Catastrophic Combinations – Recursion, Contingency and Failure

Created by Jonghong Park, ‘Catastrophic Combinations‘ explores a recursive system of mechanical repetition where every movement is open to unpredictability and fault. The device facilitates a recursive bonding between a balloon and adhesive tape. Balloon and adhesive tape mounted on the machine become a part of the system and serve as critical components to combine and interact with each differential and repetitive movement. This configuration establishes a recursive complementary relationship in which each influences each other and the influence is reflected itself, and it constantly causes unpredictable deformations of the combination of balloon and adhesive tape. Therefore, this machine is also an attempt to define and prove contingency by deliberately revealing mechanical faults that occur recursively.

This combination is a series of interactions between

  1. the repeated pressure of the air and the elasticity of the balloon,
  2. the repeated rotational movement of the balloon and the vertical movement of the tape, and
  3. the elasticity of the balloon and the adhesiveness of the tape.

These actions are internal/external reactions/actions of various forces induced at the connection point between the balloon and the adhesive tape. Hence, they both act as matter(hyle) and form(eidos) to each other simultaneously. The motors each move only periodically by the iterative conditional algorithm, but they are connected by the combination of these two objects and placed in a recursive function or recursive algorithm. 

            combination(size_balloon, position_tape) {

                balloon(position_tape) {
                    elasticity = airPressure + rotation_speed; 
                    return balloon(position_tape + elasticity);
                    }

                tape(size_balloon) {
                    adhesiveness = balloonElasticity + rotation_speed;
                    return tape(size_balloon + adhesiveness);
                    }

                    return combination(size_balloon + tape), combination(position_tape + balloon);
            } 

The elasticity and rotational motion of the balloon determine the next path of the adhesive tape, and the adhesive strength and vertical movement of the adhesive tape determine the shape of the balloon. The balloon-tape combination defines its shape under the internal/external pressure of the adhesive tape and air. This is a process of recursive accumulation of interlocking complexes, which repeats the creation of unpredictable shapes and wrinkles. 

This unstable bond between the balloon and the adhesive tape causes an ‘error’ in the recursive system, referred to as a mechanical failure. The error caused by the balloon is reflected in the tape, and the error caused by the tape is reflected in the balloon, so that the balloon-tape collaboration forms itself recursively, breaking away from mechanical repetition. Thus, the contingency or error caused in the system is translated into a variable of the recursive function that constantly reflects its changes to itself.

The notion of relation already includes the notion of recursion. Coincidence arises from the dissonance in a relationship. The consequences of a phenomenon or event, defined as coincidence, are recursive accumulating results of the dissonance that reveals new changes.

The vertical movement of the motor, the rotational movement of the balloon, and the on/off operation of the air pump are programmed in each Arduino Nano. To facilitate speed control of vertical movement, a NEMA 17 stepper motor is used and the DRV8825 controls it. The motor is combined with the v-slot aluminum profile, which is often used in 3D printers, for stable vertical movement of the tape. A 12v DC geared motor was used to rotate the balloon to strongly enclose the tape and A 4000w voltage regulator is used to control the power of the air pump. The inside of the balloon is connected with three metal flanges and a 0.6m aluminum pipe, allowing the balloon to rotate even under low pressure. All parts, brackets, and cases were made with 3D printer PLA except for the metal pipes of the machine.

Project Page | Jonghong Park

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