What in the world?
One of the advantages of writing a neighborhood blog is that is affords you the perfect excuse to walk up to the doors of perfect strangers and ask them questions. Which is exactly what we did.
The contraption to the right is the product of Gerry Chu, a robotics engineer at the UW. Previously, he was a researcher in touchscreens and haptics, which “got me interested in interactive stuff”. Each of those red things are water pumps which are, in turn, connected to a set of microcontrollers and infrared sensors. The microcontrollers and sensors can be used to either make the fountain react to you as you move by it (see the video below) or to “play” the fountain according to a preset pattern.
What’s it all about? For that, we’ll turn to the artist’s statement from his web site:
Making fountains lets me explore and control the form of water, to showcase examples of water forms I have seen in nature as well as create forms that are apart from nature. I see water as a sculptural medium, as form, as a solid itself. Most fountains use water as mere decoration—a statue of a goddess spitting water from her mouth. In contrast, in my fountains, water plays an active and primary role.
In e-mail, he added:
I’ve liked fountains since I was little kid, my parents used to take me often to play in them. In fact I have a set of building blocks from my childhood, some of which have the word “pump” written on them! The shared house at 4108 Eastern Ave where I live is called the “Dreamie House” and we have a lot of sustainable agriculture projects going on including raising chickens, rabbits, and bees.
A man after our own heart! Take the time to visit his web site and see some of his other fountains, as well. Despite their Zen-like simplicity, we found both his Dripping Fountain and his Fountain of Youth to be tense and engaging, in the way a movie that you care deeply about can be, even if you know the ending.
We asked Gerry if he had plans to “show” his fountain, and he allowed that he might trot it out for an Art Walk when the weather turns. Don’t worry, we’ll let you know.