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MASSES – Searching for a perfect equilibrium state

Created by Quadrature and first shown at this years’ Ars Electronica festival in Linz, MASSES installation includes two stones lying on top of a balanced steel plate and a machine with aim to create a perfect equilibrium state by moving the stones to the appropriate positions.

The concept for the work was developed during Quadrature’s residency at the European Southern Observatories in Chile. ESO currently runs the largest and most modern ground-based telescopes on earth. Following the degree of precision to which modern research instruments advance, the team recognised the vulnerability that rises and with it the necessity to compensate for even the smallest disturbing influences. Supported by a machinery of sensors and men, the facilities perform an endless dance of observation and calibration.

In an perpetual process the system succeeds to prevent the imminent divergence again and again by its permanent endeavors, only to intervene somewhere else one moment later. Instead of the pursued state of well-adjusted stability, the work arrives in a permanent state of incessant motion – a fragile but constant situation between fall and float.


Each stone is attached to three string – spool – motor – assemblies. There are 6 sensors, placed on top of each motor, measuring the angle of the string between spool and stone. This is used as calibration system: taking in the sensor values from all three strings/sensors attached to one stone, the team can calculate the absolute current position of each stone. They only need this for security reasons (so they do not get to close to another string or the edge), since the stones only moove from a subjective perspective and do not need to know their absolute positions.

Two more sensors measure the inclination of the steelplate. Depending on those two angles and the speed in which they change, the stones move in the opposing direction, in order to counteract the plates movement. The sensors are read by a Teensy 3.1., the stepper motor controll is done with GCode via a two TinyGs. All of that is connected to a MiniPc, on which vvvv is controlling everything.

Project PageQuadrature



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