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Bill Smith, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Magnetically stabilized, air driven, computer interfaced, chaotic emu egg pendulum (installation view), 2011. Mixed media. Dimensions variable. Bill Smith, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Magnetically stabilized, air driven, computer interfaced, chaotic emu egg pendulum (detail), 2011. Mixed media. Dimensions variable. 
Bill Smith, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Magnetically stabilized, air driven, computer interfaced, chaotic emu egg pendulum (detail), 2011. Mixed media. Dimensions variable.
Bill Smith, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Magnetically stabilized, air driven, computer interfaced, chaotic emu egg pendulum (installation view), 2011. Mixed media. Dimensions variable.
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Bill Smith, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Magnetically stabilized, air driven, computer interfaced, chaotic emu egg pendulum (detail), 2011. Mixed media. Dimensions variable.
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Bill Smith, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Magnetically stabilized, air driven, computer interfaced, chaotic emu egg pendulum (detail), 2011. Mixed media. Dimensions variable.
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Bill Smith

Bill Smith’s work embodies both the complexity and range of media and techniques employed by artists now, along with the subtle influence of environment. Living and working in the American Midwest, on the outskirts of St. Louis, Smith is one of the few artists whose education evolved from diesel mechanics to sculpture. The mechanic’s instinctive ability to tinker with machinery and feel for the process of the machine underlie his startlingly complex work. His Magnetically stabilized, air driven, computer interfaced, chaotic emu egg pendulum (2011) is just that and more. The delicate metal pendulum triggers the display of projected images onto the gallery walls; the pendulum itself is affixed to the top of a floating emu egg. The egg is stabilized by rare earth magnets attached to its bottom, which keep the egg floating tensely upright, pendulum straight up, tightly quivering. And yet the egg is chaotically and progressively destabilized by the slow accumulation of air in a cup-shaped bell underneath it. As the air slowly bubbles up through the water into the cup, its buoyancy overwhelms and destabilizes the magnets’ hold on the egg, and the pendulum rocks crazily around, finally touching one of a number of fine metal receptors, completing a circuit which triggers both the projection of an image on the wall, and a short line segment, the accretion of which shows the artist if there is any directional bias in the pendulum, caused by drafts or other factors. Then the tinkering artist can tinker, and whether by mechanical or digital means, make corrections.

The egg, air released, re-centers, and the process starts again. And the images projected on the wall? Environmental imagery from around the globe. To the viewer the generation of these images—what causes them to be projected—is not, at first, at all clear. But as one begins to observe and understand the complexity of the interactions leading to the event one is pulled into this tiny ecosystem, seemingly biological, yet ultimately mechanical. The sculptor has made a machine for art creation.a

Bio
Bill Smith holds a BS in Science from Southern Illinois University, an MFA in Sculpture from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a technical degree in Diesel Mechanics from Ranken Technical College. His work has been exhibited at The Chicago Cultural Center; White Flag Projects, St. Louis; The Forum for Contemporary Art, St. Louis; the 5th Biennale de Montreal; and The St. Louis Art Museum. In 2008, he received the Nimoy Foundation Grant and in 2009 he was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Recent projects include a site-specific installation for the 2011 Festival of Ideas organized by The New Museum, New York. Smith’s interdisciplinary background is reflected in his art practice. Taking inspiration from biological systems and utilizing a range of natural and industrial materials, the artist makes sculptural installations that juxtapose art, science, and mechanics.