Foucault’s Dream

Civic + Public, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Foucault’s Dream is a three-story-tall pendulum positioned at the Froiland Science Center’s west entrance. The pendulum design engages in a series of references to celestial and mechanical ideas about time. The kinetic movement of the installation reminds each one of us that our viewpoint is not fixed, that we are bodies in motion like the earth orbiting around the sun.

Foucault’s Dream
This work is inspired by the motion described in the play of orbits and spheres. One finds such movement in everything from subatomic particles to the orbits of comets and planets. We sought to make visible this curvilinear motion as it repeats throughout the artwork (and our lives) and echoes this same movement in the precession of the pendulum mechanism itself.

The 110-pound sculpted and cast bronze bob is inscribed with axial and rotational lines. The pendulum swings above a tempered glass disk which furthers the time-based metaphors with the etched form of infinite fractal shapes overlaying the fibonacci sequence seen though the glass in the epoxy floor. The base of the pendulum contains a three-tiered 16-color epoxy floor with a series of LED lights driven in sequence by the movement of the pendulum. The floor echoes the sky at night and the sky describes the motion of the earth in the floor below.

Three stories above the floor, the pendulum’s cable emerges from a void in the ceiling. Underneath that void is a colorful sphere constructed of hoops below which a series of iridescent rings descend along the pendulum’s vertical axis forming a conical-like shape demarcating the full swing of the pendulum. The upper sphere composed of hoops suggests both the form of the earth which a pendulum demarcates and the interwoven spheres of a prairie hoop dancer.

Science and art share a connective thread is in the ways they point to the interconnectedness of all things—a thread that binds the mystery of life to the deep questions of one’s age and one’s discipline. For many years I have been inspired by the last line in the movie “Fannie and Alexander” by Ingmar Bergman which goes like this, “On the tenuous ground of reality, imagination spins out and weaves new patterns.”

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