Swirl, Jim Campbell
San Francisco based artist Jim Campbell, best known for his ultra low-resolution pieces of video art, has been commissioned by the Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation to create a new public artwork and is worked with Demiurge to fabricate and install the piece.
Swirl is located at Cowles Commons (formerly Nollen Plaza), spanning nearly a hundred feet in length and thirty feet in both width and height. The overall structure is comprised of 18 stainless steel and polycarbonate elliptical rings, laced with more than 8,000 precisely placed LEDs, suspended up to 30' in the air by a series of nine parabolically curved high strength stainless steel columns. Congruent with Campbell's most well known works these LEDs are used to produce and display low-resolution video of runners from the Des Moines Marathon, circling laps around the sculpture’s form.
The 3D design required to create Swirl presented a very unique set of challenges. In addition to its form being completely non-orthogonal, it is also comprised of many hundreds of custom components which had to be carefully modeled using parametric design software and then meticulously catalogued through the fabrication process.
The curvature of Swirl’s components, including the lower and upper ring beams, the 18 ellipses, and the 9 semi-uprights and 9 uprights were originally defined by unique parabolic curves. The constantly changing radii of these curves had to be optimized into a series of single radii arcs in order to facilitate fabrication. Each of the 18 ellipses for example, had to be subdivided into between 32 and 36 smaller arc segments and then welded into a single continuous channel.
Parametric modeling was instrumental in generating the high degree of customization required to complete Swirl. Each of the 18 ellipses requires 18 connector arms, each of which has a unique length in order to attach it to the uprights and semi-uprights. Parametric software was also required to optimize the parabolic curves into arc segments and to generate numerous catalogues of data showing the locations of LED holes and acrylic connection locations.
Jim Campbell, born 1956 in Chicago, Illinois, is a contemporary San Francisco based artist who primarily works with LED light installations. Campbell began his artistic career in filmmaking but switched to electronic sculpture in 1990 and started making his iconic LED matrix works in 2000.
His work combines film, light emitting diodes (LEDs) and sculptural elements, while he pushes the limits of perception and explores the line between representation and abstraction. Rather than working with highly defined images, Campbell, who has degrees from MIT in both mathematics and electrical engineering, eschews clarity in favor of interpretive possibility.