Gravity Begins At Home

Gavin Turk pointing a magic umbrella as he and fellow judges assess its cultural value

This kinetic sculpture is a continuing exploration of the relationships humans have with other animals and our shared connection to the earth for survival.   

Most of the earth’s animals that have been tested by scientists have demonstrated an ability to sense the earth’s magnetic field.  This sense is called magneto-reception and they have used this sense to orientate and navigate the air, sea and land for thousands of years.  We humans on the other hand have demonstrated, in extensive laboratory-controlled tests, that we don’t have this sense of the earth’s magnetic field.  We have literally lost our sense of direction because our internal compass doesn’t work.

‘Gravity Begins At Home’, shows just a few of the thousands of animals that are on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) ‘Red-List’, these are animals in decline and face being wiped out in the near future.  The discs are made from anodised aluminium with a printed ‘compass rose’ forming the background to the silhouetted animals.  

The Globe you see is actually floating, it is being pulled up by a powerful magnet that is screwed to the steel frame and is held to the ground by a wire and heavy weight at the bottom.  There is a 2cm gap between the top of the globe and the magnet above.  It is an invisible magnetic field which bears the weight of globe structure, made from aluminium (which isn’t magnetic) and a plate of steel at the north pole which provides the pull towards the magnet.  

Internal to the globe are sheets of brass acting as sails, as the wind blows the globe is turned in space.  The wire attached to the base plate hides a tapered bearing that allows the globe to turn without too much friction despite the heavy weight it is counter balancing. 

Installation of the sculpture at Broomhill Sculpture Gardens

The overriding metaphor of an invisible magnetic field is one which attempts to visualise humanity’s disconnection with the earth and its ancient cycles, it says that we, as a species, have metaphorically as well as literally lost our sense of direction.  

‘Gravity Begins At Home’, by richard paton, Finalist in the National Sculpture Prize 2021
these are the weights placed on the base plate to hold down the globe as it is pulled by the magnet above.
this was the initial design idea as a maquette showing more clearly the gap between the globe and the magnet above. The entire weight of the globe is pulled up by an invisible magnetic field and held down by the weights at the base.