1999, John Klima

lunar.jpg (11376 bytes)

A zodiac in its simplest form is a clock, as is a computer.  The piece implements a functioning calendar and clock, though not entirely rooted in our contemporary time keeping metaphors.  I began by researching the Chinese zodiac on the internet, and consulting books on Astronomy I have had since I was a child.  Using real-time 3d rendering software, I modeled the elliptic orbit of the earth around the sun, accurately matching its position in relation to the seasons. The zodiac symbols, having seasonal significance, are positioned accordingly. The phases of the moon, the hour of the day, and the minutes and seconds are also calculated and mapped.  The goal was not to make a readable clock (though one can indeed learn to read it) rather I wished to use this system as a conceptual framework. Both Gregorian and Chinese calendars are represented in the simulation.  The Chinese New Year 1999 will be 16 February. 


  viewer.jpg (169309 bytes)
The simulation consists of an elliptic cone that the zodiac symbols reside upon. The viewer stands at the tip of this cone.  Spinning the trackball left to right spins the cone under the viewer's feet.  Spinning the ball forward or back moves the viewer down the slope of the cone.  The viewer does not turn left or right, rather the ground spins under foot. Imagine perhaps a roulette wheel, the viewer as the ball. Holding the left button down accelerates time. Holding the right button down accelerates time backwards.
top.jpg (128443 bytes) The elliptic cone is "pie" sectioned in accordance with the seasons, represented by color fields.  In this overhead view, we see the earth roughly in the middle of the winter arc (the date of this writing is 6 February). The tip of the cone is the location of the sun, and the cone creates the elliptic rotation of the earth about the sun.
bunny.jpg (56092 bytes) As each Gregorian year passes, the appropriate animal symbol moves closer to the center of the cone. As each Chinese lunar year passes the red orb seen in the image rotates to alignment with the appropriate year symbol. The animal symbols are also associated with an element; metal, fire, water, and, as we see here, wood.
celestia.jpg (25469 bytes) The Chinese calendar functions in 60 year cycles.   There are 10 so-called "celestial stems." Iterating through the 10 stems while iterating through the 12 animal symbols, a unique year name is created by the combination of the stem and the year, to a total of 60 names.  The celestial stem is represented by an object with one to ten "leaves" indicating its position in the iteration.  The stems serve also to mark the passing of a minute, as there are 60 year-stems, and 60 minutes in an hour.  As a minute passes, its sequential stem rises and falls on the surface of the cone.


seconds.jpg (39222 bytes)

Seconds are indicated by 60 small cones in a circle. As a second passes, its representative cone accelerates towards the center, and then returns to its position about the circle.


lunar.jpg (11376 bytes)

    The phases of the moon are indicated by this graphic.