Jacob Tonski

Balance From Within

Balance is delicate, and sometimes we fall down… A 170 year old sofa balances precariously on one leg, continuously teetering, responding internally to external forces. A robotic mechanism emits a periodic low groan, softer than speech, as the piece struggles to remain upright.
Relationships are balancing acts, and delicate ones at that. This idea turned into a balancing sofa as I was thinking about how all of our social interactions can be found on these humble, ubiquitous pieces of furniture: dinner, chatting, sex, job interviews, even death. Is it surprising that we construct such a solid footing to support the delicate dance of relationships, so prone to losing their rhythm and falling down? These ideas of foundation and fragility seemed so distinct and yet inseparable; I became interested in trying to illuminate that a bit.
I began wondering if anything or anyone can balance on a rigid point, which was the technical point of departure for research. I learned that while it’s possible, it requires enormous energy and has signi?cant limits beyond which recovery is impossible. This fact, for me, further enlightened the metaphor. As in life, the risk here is real, rather than illusory. The piece can fall and break to pieces, which must then be picked up, possibly repaired, and put back together one at a time. To regain balance, once lost, requires outside help.

Jacob Tonski is a pragmatic optimist whose work explores dynamic balance through kinetic metaphors. Tonski holds an MFA from the Design | Media Arts department at UCLA. He studied computer science at Brown University and worked as a Technical Director at Pixar Animation Studios. He was a 2010 fellow at the Frank-Ratchye Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University. He is currently an assistant professor of Art and Interactive Media Studies at Miami University, Ohio. His creative work has been shown in China, Brazil, and throughout Europe and the United States.