Elasticity & Tension

I have so far seemed to have been very intrigued by flex/stretch capabilities. Since finding the thin pieces of wood (possibly balsam or pine) at the local paper shop, and also the metal rods, all of which are capable of being curved – and kept in this shape through a force or tension like elastic bands or tape – I have been able to produce simple, some slightly distorted, curves, held together by elastic bands and tape.


Here, the thin pieces of wood are held in a curved but twisted – only slightly distorted – shape by thin copper wire. Not much force was needed since the wood was so flexible. The wood is a nice material worth pursuing. If you hold the ends of the long piece of wood with your hands, you can twist and distort it in a very beautiful almost moebius-like way- with some care of course – and with some tension, you can create slow and smooth movements due to this. The wood is fragile though. Too much distortion in its shape will snap it.

and for metal:


Using aluminium rods – this is incredibly soft and bendy, it cannot keep its shape for very long, especially with certain masses, like the small springs, or elastic components attached to it, such as elastic bands. It makes a beautiful shape with some interesting ideas of ‘moving’ components that slide with gravity, ie. due to the way the model is held/placed. Not sure if aluminium holds the tension I seem to desire.



This metal rod had an obviously more arduous task of keeping it in a curved shape. From a bag of large, wide elastic bands that I had found, I was able to to keep the circle in shape. With the character of an elastic band – one of a continuous circle – the result was a double sided cross-hatch pattern which I then quickly ‘glued’ all connecting points together, on both sides, by some wire. Gaffer tape was added as a second measure to make sure the metal rods did not spring out.

The idea of a ‘web’ has always intrigued me, with its many connection points. Can these distances, between each point, be measured accurately? When I use both hands to pull apart the ‘web’ on both sides, it gives me an extraordinary feeling of stretch, and release. The gestural manipulation is satisfying. You can pull the ‘web’ – for want of a description for now – in different directions, opposing yes, but also diagonally manipulated as well as having the ability to rotate, not just in one direction – north and south – but in all angles, as if it were a ball shape.

Ideas for sensors could be of pressure sensors that are placed underneath each elastic band touching the metal rod. The tightness already displayed means that the differences of pressure exerted onto the elastic bands would be minute. The sensors would need to be calibrated very well to get a noticeable difference in data. Other types could be distance sensing ones, attached to the points, perhaps at the widest, therefore central, part of the model. The questionable thing here is that, with using hands to manipulate the space in between the two sides, the sensors would very easily be covered and perhaps moved from the position that it was placed in. Does this destroy any accuracy of the readings obtained?

One exciting and very appealing point is the particular property that elastic bands have: its elasticity. Once stretched, It falls back into shape very easily and quickly, and its tension when stretched feels very natural. I can imagine the idea of time stretching; or grains of sound being pulled apart, like in granular synthesis, or rhythms being distorted etcetc.

I had a look into elasticity and conduction. As elastic is not of a conductive nature, I have noticed that there are actually many current scientifically-funded research projects that have been exploring this zone. For medical innovations especially. I did find a small group of students (on youtube) who, having used expensive lab machinery, were able to emerge the elastic components, and carbon, to make a tiny block of conductive elastic. It appears to be very much an idea that is not possible to explore. For me, at least. There are, however, many elastic-like conductive materials out there, like some fabrics and conductive rubber that have been used for a long time. The lack here would seem to be the responsiveness of elasticity that is felt absolutely in the elastic bands.

Additional curves and patterns:


I am quite partial to these ones. Not only can you stretch the curves out, the elastic bands actually give the shape a tension that feels nice. After a while, however, the shape becomes a little distorted from the initial curved state. At the beginning, the elastic bands are tight enough to keep it in its particular curve but only til the curve becomes distorted, then the tension drops and the elastic bands fall easily out of place. The elasticity of the metal rods comes about only through the stretched tension from the elastic bands, and is not a feature of the rods themselves.

I explored patterns to see how tension is felt differently with different configurations.

Perhaps they represent something not of the material it is made of.

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It progressed to this pattern, inspired by the string 70’s art. The stretch in each band feels nice and progressive, but I either need a larger curve, or a rotational torsion move-ability that can stretch the elastic bands more. Or smaller bands.

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I was told of an observation that I moved a lot when I performed on the cello. It surprised me a little, but it gave me a thought that perhaps most of my limbs will rotate in a circular fashion. I am actually obsessed with circles and curves, and this should have been more obvious to me but it wasn’t. However, the two points – large ones – that are important are the elbow point and the wrist point.

They both rotate with different sized circles and are either together or opposed, or are out of phase with one another. The shoulder is the other big point. But, what I see is that they are all very connected to each others movements. One is affected by the other, very much so. I see a particular tai chi/chi gung movement that is reminiscent of this ‘push/pull’ effect. It is called ‘tui sau’ (in very bad pin yin of Cantonese) and it involves two people, both with the intention of pushing hands towards the other – one side gives way but gathers more force to push back. What occurs is the one circular motion that is very much connected to each opposing force.

I placed my forearm in the above contraption and moved my arm in that rotational way – without my cello – and the contraption had a wonderful smooth action, as if stuck in a bowl rotating, spinning around the edges. Very much like the movement you get when you drop something circular onto the ground, it spins round and round due to the opposing force when it lands, and then only until the speed slows down enough for it to stop.