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Potted Plant Percussion

Wooden percussion sculpture that looks like potted plant

The ‘Creative Reactions‘ project, leading to two exhibitions in Bristol in 2019, involved collaboration between pairs of artists and scientists based in the city to design and create artworks.

I worked with Dr Irina Lazar, who was then a lecturer in engineering at the University of Bristol and specialises in structural vibration control. One application of this technology is in controlling the vibrations that can cause serious damage to buildings in earthquake-prone areas.

Dr Irina Lazar and Alistair Park

Through our conversations, we realised how similar both our working methods were in many unexpected ways. It was also fascinating to wander through the corridors of the university’s engineering department with Dr Lazar, seeing people engaged in cutting-edge research on things I would probably never understand.

The artwork that came from these discussions was an interactive percussion sculpture: a xylophone made to look like a strange potted plant. It also uses controlled vibrations to achieve the desired outcome (the vibration from being struck creates the sounds). The red/brown sapele timber that made the leaves was reclaimed, like all of the woods used, and conducts vibrations in a way that happens to be ideal for making this kind of percussion instrument.

This piece was purchased by the department after the exhibition and is now in the University’s permanent collection.

Young children playing wooden percussion sculpture