our solar system. The goal of Celestial Mechanica is to represent this amazing system at the humble human scale; affording us the opportunity to tangibly experience the precision, grace, and brilliance of our solar system in its entirety.

Does your project help to solve a problem? If so what problem?

Celestial Mechanical doesn't solve any particular problem per se but we believe that it can serve as a catalyst for many people to take a step back and appreciate the bigger picture. We believe that encouraging this broader perspective will help those affected by the project avoid the problems that come with tunnel vision on whatever project they choose to tackle.

What makes your idea unique?

There are many aspects of Celestial Mechanica that make it unique. The concept for Celestial Mechanica was influenced by a traditional orrery. However, though beautiful and elegant, orreries tend to be smaller in scope and fail to truly convey the power, complexity and diversity of the solar system. By choosing a much larger scale (16ft tall, 50ft diameter arm rotation) we feel that Celestial Mechanica uniquely represents the scale of our solar system better than any other piece. Furthermore, we feel that the use of a multitude of materials coupled with varied artistic techniques and styles allow us to more accurately convey the awesome variety found in our cosmos. More specifically, by creating the planets out of steel, brass, fiberglass and blown glass alongside of fire and LED effects we hope to inspire a sense of awe that our solar system deserves.

In what capacity are you using bearings and what type of bearings?

The arms that will be holding the 4 large gas planets overhead will be rotating around the tower that runs up the center of the piece using a lazy-susan like bearing design. Those these bearings will be specially made for the project they are most similar to roller thrust bearings.

What is the most important thing you want people to know about your project?

This project is entirely run by a volunteer team of 20-30 people in support of the lead artist Jessika Welz. This team came together because we all feel passionate about the transformative power of art and truly believe that this piece can serve as a positive catalyst in many people's lives. We believe that Celestial Mechanica can inspire others explore the incredible worlds of science, mathematics, art and astronomy and how these disciplines can overlap in beautiful and unique ways. Finally, we know this piece will encourage people to pause and appreciate the wonderful complexities that that surround us day in and day out that people unfortunately miss because they are moving too quickly through life.

How will you use the $5,000 prize?

The $5,000 dollar prize will be used in a variety of ways. First, it will be used to try to bring Celestial Mechanica to other semi-permanent venues so that as many people as possible can appreciate it. It will also be used to re-invest into the artist space, The Box Shop in San Francisco, that was where Celestial Mechanica and many other awe inspiring pieces were created.

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