Water is such an integral part of our existence that it is
no wonder that we include references to water in language and in our
environments in the form of fountains, paintings, sculpture, and audio/visual
media. The Romans incorporated water fountains into their water distribution
systems; many of these fountains were ingeniously run by gravity - and served
both practical and aesthetic functions in the dry mediterranean climate. It was
a perfect mix of function and aesthetics.
At the very least fountains delineate space, raise humidity,
mask noise, and act as focal points for people to gather. On an aesthetic level
they can be metaphors for nature. They can be considered as bonsai and suiseki
practiced with water instead of trees and rocks. Just as looking at a bonsai
tree can evoke a forest, or viewing a suiseki arrangement can evoke a distant
island in a calm sea, viewing a fountain can evoke a bubbling brook, a
meandering stream, or a cascading waterfall. However, unlike bonsai and
suiseki, the fountain does not need to mimic nature and in fact can behave in
ways that are not observable in natural bodies of water. Our connection to
water is so deeply embedded in our psyches that we still tie-in to an
experience that has no direct analog in nature.
Are fountains 'art mimicking nature' or 'nature mimicking
art'? A vertical water spray produced by a certain type of spray nozzle appears
in many fountains but has no dual in nature. Yet the 'fountain bamboo'
(fargesia nitida, cultivar nymphenburg) has thin canes that bend over in a
spray-like manner with leaves mimicking in plant form the myriad spray droplets
of this self same fountain nozzle. In a light wind fargesia nitida visually
"becomes" a water spray. Reality and illusion blur.
Water is a powerful primal force. Watching moving water can
calm or energize us, can trigger emotions and forgotten memories, transform us,
put our "now" into perspective, and transport us to distant mental lands. One
can think of water as a medium of expression that can be used like "paint":
vermilion swirled with aquamarine blue using a twirling brush.
One can also think of water as a dynamic sculptural medium.
Think, for instance, of a water sheet that metaphorically dances in time to
music; or consider a water surface with evolving patterns of interacting waves;
or think of a waterbell sheet that shape-shifts in synchrony to the movement of
dancers; or think of percolating patterns of water and air flowing behind a
translucent screen. Each of these behaviors do not exist in nature, per se, but
can resonate with shared consciousness in viewers of the phenomena.
Nature-based phenomena can also be abstracted in miniature
to provide a more one-to-one (analogous) fountain experience. One example is a
miniature stylized stream bed with cyclic flows; another is a miniature
"shoreline" with time-of-day varying waves lapping up to the simulated shore;
and yet another is a Zen garden where moving water replaces raked patterns in
sand. (We made the first version of a Zen analog fountain in 1993.)
Some of the Ways We Work with
Click "Here" to see some video examples of our
water art effects
The shape of our water bells can be varied from
energetic shape-changes to subtle, slowly evolving forms to fit an intended
mood; or a water bell can change shape in response to music or dance. Depending
upon specific nozzle or weir design, various other water sheet shapes can be
generated and made to dynamically change shape over time.
Our waterwalls generate a range of patterned effects
varying from a profusion of evolving bubbles to undulating streams of water.
The dynamic behavior of our patented waterwalls is mesmerizing and captivating
to watch. The walls also generate harmonious bubbling sounds that visually
correlate with the myriad water and air bubbles percolating down the wall.
A focus of our work revolves around dynamically evolving
interaction of waves on a water surface. Our wave interaction studies were
initially inspired by Fountain Kinetics' principal Gary Fisher's previous work
in holography (which deals with interactions of stationary wavefronts) and have
conceptual connections to Chaladni figures in acoustics. Wave behavior effects
can range from subtle and contemplative to highly dynamic and energizing.
Depending on wave periodicities and interspersion of still and moving surfaces,
time compression or expansion can influence perceptual responses to the wave
Some understanding of our philosophical approach to wave
interaction as a water art medium can be gleaned by reading the following
passage from Italo Calvino's Mr. Palomar. While writing on the behavior
of ocean waves, Calvino comments that "... you cannot observe a wave without
bearing in mind the complex features that concur in shaping it and the other,
equally complex ones that the wave itself generates. These aspects vary
constantly, so each wave is different from another wave, even if not
immediately adjacent or successive; in other words, there are some forms and
sequences that are repeated, though irregularly in time and space." [Italo
Calvino, 1983, Mr. Palomar: A Harvest Book; Harcourt Brace & Co. New
York: pg. 4; (translated from Italian)].
An interesting melding of physical phenomena is used
to couple wave interaction with generation of hemispherical water droplets on a
water surface. These droplets of water, generated by a droplet mechanism, float
on the water surface supported by several microns of air, and follow wave
patterns across the water surface of a display. Owing to the index of
refractions at the droplets' water-air-water interfaces, the droplets appear as
sparkling "diamonds", each of which may coalesce to form larger glittering
hemispherical forms. The result when viewed over time is emotionally engaging,
captivating and centering.
Glimmering can add an additional three-dimensional
quality to the wave interaction phenomena that we generate. Generation of
glimmering effects require wave propagation to be matched to the properties of
the fountain wave reservoir and also depend on the properties of the
illuminating lighting. We in essence generate a dynamic set of concave and
convex water "lenses" that interact and constructively form irregular patterns
much as you would observe by looking at the bottom of a swimming pool on a
In the functional art arena we have developed sound
technologies which are embedded in fountains which can offer relief to those
suffering from tinnitus (ringing in the ears). While the fountains are visually
appealing, they can aid in tinnitus habituation, residual inhibition, and
masking, and can be used as an adjunct to tinnitus retraining therapy and other
treatment schemes. You may see a few of these fountains
here or you can visit our
Site for a more in-depth treatment of tinnitus and the technology.
We are also developing conceptual designs for indoor modernist furniture which
incorporate programmatically evolving water elements as integral components of
text copyright © 2008-2012 Gary
copyright © 2006- 2012 Fountain Kinetics