Sisyphus Eternally Pushes a Boulder Up a Mechanical Incline in Ross McSweeney’s Nimble Automata

Sisyphus Eternally Pushes a Boulder Up a Mechanical Incline in Ross McSweeney’s Nimble Automata

A kinetic sculpture made from laser-cut wood of Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill with Hades turning mechanical gears underneath.

All images © Ross McSweeney

More than one version of the Greek myth of Sisyphus chronicles the king’s slew of misdeeds on Earth, which amount to cheating death not once but twice. This earned him an infamous punishment from Hades, the god of death and ruler of the underworld, who sentenced the legendary figure to roll a boulder up the side of a mountain only for it to roll back down again as soon as it nears the top—for eternity. Glimpsing the mythical inner machinations, artist Ross McSweeney designed an intricately detailed, laser-cut wood automata that animates the classic tale.

McSweeney’s kinetic sculpture features a laboring Sisyphus pushing the stone up an incline as he is eyed by a (perpetually patient!) vulture. Beneath the surface, a cross-section of classical columns reveals a devilish figure who cranks an elaborate set of gears. The device is operated by turning a dial on the lower right side, and McSweeney demonstrates the mechanism in a video in which he also showcases different operating speeds.

The artist designed additional do-it-yourself kinetic constructions of a tiger, a running horse, and the surface of water that undulates with droplet rings. McSweeney shares videos of the automata on YouTube, and you can find detailed patterns to construct your own sculpture—which he takes great care to avoid being a Sisyphean task!—in his Etsy shop. (via Laughing Squid)

 

A kinetic sculpture made from laser-cut wood of Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill with Hades turning mechanical gears underneath.

A kinetic sculpture made from laser-cut wood of Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill with Hades turning mechanical gears underneath.

A kinetic sculpture made from laser-cut wood of Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill with Hades turning mechanical gears underneath.

A kinetic sculpture made from laser-cut wood of Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill with Hades turning mechanical gears underneath.

A kinetic sculpture made from laser-cut wood of Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill with Hades turning mechanical gears underneath.

A kinetic sculpture made from laser-cut wood of Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill with Hades turning mechanical gears underneath.

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