16 interactive machines from an imaginary laboratory on the theme of lightness.

The 16 machines of the Lightness Lab reflect the stages of a creative process and are the tangible evidence of an idea under construction, a work in progress. They are automated and move autonomously. Some are interactive and can be controlled by the public. Initially designed to evoke the innovation and creativity associated with a Hermès riding saddle, each model explores an idea related to lightness. They are displayed on workshop shelves, facing interactive swings.

They were presented as part of the Hermès “Heurêka” event on the 13th of February 2020 in New York City.

The eight Metronome machines are inspired by the oscillating movement of the swings. Feathers and model saddles are hung at their tips and swing. The tangled ticks remind both of the time that passes and of horses trotting. A red button invites visitors to stop the movement, suspending this asynchronous rhythm for a moment. Two variations explore a motorized pendulum movement. The other models are built around the escapement mechanism from authentic metronomes.

The two Astrolabe machines feature a circular piece of fabric, in direct reference to the projection screens of the interactive swings. An assembly of decentred rods creates a hypnotic cyclic movement. On one of the astrolabs, a fan blows up the fabric, amplifying the variations of light on the material.

The two Wind Tunnel machines are halfway between the aerodynamic test machine and the snow globe. The idea is to set up a scale model of a saddle that seems to float in the middle of a swirl of white particles. The speed of the whirlpool is variable and can be adjusted by the visitor. A variant of these models allows the visitor to test the lightness of a feather using a similar device: the game consists of making the feather float halfway up a tube, while avoiding making it fly away completely.

The Sextant machine metamorphoses the maritime navigation tool. It echoes the space exploration made possible by the interactive swings. A beam of light comes out of the sighting scope and projects a moving light onto a concave disc.

Medium Electronics, motors, metronomes, sextant, fans, 3D printing, metal, leather, wood, feathers, fabric, glass, plastic

Commissioned by Hermès

Woodwork by Pierre Champenois

Metal work by Erwan David

Fabric work by Caroline Commenoz

Photos BFA

Video Pix’n’Grain

Video music Simon Doury