CREATIVE PEAKS: Virtual Movement

By on June 14, 2017

Humanity and gravity face off in a new installation.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – For artist Jack Holmer, gravity isn’t an undisputed physical law. It is instead a barrier to overcome.

“To be against gravity is to challenge the laws of physics by using art to overcome the limits of the human,” Holmer said in an email interview.

His installation, “Manifesto Against Gravity,” is meant to push people to think about new possibilities and about what it is to be human, he said.

The show features six sculptures that interact with the observer.

“Bodies created in a virtual environment make their way to the concrete world where the laws of physics modify their properties conceived in the virtual world,” reads a press release from Center for the Arts.

The installation will take over the Center for the Arts courtyard starting Thursday and hang through Aug. 7. Holmer will give a talk about his massive straw sculptures suspended in the air and his personal manifesto against gravity from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday in the courtyard.

The Brazilian artist was a resident at Teton Artlab last year and each year the Center picks one resident to invite back to Jackson Hole to display work from the previous year, said Carrie Richer, the creative initiatives coordinator at the Center for the Arts. Holmer’s work combining robotics in his sculptures was unique.

His six-feet-tall sculptures made of straws will hang suspended by wires in the courtyard and one will be lifted by a large helium balloon. Holmer is known for his work integrating robotics and has added small motors buzzing throughout the sculptures.

“They are essentially defying gravity,” Richer said.

The sculptures were inspired by Matisse’s “The Dance,” a painting depicting dancers holding hands and moving in a circle. The motors in the sculptures make them dance like the people in the painting, Richer said.

Holmer created the exhibition specifically for the Center’s courtyard.

“It’s going to be a really cool use of that vertical space,” Richer said. “The straws are so light you can see the light through them. It’s just a really pleasing, dreamy setting.”

Holmer said his work is open source, meaning anyone who wants to can replicate his creative process. So he is drawn to cheap, easily accessible materials that often don’t have a long life span.

“I think that works have a life linked to the materials that make them … and everything is not meant to be eternal,” he said.

He likes the challenge of working with cheap materials alongside complex electronic systems. His interest in robotics goes back to childhood. In 2009, he built robots that hugged visitors in an exhibition. The robots were also used in nursing homes and child health treatment centers to encourage patients, he said. In 2014, he started to delve into the search for more robust artificial intelligence and more malleable robotic bodies.

“Art gives me permission to think of alternatives that scientists and engineers do not think about and approach the problems of robotics in a poetic way,” he said.

Thinking about gravity changed the way Holmer thought about sculpture. In the digital world, there is no gravity. He wanted to bring that into his work in the real world. His research led him to the idea of using helium gas balloons to null gravity in material sculptures.

“What interests me is the impossible,” Holmer wrote. “I think watching the works, people think about limits of life, life on Earth, the limits of technology, in the robots that are coming to life (and) a new way of life that is changing the way humans live.”

He also wants people to think about art when they see his work and realize it can be different, collective and open source.

Holmer is working on installing the sculptures this week and welcomes visitors to come by and talk about his work. The helium balloon holding one piece up will need to be refilled every few days and volunteers are invited to stop by to sign up for a shift and learn how to fill it. Interested people can also email Richer at [email protected].  PJH

While in Jackson, Holmer also will teach a workshop at Camp Colter about how to build solar robots from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 14.

Manifesto Against Gravity, an installation by Jack Holmer, hangs Thursday, June 15 through August 7 in the Center for the Arts courtyard. An artist talk happens 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday in the courtyard.

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