Schick Art Gallery

Artist’s Statement:  John Cunningham

Saksaywaman, an Architectonic force multiplying sculpture

Human beings interact in a world of continuous motion where things evolve in reaction to forces acting in and on our shared environment.  I like to think of myself as an observer of events between materials and the forces acting on them, collisions with that which must move or that which must bend.  My sculpture, in part, is a reaction to these confrontations; they are attempts to experience the consequences of manipulating force and material.  

As Calder or George Rickey used scientific concepts like center of gravity and lever arm moments to fabricate works capable of moving in space, so I utilize force multiplying effects to manipulate objects and create sculptural form as a consequence.  Many of my works focus on the manipulation of equilibrium conditions, an attitude toward making things that I have termed homeostatic engineering.

Saksaywaman is an Incan fortress near Cusco, the historic capital of the Incan empire and a world heritage site.  Some of the stones in the fortress walls weight in excess of 200 tons and the process by which these blocks were lifted and moved is considered to be one of the great mysteries of the ancient world.  Saksaywaman is a kinetic Architectonic sculpture capable of moving a granite block horizontally and vertically in space.  This work has the capacity to lift a stone off the ground without first placing supports under it.  If the support rods were manipulated with levers with the mechanical advantage of five, the effective ideal mechanical advantage of Saksaywaman could be considered to be 120.  This is the same mechanical advantage of 120 pulleys but with no friction and no need for a point of attachment.  (J. Cunningham.  Nature, Volume 332, 3 March 1988.)

J. Cunningham
August 1, 2013

(Click here for John Cunningham resume)