30 Miles of String

The first time I heard of Ball-Nogues Studio, it was as they completed Liquid Sky an installation in the courtyard of P.S.1 in New York. What I didn’t know at the time, was that the budget didn’t afford the LA-based partnership the luxury of staying somewhere other than the courtyard. So over the four months it took to install the work, they camped out in tents. Nogues laughs as he recalls: “I even burned wood to keep warm. I felt like a bum.” Ball has a different take: “It was a shanty.” That was three years ago.

Week before last, the pair’s latest work opened to the public: Gravity’s Loom. Continuing their series of Suspensions in an unlikely place: Indiana. Gravity’s Loom fills the entrance to The Indianapolis Museum of Art and creates a geometry that appears more complex than previous suspensions. To realize such complexity, the firm takes advantage of custom designed software and machinery that translates computer models into precisely cut, colored and labeled spools of string. More accurately described as a collection of catenaries (the shape a string makes when suspended at two ends and pulled by gravity), Ball-Nogues has developed a different relationship with gravity than most architects. As the title of their latest installation suggests, they are approaching precise manufacture of spatial experiences reliant on phenomenal abeyance.

Hopefully they didn’t stay in tents over the course of its installation.


September 20, 2010