Notes on Puddle Vortex, Experiment No.4

Last year when I arrived to install my work, Perpetual Puddle Vortex, for Metamorph 2012 in Trondhiem, I hoped that I might be finished for lunch time, able to enjoy the rest of the week at the conference and exploring the city. However, on unpacking my work I was horrified to find that a small yet crucial element was missing.

The pumps impellor, a small magnetic barrel with a impellor attached, was missing from inside. The pump itself is a basic fish tank pump but the exact model would be impossible to find within the city possiblt in all or Norway. After a bit of panicking I was happy to find helpful people at the local pet shop opposite the museum. In the back room a single leftover stock item closely resembled my pump. After taking it to pieces I found the impellor looks similar and thankfully it fitted into place almost exactly, and worked. Relief. However, my problems did not entirely resolve themselves.

Perpetual Puddle Vortex

Perpetual Puddle Vortex


Perpetual Puddle Vortex

Perpetual Puddle Vortex, Foam version Metamorph

When I filled the ink puddle and turned it on, the vortex did not behave as expected. Tiny bubbles were emerging on the liquid surface, thin foam developed. It looked quite good, but it was having a detrimental effect on the important surface tension of the puddle, weakening it. Also a fine spray was created when the miniscule bubbles popped, causing droplets to land outside the puddle parameter. Making it hard to maintain the perfect illusion, a burgeoning meniscus, the curved liquid wall around the edge of the puddle, important to the work. It would also mean the liquid would evaporate faster. This means more maintenance for the gallery staff.

Perpetual Puddle Vortex, Gazelli Art House 2012

Perpetual Puddle Vortex, Gazelli Art House 2012

Why were the bubbles being produced? Was it the water quality? Was it the oil mix i was using? Or was it to do with the settings for air intake and recirculation inside the pump? Could I make the vortex opening a few millimetres higher, or the vortex opening wider? I spent the next few days making these changes to the vortex pump based on a relationship between these factors:

– Vortex opening diameter
– Puddle depth in relation to vortex opening.
– Flow rate of pump.

After playing with these variables for ages, I resigned myself to accept this as a new form for the work, it lacked the colourful oil slick of the original, but the white swirl had a satisfying quality of its own. Unfortunately this added more maintenance to an already high maintenance piece of work.  Thanks Espen Gangvik for dealing with it.

Today I found the original impellor in a box and compared it to the replacement. The new version was smaller, and rattled in its housing, it also had twice as many blades on the impellor its self. The effect of this was that it probably span much faster and beat air into the liquid [Something known as ‘cavitation’]




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