Thursday, January 17, 2013

Peter Juhl's Jewel On Rock Balancing

“A Question of Balance” ~Album title, The Moody Blue

Physics plus calculus equals art.
Rock balancing… is it an art? A form of meditation? Is it sport? Is it play? A form of worship? In his newly released eBook, Center of Gravity: A Guide to the Practice of Rock Balancing, Peter Juhl writes, “I have discussed these questions with other balancers, and most would answer ‘Yes’ to all of them.” Last summer when I interviewed Juhl, he had this to say about what he does. “A good magic trick presents what we know to be a deception and makes us want to believe it’s real. A good balanced rock sculpture does the opposite: We know it’s real, but want to believe it’s a trick.” That is the essence of Peter Juhl's art.

Peter Juhl’s Guide to the Art of Rock Balancing begins with Juhl sharing how his rock balancing turned out to be part of a much grander fellowship of rock balancers. This small fraternity of rock balance artists has congregated in Europe and now stays in touch with one another via social media, sharing insights and photos with one another. Discovering this group and how they fit with the grander tradition was exciting for Juhl.

In actuality, the group sees a connection between what they are doing and land art like Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, except on a smaller scale Though they differentiate themselves from the conventional stacking that many of us have seen on a trail or at the lake, they respect these first steps at exploration with rock forms.

Aristotle's Golden Mean illustrated.
The second section of his book gives names to the various styles, from early rock art to cairns to Inuksuks. This is followed with the critical chapter on the why and how of rock balancing. Juhl explains a few physics lessons and dusts off some calculus to help us understand basic principles that carry through the rest of the book. Locating the center of gravity of your rock is one of the essential skills you will want to learn.

From here the books shares every secret he has learned on how to counterbalance rocks and build zig zags, how to make symmetrical and assysmetric designs. And, importantly, how to select your rocks. Stages of this portion of the book address rhythm, proportion, dominance, unity, contact points, shadows, illusions and impossibility. Ultimately, the greatest joy is yours when your creation creates this reaction in your audience: "That's impossible!"

Juhl even gives instruction in how to photograph your rock art, a skill that all the rock balancers seem to have developed based on the photos shared here. I know that I'll be trying a few tricks from this volume at some point this summer. If you purchase this eBook I have no doubt that you will be doing the same.

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