Category Archives: The Magic Mountain

In Close Proximity (Yikes)

It doesn’t take much effort to make some LEDs blink with an arduino microprocessor. I think they teach kindergarteners how to do this now. I recommend the book Getting Started with Arduino by Massimo Banzi, instructables, and Hack n Mod. Microcenter, Sparkfun, and Adafruit are all good sources for supplies.
arduino_for_webI will be using arduino to control the pulsating lights & humming sound for The Magic Mountain. A couple infrared sensors will be respond to motion. If the viewer gets too close to The Magic Mountain it will begin to malfunction; even closer and the whole thing shuts off completely.

Here’s a low-quality video I made using arduino uno, an IR emitter and detector and these easy instructions. Intercepting the IR detection triggers the LED to switch.

Arduino IR Emitter & Detector from Lexie Stoia on Vimeo.

p.s. imovie is terrible

Metal Mountain

I have been conducting research the last few weeks, clarifying what the install will look like, completed my welding tests, and begun to build the towers.


real_ramp_viewThe final sketch showing The Magic Mountain installed in its new site at the top of a ramp (more details about the site below).

parachute_domeAn earlier sketch demonstrating a change from creating individual skins for each tower to using a large domed transparent fabric to diffuse the light. I’m still unsure how I will solve the light diffusion problem but have a number of weeks of welding ahead of me with time to think on this.

unreal_ramp_viewA sketch that is more fantasy than reality in terms of the new ramp site. I unintentionally made what resembles a snow globe.

About the Site: The building in which I will initially display my piece is the Design Studios on Broad, part of CCAD’s campus and formerly an auto dealership. Because of this the space has high ceilings, large windows, and strange paths and ramps. I was hoping to install my piece at the top of stairs but blocking stairs is a fire code no-no. Placing The Magic Mountain at the top of a large ramp (see first sketch) can be viewed as a metaphor for the drive towards utopia as a space/experience.

we're_yellow_towersThe objects: Welded three-legged steel towers of varying heights between 2′ and 3′. (I like the unintentional sulfur yellow of the photo)

Electronics: I met with Alex Bandar from the Columbus Idea Foundry to discuss microcontrollers and sensors. To summarize, The Magic Mountain will be emitting light and a mechanical humming noise. When viewers approach it, the thing will start malfunctioning. If the viewer gets too close it will shut off completely.

What currently interests me:
The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity by Bruce Hood
Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visual
my fellow earcatchers
Aspen Mays incredible photograph made from exposing photographic paper to analog television snow:

copyright Aspen Mays.
copyright Aspen Mays.

Colors, other than blue

the magic mountain colorsWe nearly always live through screens–a screened existence. And I sometimes think, when people say my work looks violent, that perhaps I have from time to time been able to clear away one or two of the veils or screens.     -Francis Bacon

I’m stuck on blue as the color of the piece/lighting but am considering other options. Another adjustment to my original plan: instead of creating a ‘skin’ covering the steel armature-which logistically I am having trouble with-I am thinking about creating a large transparent balloon that engulfs the whole piece. Remember the parachute game? Picture the steel towers as children and the parachute a whitish balloon skin around the towers. Sketch coming soon.
sad looking parachute

Why this shape?

why_this_shape?As part of a brief critique of The Magic Mountain proposal, someone asked where the shape of the towers came from (see previous entry for sketch). I am making a small field of these welded steel towers. In the moment I stumbled over my words, trying to connect disparate thoughts. But these are all possible answers to the question “Why this shape?”:

1) I drew it in a previous sketch (…but where did that come from?) To be more clear, I changed the design a bit. The original had a square-shaped top but I found that the triangle was easier to balance, being on a 3-rod structure vs. 4. This is the pragmatic answer.

2) It’s connected to childhood memories of staring out the window in car-rides at dusk through Stark County. The Ohio terrain is long and flat except for the tall transmission towers…This is the psychoanalytic answer.

3) Mountainous Banff, Alberta, Canada. This is a place I lived and a place I don’t go a day without thinking about. Despite personal hell I still remember it as ideal. The Banff Centre=fundamentally transformative. This is the nostalgic answer.

4)  It reminds me of The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann.  Modern in feel, a retreat in the mountains, time stretched out. All things that converge in my piece. This is the literary answer.

5)  And the blue glow that these towers will emit? That comes from the enjoyment I get out of seeing a glowing tv screen through a living room window. This is the voyeuristic answer.

blue glowing tv

How far back do you go looking for an explanation (“why this shape”)? If you don’t believe in free will (which I don’t) you hit a wall. I did not will myself to like radio towers, mountains, and glowing tv’s. These things just happen to intersect in my brain. I cannot take credit for my success or failure with this project; it’s really luck in the end if this thing does work out.

If this sounds like a depressing, hopeless way of looking at things, it is. In his book Free Will, Sam Harris makes a strong case that free will is merely an illusion. This book has stuck in my craw (in a good way?) since August 2012. Unfortunately I don’t think the consolatory section at the end ameliorates the angst bound to emerge while reading it. Thank god for art!

I see a tiny sliver of positivity in our lack of free will on my teaching blog.

Climbing the Magic Mountain

I’ve been thinking about the importance of play & humor in art-making and life in general. Amy Sedaris knows what I’m talking about. Also I keep on keepin’ my ears open. When my brain won’t stop being noisy I listen to my surroundings and it has a sedative effect.

This semester I am making a glowing scene; welded steel-antenna-like structures glowing (blue?) and sonically humming with life. I intend for it to be displayed in a dark room. As you get closer to the piece it buzzes, pops, and flashes, telling you to back away. If you get too close, it goes quiet and black. You must submit! I have always been interested in pieces that force the viewer to pay attention; the viewer becomes the object. Here’s a sketch:


Olafur Eliasson continues to be a huge influence. The man is a force of our time! Here’s a piece called Your Negotiable Panorama:

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer created an interactive piece called Voice Array that I was fortunate enough to see at Bitforms in NYC. What a delightful weirdo!

Voice Array, Subsculpture 13 - Sydney
Matt Flegle just introduced me to Roger Hiorns. I am captivated by the glowing blue of his piece Seizure.

03Roger_Hiorns_SeizureAnd finally, an undergraduate student at CCAD, Hunter Preston, blew me away with his video, AUX.

AUX from Hunter Preston on Vimeo.

For visual inspiration outside of created art I look at radio towers, get nostalgic over analog tv snow, and remember the utopia of Banff, Alberta.

06radio_towers05banff_centre_at_nightSound-wise there is the outrageously loud ventilation system at the OSU Martha Morehouse Pavillion and the hypnotic whirring of a juicer blade in action.

08Martha_Morehouse_Pavilion09juicer_bladeFinally I must mention Thomas Mann’s book The Magic Mountain. I joke that it will take seven years to read it (I just don’t want it to end). This poster for a movie adaptation perfectly captures the collision of modern technology, the body, and utopic atmosphere I intend to explore with my new piece: