Zen garden meets athletic precision in the latest art installation from UK-based Jason Bruges Studios, a unique piece custom-built for the Tokyo Olympics. “The Constant Gardeners” uses robotic arms as the rakes in an enormous sand tray, peacefully producing images of athletes and patterns mimicking their movements.
“We are proud to present ‘The Constant Gardeners’ as part of Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13,” said Creative Director and Founder Jason Bruges in a press release. “By developing new paradigms in robotics and performative arts, we hope to show how innovative technologies can be used in storytelling, offering audiences in Tokyo an accessible, meaningful experience that celebrates the Tokyo 2020 Games and the incredible skill and achievements of its athletes.”
The four robots were salvaged from years of industrial factory work and repurposed with specialized tips to draw in the sand, moving back and forth along linear rails. Bruges and his studio embraced the inclusion of robots as a way to “reflect on the role of machines in our daily lives” and to show their potential for experimental creativity.
The raised zen garden bed is filled with 14 tons of crushed black basalt, with another four tons of silver-gray granite lining the floor around the gravel canvas.
Using computer analysis of past video footage of Olympians across a wide range of sports, the mechanical “gardeners” will “create a new visual language to communicate and celebrate the motion of the professional athletes and their feats of physical prowess.” And just as many sports involve teammates working together for a flawless performance, the four robotic arms will have to cooperate to construct such large-scale tapestries of sand.
During the course of the five-week exhibition that overlaps the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the machines will produce about 150 unique illustrations. Some of the art will be representative patterns (“the story of an event unfolding over time”), while others will be more concrete in their depictions (“a single spectacular movement or sporting moment”).
“’The Constant Gardeners’ and the mesmerizing raking of its ‘gardeners’ will offer visitors a peaceful space for quiet introspection in the heart of Tokyo’s cultural district,” says the studio. “The artwork draws inspiration from the aesthetic and craft of the traditional Zen Garden and from the sportsmen and women who carefully hone and perfect their movements to train and excel in their fields.”
Commissioned by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Arts Council, the outdoor exhibition is on display from July 28th to September 5th in the city’s Ueno Park.
Artist Jason Bruges got his start in architecture, studying at Oxford Brookes University and the Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL). After working in that field for several years, he started his own multi-disciplinary firm in 2002, blending architecture with technology and interactive design to provide dynamic spatial experiences for people around the globe, although this latest installation is the first art from the studio to be displayed in Japan. Their team of engineers, architects, industrial and computational designers is constantly exploring the “interrelationships between people, data, technology, and nature.”