The Atomic Model
The model illustrates the structure of metals on an atomic scale and
serves as a visual metaphor for interactions of many kinds. The detail
and the dynamism of this display are purely poetic for me; one, in that
its motion is so intriguing and two, in the level of thought it provokes.
This model is a perfect jumping off point for lessons in crystal formation and could be accompanied by text and photographs illustrating similar patterns found in nature such as ice forming on the surface of lakes, bubbles arrayed on the surface of water, etched cross-sections of meteorites, snowflakes under a microscope, etc.
As a life metaphor, the model is kept from equilibrium by the steady
input of vibration just as the energy input from the sun keeps the systems of life on earth out of equilibrium. The model is an example of a gradient reduction system, as the gradient steepens equalization occurs at the grain boundaries and through the ceaseless cracking and rending of the lattice as a whole as long as the vibration persists.
A second level of viewer interaction is achieved via the manipulation
of a probe inserted into the gap between the layers of glass and on
into the two-dimensional aggregate of vibrating spheres providing
another method for dislocating the lattice. As the viewer pushes the
probe into the ball mass the pointed tip causes multiple fractures and
tearing in the matrix. A similar phenomenon is observed when driving
the prow of a boat into a thin skim of pond ice and seeing it part and
The Atomic model contains 45,000 black acrylic spheres one eighth of an inch in diameter that stack vertically in the void between two sheets of plate glass 30 inches square comprise this two- dimensional atomic model.
The assembly rests upon an isolating shock mount and is driven by a
variable speed vibrating electric motor controlled by the viewer. The
vibration provides a uniform dislocating influence causing the ordered
domains of closely packed spheres to persist and migrate throughout the plane.
Regions of order form and tolerate a few internal local anomalies but
conflict on a larger scale to produce linear boundaries of connected
disorder. As many crystals start to grow in the same region, sooner or
later they will interfere with each other. Neighboring crystals
differing in no other way save in the direction of their atom rows in
space cannot join without some imperfection. Nature abhors a vacuum,
practicing imperfection and approximation.

Vibrating Pinscreen Portrait

Pinscreen Table

Pinscreen Panel

Atomic Model

clairFrieze Machine