‘Touch The Ceiling’ Part 2

One Giant Leap

We had had 4 days to plan and build a structure for the ‘Touch The Ceiling’ introductory brief we had been set. And once me and my peers had all demonstrated our creations, we were told that this was only the warm up exercise, and the next ceiling we had to touch was just outside the classroom, at the top of the stairwell, 13 meters from the floor. Initially, this seemed like a ridiculous impossible task. It had been hard enough to get something to go 5 meters to the ceiling!

The weekend passed and I had very little inspiration or ideas going on. My structure for the first week had worked pretty well, so I debated with continuing that, adding more tubes, and more hairdryers. However it felt like quite a mammoth task, with ALOT of things that could go wrong the wreck the whole thing. It also seemed slightly lazy just extending the idea I used before, and with two weeks to complete this task, I thought I might as well use this to start something completely new.

So once again, I began brainstorming.

I’d ruled out the idea of placing anything on the ceiling, e.g a pulley, because of the gravitational potential energy pulling it down would just create another problem for me to deal with. A few people’s structures on friday involved pulleys, and the majority of them had a lot of problems attaching things to the ceiling.

Someone had mentioned using magnets on friday and I liked this idea, it was similar to using air pressure in that the force being applied the move the object was invisible. However this was only an initial idea, and probably wasn’t as simple as it seemed. (And expensive to buy powerful magnets I can imagine.)

I started thinking about things that are tall or get a lot of height and ended thinking about water fountains. Perhaps I could look into HOW they get that height, because although obviously I couldn’t create my own water foundation in the stairwell, I might be able to use the method somehow.

Thinking about the brief’s subtitle, ‘One giant leap’, reminded me of a series of youtube videos that I had seen called ‘Extreme Basketball’ which included throwing the basketball through the hoop in incredible and ridiculous ways, shown here Extreme Basketball. Their method of bouncing the ball off the walls at particular angles (achieved through years of practice I expect) was very visually impressive. Watching these made me think, perhaps i’m over thinking this and making this task harder than it is. Perhaps I should experiment with simply moving a ball to the ceiling with no tech at all, but instead using my peers.

On the Monday I went back to the stairwell and looked over the space again. The layers and floors weren’t as far away as I had remembered, and neither was the ceiling for that matter! Imagining what it would be like to throw a ball from floor to floor, person to person, from the ground, I decided that I wanted to peruse this idea. My first thoughts were, what am I going to throw? It couldn’t be too hard because there were glass windows around, and art students aren’t known for their amazing sporting abilities. This ruled out basketballs and tennis balls. I did some research and found myself and 24 inch beach ball on amazon, which in theory, seemed perfect. It was light enough not to damage anything, or hurt anyone that it hit. My only concerns were what if it had a bit-too-smooth surface and people couldn’t catch it? And what if it wasn’t aerodynamic enough to reach each person above it?

When my beach ball arrived it was exactly how I wanted it to be. From experimenting myself I was finding that it did get quite a lot of height, and it should be enough. I think the novelty of the beach ball being massive and light is more fun then throwing a tennis ball. I also think that the size of the beach ball will help my peers to catch it. I’ve chosen a ball because it’s an easy shape to control, we are familiar with it. Obviously there are more aerodynamic shapes, for example, a paper aeroplane, but I think this would be much harder to control than a ball. If I was carrying out this brief with the concern of it being efficient, then I would want a team of volleyball players to be the ones batting my beach ball upwards! But i’m not worried about efficiency, I’m more interested in getting the whole class involved and having fun (and I can’t find a UAL volleyball team..).

I think by using a beach ball the very nature of it is related to having fun, going for a day out at the beach or being on holiday. I think this automatically makes it more appealing than a tennis ball, which some may relate to sports and P.E lessons..

After our group tutorials on friday, Midway through the brief, I came away with a lot of new ideas. Firstly we were shown a video very similar to the extreme basketball, called Billy’s Balls, which is slightly less extreme, but just as entertaining. I think what i’m taking away from these videos and trying to bring into my own is the idea that there’s a lot of things you can do with balls!

What I also got from the tutorial was the suggested idea of instead of having people bat the ball upwards, try and use a parachute/sheet related method. This would involve having a few people holding a sheet and then all lifting it at the time moment to thrust the ball, hopefully 13 meters into the air to hit the ceiling. Im hoping that with the right choreographing it will reach the top! But first I have to figure out, what sheet, and what is the right choreographing? It is safe to say at this stage my project has come a very long way from my original hair dyer.

In my attempt to find out how to get the best height from my parachute and ball, I came across this site, which although very simple, could be an excellent starting point. The first game, ‘Chute Ball’, is the method that I was most interested in, as it gets the most height. It claimed that by pulling the parachute in and out, hence rapidly tightening the parachute, sent the ball upwards. My initial thoughts on this were to lift the parachute upwards, creating a semicircle shape, but this Chute Ball suggested differently. I would need to test it and find out.

On Monday morning I brought my beach ball in with me to the studio, however I didn’t have the parachute yet, so I couldn’t test the ‘Chute Ball’ theory. Once I arrived, holding my beach ball and looking at the distance between the floor and the ceiling, it just didn’t seem possible to achieve my goal, using either method. So I decided at this point to continue to develop both ideas, ‘Chute Ball’ and Volleyball. This way, if one method didn’t work, I would be able to use what I’d learnt and apply it to the other.

Armed without a parachute, on that Monday morning I decided to experiment with the Volleyball method and was able to disprove my biggest fear for it, which was, is it possible for someone to hit to beach ball from one floor to the one above, fairly easily, if at all. It was quite hard to control the path of the ball, especially with just two people, but it most importantly it worked. I predicted that with the more people that get involved, the less difficult it will become to control the, because the responsibility of keeping the ball in the air (or off the floor before it has reached the ceiling) will be shared. On that note, I know there’s quite a slim chance of the ball being passed from each floor to the one above on the first go, (or second or third..) so I think as long as it eventually reaches the ceiling, it doesn’t matter how long it takes for my peers to get it there, because the brief does not specify a time limit.

This got me thinking, i’d been so preoccupied thinking about how I was going to get my beach ball to hit the ceiling, I hadn’t thought about what was going to happen when it did reach the ceiling and how it got back down. I decided that I would leave it up to the person who ends up hitting it at the ceiling, how they do it, and if you want it to fall straight to the floor, or pass it down gently. This would require me to brief the people standing on the top floor separately.

Thursday came and the space began to fill with people trying out their ideas, and it quickly began apparent that working in a public space came not without it’s problems. Students and tutors were constantly passing through the area, so it had to be safe for them to do so at all times, meaning there could be no beach balls flying about. I also didn’t want my project to damage anyone else’s projects. This meant that it was really difficult for me to test either of my ideas. I did however have with me the 3 balls to choose from, the 24″ beach ball, the 42″ beach ball and a rubber volleyball.

Originally I had thought that the larger the beach ball, the easier it would be to propel it upwards, however just from playing around with how high I could throw them, it seemed that this was certainly not the case! The smaller, heavier ball was far easier to control and got a lot more height. Perhaps this is because we are more familiar with throwing balls of this size.

The next day was the final day, I had realised that to ensure I didn’t damage anyone else’s project I would need to present mine last. So the day went on and my peers each showed their projects, some succeeding, and others attempting! I photographed a number of their experiments here.

I decided that morning that I would go with the ‘Chute Ball’ method, simply because it seemed the safest out of the two, in terms of for the general public passing by. Unfortunately my theory did not work as well as I had hoped! It did work, as the ball managed to get halfway to the ceiling, however there was not enough momentum being created by us holding the parachute to propel it any higher.

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