Figure 2. Morpho Tower,
information from the environment or living beings
through physical devices. However, it can be stated
that there has been little work on expression
through flexible changes of the surface texture controlled by a computer.
The goal of my project is to create organic shape-changing art forms and figures whose 3D form, surface structure, and color change dynamically and
lively as if to reflect echoes of environmental music,
light, and human communication. To create such
3D organic forms and surfaces, in 2000 I started
using ferrofluid in my interactive art project
Protrude, Flow (see Figure 1).
Ferrofluids, the shape-changing material used in
my works, were invented in the late 1960s in the
Apollo Program of the U.S. National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA) and are known
to be used for forming liquid seals and in electronic
devices for computers, audiovisual equipment, and
other industrial applications. Recently, they have
been employed in medical research.
Ferrofluids, which appear as a black fluid, are
prepared by dissolving nanoscale ferromagnetic particles in a solvent such as water or oil and remain
strongly magnetic even in a fluid condition. Therefore, they are more flexibly transformable as compared to iron sand. It is well known that ferrofluids
form spikes along magnetic field lines when the
magnetic surface force exceeds the stabilizing effects
of the fluid weight and surface tension [ 1]. In my
work, organic shapes are produced by these spikes
under a magnetic field that is controlled by electromagnets. Sensing technology and computers are
used to make the fluid change its shape according to
environmental information. The transformation of
the shape and rhythm of the movement are important aspects of the work.
My first project, Protrude, Flow, used six electromagnets. In this work, the electromagnets sometimes prevented people from viewing the moving
liquid. To solve this problem and to simplify the
work, I discovered a new technique called ferrofluid
sculpture. This technique enables artists to create
more dynamic sculptures with fluid materials. One
electromagnet is used, with an extended iron core
that is sculpted into a particular shape. The ferrofluid covers the sculpted surface of the 3D iron
shape. The movement of the spikes in the fluid is
controlled dynamically on the surface by adjusting
the power of the electromagnet.
The Morpho Tower series in 2006 was my first
realization of a ferrofluid sculpture. Figure 2 shows
the spiral tower covered with numerous ferrofluid
spikes. A spiral tower is positioned on a plate that
holds the ferrofluid. When the magnetic field
around the tower is strengthened, spikes of ferrofluid are generated in the bottom plate and move
upward, trembling and rotating around the edge of
the iron spiral [ 2].
The movement of the spikes in the fluid is controlled on the surface by adjusting the power of the
electromagnet. The shape of the iron body is
designed to be helical so the fluid can move to the
top of the helical tower when the magnetic field is
sufficiently strong. The surface of the tower
responds dynamically to its magnetic environment.
When there is no magnetic field, the tower appears