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Michael Klein Arts

Most recently, Mark Zirpel has been focussing on celestial mechanics, particularly the connections between celestial and terrestrial phenomena. He became fascinated with the ‘antikythera’, found off the coast of Greece in 1900. The function of this object baffled investigators for decades until it was x-rayed and determined to be a complex gear mechanism that was designed to predict the position of the planets at any point in time; perhaps a way locate deities in space and time, perhaps a way to predict the future. In 1704 a working model of the heliocentric solar system was made for the Duke of Orrery, after whom these models have been named. These small mechanical models of our solar system are of interest to Zirpel for a number of reasons: their mechanical construction, their rotational movement around a central point, their tiny scale to represent something so enormous, their rendering of space and motion, and their attempt to understand our existence in terms of a larger frame of reference. He endeavoured to make some orreries himself.  Zirpel intentionally ignored the design of the originals so as to arrive at a mechanical solution he could call his own. Working with materials ranging from washing machine parts, office chairs, plumbing floats, bicycle components and bobbin winder mechanisms from antique sewing machines, he constructed a number of working models. Zirpel sought to power these small mechanical models of the solar system from their primary subject, the sun. This led him to an investigation of photovoltaic cells, dc power systems, high efficiency motors, etc. Zirpel has not had the benefit of examining any of the original devices first hand. Having invented his own solutions to building small rotational devices, he is now eager to see in person how instrument makers addressed some of the mechanical challenges presented in such constructions.