Slow and Subtle: Arthur Ganson’s Machines

 In Design Lesson, Uncategorized

Thinking Chair

I’ve just been to visit the MIT Museum where there is currently an exhibition of Arthur Ganson’s kinetic sculptures. Ganson describes himself as “a cross between a mechanical engineer and a choreographer”. His sculptures are all about creating unusual qualities of movement, and he makes a point of showing off the mechanism. In some cases the mechanism is all there is.

In many of Ganson’s works, like the Tinguely in Moscow or Brownian Rice, the movement is slow and (sometimes exceedingly) subtle.

Brownian Eice

When I was in the museum a group of teenaged high schoolers were also walking around. It was interesting to see their reactions to the sculotures. Many of them pressed the “make it go” and then lost interest within seconds when nothing interesting seemed to happen. But some, like myself, stood entranced watching the delicate movement of the machine and following the careful interplay of parts that created it.

What lesson does this have for games? Conventional wisdom is that human-computer interaction should be clearly signalled and immediate, and many of our games take this to an extreme with interaction that is big and fast. But what about those of us who take delight in the small and the subtle?

Of course, not all of Ganson’s work can be described as subtle. Some of it is most emphatically not.

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