While researching how other artists have used ribbon in their work I came across Bruce Shapiro’s installation ‘Ribbon Dancer’. It was installed in the Science Center of Iowa, Des Moines in 2006. He put it there to showcase motion control, getting a robot to re-create human hand movements with the ribbon. He says about his work,
My inspiration was watching the ribbon dancers during the 2004 Olympics. If humans can move silk flags gracefully through the air, then what would it look like under motion control? The early results were impressive and have only improved since. However, like many of my recent pieces, Ribbon Dancer is an instrument in need of music. I am now devoting my time to finding interesting paths for the dancers and perhaps even an algorithm to dynamically generate a path.
Ribbon Dancer was a unique project for me. In the three-year process of developing it, I had to learn how to use servo motors (the stepper motors I have always used simply cannot move as quickly, powerfully or smoothly). The project also introduced me to the incredible world of silk ribbon which is an incredible medium. I even learned to use a sewing machine!
Another interesting and encouraging part of the development has been demo-ing my prototype dancers everywhere from Dublin to San Francisco. People are really captivated by the ribbons, even with their simple patterns. Many have suggested putting the ribbon to music–one even suggested selling them to dance clubs! I would love to combine ribbon dancer with music, and as I find time I am developing software to allow me to sync paths with music (like a video editor, but for ribbon dancing).
I am constantly exploring new ways to develop Ribbon Dancer, including dying the ribbons, creating new paths, and hopefully one day making a dynamic path generator.
I really love the fluid motions of the ribbon, it reminds me of the ribbon sections of gymnastics in competitions. He must have put a lot of thought into how the robots could move, to best show off his motion controls and the ribbon.