Paul Myoda’s “Glittering Machines” (2008-2013) dance between illusion and fantasy, attempting to tie dreams to shadows with their ephemeral reflections and deep graphic penumbrae. Yet these sculptures are more than just a whimsical engagement with the intangible play of light and dark. They are a view into the development of future beings. xxxxxxxx
The series of sculptures called Glittering Machines were inspired by one of Paul Klee’s watercolors called the Twittering Machine (1922) “because of its strong suggestion of interactivity with the viewer, and the relationship it sets up between sound and form” (Glittering Machines 2008-2013, pg. 2). Klee was a Swiss painter (1879-1940) who taught at the German Bauhaus school of Art and Design and wrote about form, design and color theory in “Paul Klee Notebooks,” a work that is considered an important influence on modern art. His paintings, in contrast to his writing, were inventive in technique with a childlike perspective while reflecting on his beliefs and love of music. They were considered revolutionary and even “degenerative” by Swiss authorities. But Myoda finds Klee’s work inspirational. The imagery of Twittering Machine consists of a hand cranked mechanical device which when turned, causes the automata birds perched on the sagging wire-like crank shaft to sing, visualizing an exhilarating representation of what Myoda wants to achieve with his Glittering Machines.
The merging of music and interactivity implied in Klee’s watercolor combined with the emergent properties of organically generated light are the beginnings of the vision for Myoda’s work. Yet he wants his sculptures to operate in real time, to interact with his audience and hopefully react to each other. So it is no surprise to discover his work described in physical and behavioral categories like “Personality Disorders,” and “Whip,” “Statics,” “Kinetics,” and “Sconces”. He further divides these sculptures into systems based on Structure & Kinetics, Light & Shadow and Interactivity Structure & Kinetics. Mounted on walls or tethered to the ceiling, these kinetic mechanisms create physical motion and often interact with the viewer in unexpected ways.
“Structure & Kinetics” are pieces based on a modular structural system. Myoda is a fan of the Lego system, a small plastic children’s toy which enables kids to build a large range of structures and even robots from a simple brick-like form. He spent many hours as a youth arranging the Legos and believes that it is there, as he crawled in his Lego pile, that he gained his knowledge of engineering and physics. Today, his structural forms are based on the hexagon (6 faces) and the icosahedron (20 faces). He says: “The hexagon allows the static associations of the grid to be broken, and the icosahedron offers a greater number of axes than a cube would allow while still providing a rigid structure. This system works modularly, insofar as different components can be designed to work together with a certain speed and predictability.” (Glittering Machines 2008-13, pg. 3). His work with geometric forms has been enabled through access to state-of-the-art tools that he uses like the CNC mill, a waterjet, laser cutter, and a 3D printer which give him the ability to create and scale interchangeable templates for his machines via 3D modeling.
“Light and Shadow” gives the Glittering Machines shape and form. The use of high powered LEDs driven by interactive circuits in each sculpture creates their “transitory and illusive” effect. The LEDs placed in etched and thermoformed acrylic shapes turn the pieces into lenses that project beautiful, dynamically changing geometric patterns and shadows onto a space. In exploring light and shadow Myoda, like his distant predecessors of the Renaissance who developed chiarascuro (a painting style based on painting the light and dark areas vs defining the shapes with outlines) understands the importance of bodies being defined by light and shadow to enable the works to gain a life like quality.
Myoda is also inspired by bioluminescence, the generation of light by living organisms. This inspiration was derived from two powerful childhood experiences: swimming at the seashore in an area populated by bioluminescent marine plankton, and catching fireflies to make his first organically powered lanterns. He waxes poetic about the importance he places on these experiences: “There are many mysteries associated with bioluminescence, but it is clearly associated with a wide range of functions, both offensive and defensive, attention seeking and camouflaging. For this reason bioluminescence has been my artistic muse.” (Glittering Machines, 2008-2013, pg. 1.)
In 1998 he and Paul Verdiere proposed a public art sculpture for the New York-based organization, Creative Time. Their idea was to create a beacon which they called, Biobeacon, with a colony of dinoflagellates (bioluminescent marine plankton which glow blue). They planned to install the work on top of the radio antenna positioned on the roof of the World Trade Center I. In 2001 they began their work only to have the World Trade Center dissolve in the world shaking event of 9/11. Rather than abandon the project entirely, the team created “Phantom Towers” a light installation that consists of two extremely strong blue beacons which emit parallel rays of light mimicking the shape of the twin towers. The lights beam from the ground into the atmosphere to honor those lost in the attacks. Later the work became known as the “Tribute in Light” which was mounted in 2002 and is illuminated every year since. For the 10 year anniversary the editors of Time Magazine asked the team to create an image for their commemorative edition. For Beyond 9/11 they created an image of “Tribute in Light” as seen from space and titled it Tribute in Light Years.
Myoda uses light and motion to bring his sculptures to, if not life, then at least the same perceptual realm in which we see living things. From a scientific vantage point, one of the most useful definitions of life is a system that controls interactions of matter and energy to allow it to reproduce itself and thus spread its unique form throughout its environment. Myoda’s Glittering Machines, which play with light and darkness, mobility and stillness, hover almost at the edge of live organisms and captivate us with their compelling behaviors. Myoda’s dream is to build more complex interactions not only between both the viewer and the Glittering Machines, but also between the Glittering Machines themselves. In the best tradition of the mad scientist/artist, he hopes to cross-breed them and for the pieces to ultimately create their own life stories outside of the artists’ control, bringing them even closer to autonomous, life-like behavior.
By China Blue, Contributing Writer
Paul Myoda is an artist from Rhode Island and a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. His work is part of the collections of the Queens Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami and the Library of Congress. He has had solo exhibitions of Glittering Machines at the Dorsch Gallery in Miami, the Project 4 Gallery in Washington DC, and the Yellow Peril Gallery in Providence, RI. at: www.yellowperilgallery.com/
Also, see China Blue’s ARTES article: www.artesmagazine.com/2014/03/contemporary-artist-richard-humanns-same-river-twice-study-in-accidental-fractals/
And visit her Web site, The engine Institute at:theengineinstitute.org/author/china-blue
About China Blue
China Blue is an internationally exhibiting artist and the founder of The Engine Institute. She is the recepient of a 2012 RISCA Fellowship in New Genres, and her exhibition Firefly Trees was nominated for 2012 Best Monographic Museum Show Nationally, by the International Art Critics Association. Her in-depth worked in sound drove her to be the first person to record the Eiffel Tower in Paris; and through a NASA/Rhode Island Space Grant, she was invited to do a pilot study to record nature in an innovative way. She has shown her works in museums, galleries and non-profit institutions for over 20 years. Her work has been widely covered in web, television and print media, including the New York Times & NPR.