First levitation machine

Category: Inventions
Collaborators: Meta Grgurevič

First levitation machine cover picture

In spring 2012, when I was still living in Helsinki, Koelse, got an email from an artist in residency in Helsinki international artist programme. She asked for technical assistance for a project involving building a Tesla coil. After discussing this invitation for collaboration, we reached the understanding that a) we have no idea how to build a Tesla coil and b) the whole idea sounds quite unsafe. Because of these conclusions, we turned down the offer. The reply we got was an intriguing one: If Tesla coils are out of question, how about a levitation machine? This artist certainly seemed to have curious interests. Since I thought she has to be an interesting person, so I signed up for levitation machine collaboration. It turned out to be only a first in long series of works we have made together with Meta.

We build the machine in Koelse studio over a period of about one month, working usually late in the evening. Sometimes we stayed so late that we realized we should stop only when we were so tired that our fingers could not handle screws we needed for the constuction. The machine was based on plans Meta had found on the internet, starting from Art Tec’s kit. Materials were mainly found from the enormous piles of e-waste in Koelse studio; perhaps this made the project more difficult than necessary, as the old relay coil we used as an electromagnet was not very optimally rated for this kind of work.

The feeling I got when the device finally started to work was quite magical. Even though we had built it ourselves, it really felt like magic when the magnetic field grabbed the object from my fingers and actively resisted any attempt to move it. The kind of thing that cannot be, but still is.

The ready machine was presented together with other work in Meta’s open studio at the end of her residency as Lucid Dreams. It was a beautiful opening, after which I and Meta got completely drunk. Like this:

Good try…its working..I’m having huge headache…hope I’ll survive today…. See you later

On Tue, May 29, 2012 at 3:39 PM, Otto Urpelainen wrote:

Well, actually there’s nothing I want to say specifically. I was just wondering about the lost e-mail and decided have another try with this e-mailing thing.


Later on the machine was also presented in Ljubljana in gallery called Mala Galerija, which unfortunately does not exist anymore. Also unfortunately, I did not have the chance to see it. But I heard from various people that the show was great, and our little device had a big role in it. The machine is still working in the end of 2015.

Unfortenately the techical details for this device were not documented very carefully. However, from memory I can tell you that it is an analogue pi controller built from operational amplifiers and 555 timers. In case you are interested in building your own, you should check out the second one we built. It is more advanced and more carefully documented.