Brief: The archetype of a circle appears in many cultures throughout history. The Native Americans had the medicine wheel, which is a symbol for healing, growth, and finding one’s place in the universe. Carl Jung postulated that the circle symbolizes wholeness of self, unifying the conscious and unconscious parts of our psyches. The geometric patterns in Islamic art are often started with a simple circle, overlapping and combining with other shapes forming complex patterns, which can extend indefinitely, suggesting infinity. And there is a theory in cognitive science that our sense of self is predicated on tangled hierarchies of simple building blocks folding in upon themselves in so-called ‘strange-loops’ (paradoxical self-referential circular structures). In Sanskrit, the word Mandala literally translates as ‘circle.’ And Mandalas, as spiritual/art artifacts, are circular representations and guides to interpreting the universe. Something about this finite, yet infinite, form really attracts us.
MANDALA, as a piece, takes the form of a large kinetic interactive installation with over 300 wooden moving pieces. The wooden pieces are arranged in a Fibonacci spiral, a mathematically derived logarithmic pattern found in nature, like the arrangement of seeds in a sunflower. This Fibonacci spiral forms a circular pattern in an 8ft diameter. The wooden pieces are walnut, and are dark in color. Behind the pieces is a lighter wooden circular wall made out of birch, also 8ft in diameter. The installation is intended to be placed on a wall.
Breath tracking: MANDALA is interactive! A camera tracks users' breathing, and the motor patterns synchronize with the person's breath. The following video illustrates the breath tracking. When no one is present, the wooden pieces animate on their own, forming patterns automatically. When I sit down, after a few moments, the system recognizes my breath and the animation with the motors changes, opening and closing with my breath.
When no one is present the piece animates on its own:
Development: More info can be found about the development process here.