Tom Shannon «Compass Moon Atom Room» 1990-91.

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Compass Moon Atom Room, 1990-1991
270 magnetic spheres, each 10 cm dia. nodized aluminum, magnets, nylon
installation: Moderna Museet,Stockholm
collection: Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

The magnetic spheres are aligned by Earth's magnetic field so all of the black halves face south. At the same time, the field of each sphere inter-links with the fields of the spheres surrounding it. Any motion of one sphere is transfered throughout the entire array. The arrangement of the spheres is the same as the pattern of atoms in a crystal. People may walk inside.


Color Compass Atoms, 1993
202 magnetic spheres, 10cm dia.
aluminum, magnets, paint
installation: Galerie des Archives, Paris
collection: private

The full color spectrum is blended around the circumference of each magnetic sphere. Earth's magnetic field orients the blue faces of the spheres to the south and blue's complement, orange, to the north.


Diamond, 1997
1,300 white spheres, 15 cm dia. 10 video projectors. 500 cm x 1000 cm x 2000 cm space
installation: International Biennale of Nagoya
collection: artist

The white spheres are suspended by transparent lines in the pattern of atoms in a diamond crystal. Around the perimeter of the ceiling are mounted ten video projectors. People are invited to walk or sit among the spheres. At times the room is quiet, just the white spheres seen against white walls and white floor. After some minutes the lights fade and the projectors beam images through the spheres which become colored in three-dimensional patterns through- out the room. Eventually the projectors fade and the room cycles back to tranquility.

More recently, Shannon has evoked our relationship to atomic structures and our physical connection to the earth's magnetic field (through what he calls our 'animal magnetic polarities' as viewers walk through Compass Moon Atom Room, a room-filling installation that consists of 270 separate spheres placed in equidistant suspension on a series of thin nylon threads stretched from the ceiling to the floor. The spheres are painted black on one side, white on the other, and each contains a magnet imbedded within its core. Orienting themselves to the earth's poles, the spheres all face the same direction. Yet when one ball is rotated, the local magnetic force causes all to turn in unison, maintaining their alignment. Shannon has used magnets in his work since the late 1970s. Most dramatically, they have enabled him to levitate objects ranging in size from 6-inch-long rectangular blocks of wood appearing in numerous small sculptures from the late 1980s to a 23-foot-long needle of magnesium in The Compass of Love from 1981.

from: Francis M. NaumannArt Against Gravity, Art in America, April, 1999