Made On Earth — Shake-o-Rama

Craft & Design


Kiwi conceptual artist D.V. Rogers likes to shake it. To prove it, he dug a trench 6 feet down near the San Andreas Fault in Parkfield, Calif., population 18.

Into the void he lowered his very own hydraulic shake table, rescued from a defunct mining museum and set to jostle, its earthquake data captured by the U.S. Geological Survey, where Rogers is an artist in residence. Atop the hulking, three-ton slab, he attached an array of 10-foot, 3-inch steel rods that oscillate to the Earth’s seismic hum.

The project, Parkfield Interventional EQ Fieldwork — the EQ stands for earthquake — started rumbling in the late 1990s, when the artist, based in Sydney, Australia, acquired the table. A couple of years and 3,000 hours of labor later, Rogers had a modular machine that moved when global earthquakes rattled.

An early installation caught the attention of USGS scientist Andy Michael, who suggested bringing the work to Parkfield, the most heavily monitored part of the globe, seismically speaking, known for withstanding a magnitude 6.0 or greater quake every 22 years or so (the last one was in 2004).

“Earthquakes are in my blood, I guess,” says the cowboy hat-clad Rogers, who’s from Napier, New Zealand, a port city on the North Island leveled by a magnitude 7.9 quake in 1931.

Using software developed by Stock Plum in the Netherlands and Dr. Geo Homsy in Alameda, Calif., PIEQF runs a Python script to isolate California data from the USGS monitoring network. Its I/O card drives a bank of relays that switch solenoid valves and open the gates to hydraulic actuators, allowing the entire table to move horizontally and vertically. The swaying rods above accentuate the table’s movement and that of the ground below.

“The idea is to create a physical representation of a dynamic landscape,” Rogers says at his characteristic lightning clip. “I’m intervening and introducing a human time scale, literally creating a reflector of the geologic time frame we reside in.”

Earthquake Machine:

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