Flight is a Waltz: Puppet Flutter⤣ SERIES
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Flight is a Waltz: Puppet Flutter

An extraordinary journey of collaboration between Oliver Smart and Dominic Harris to bring a mechanical butterfly to autonomous performance and life.
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Strong parallels can be drawn between the inquisitive investigations and reinterpretations within Harris' designs, and the composition and performance aspects of puppeteer Oliver Smart's work. Upon their first meeting in 2014, the two initially discussed their respective pieces which centred around interrogating nature and movement. What subsequently transpired was the launch of one of the most ambitious collaborations either artist has ever undertaken.

The butterfly piece has been a unique and extraordinary journey of collaboration, prototyping, merging of technologies and techniques, and meticulous production. The desire to uncover the essential character of the butterfly in physical appearance and mechanical movement has been realised through a true labour of love. The essence of the artwork is not just the entire complexity of the study of this fascinating creature, but also the fascination in the process of uncovering, simplifying and encapsulating the essential movements and behaviours that defined the final artwork.

There is a natural synergy between the mechanical detail of the puppet and the exquisite clarity, attention to detail and form of the case and its concealed mechanics. Amidst the process of kinetically animating the exquisite butterfly puppet through programmed electromechanical drivers, a synthesised movement unfurled in which the movements were defined as a waltz: up, down, pause. This definition of the puppet butterfly as a study of 'flight as a waltz', serves as the underpinning mantra for the movement, which, when coupled with the interaction control that permits the butterfly to both interact and engage with its audience, conjures the delightful illusion that the butterfly truly is alive.

"Fascination with the butterfly is not a recent phenomenon in the art world. From Vincent van Gogh to Salvador Dalí, the butterfly has presented itself as a timeless kindred spirit, offering a variety of interpretations many of which have had a long-standing presence in popular culture, film and literature, as well as art. With their enormous palette of colours, as well as their fragility and variety, butterflies have often been used to symbolise aspects of human nature. The wide range of interpretations is as far-reaching as the many species of butterfly found across the world. One of the more compelling in art history has been the representation of humanity’s capability for transformation. Contemporary artists of different mediums have grasped this historical precedence and upheld the numerous symbolic references, so that the butterfly has come to signify a ubiquitous theme: the duality of life and death. Dominic Harris has built upon these foundations by using the butterfly not only as an art piece, but also as a design object. The viewer is in the direct gaze of Harris’ interpretation as well as the butterfly’s natural creative spirit, allowing new discourses between the audience, the artist and these colourful insects to take shape."

Extract from essay by Harman Bains




1 + 2 Artist Proofs


Brass, blown glass, aluminium, code, electronics


A collaboration between Oliver Smart and Dominic Harris

⤣ view full series of this artwork

Dimensions in MM:

600 (H) x 370 (Ø) mm (excluding plinth)

Dimensions in INCHES:

23.6 (H) x 14.6 (Ø) inches (excluding plinth)

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