Arnold Martin, Wisconsin
“Anatomy of a Cube”


Anatomy of a Cube / This is Not a Stack of Crates

Anatomy of a Cube is a hybrid interactive sculptural installation and classic puzzle game based on the SOMA pieces invented by the Danish mathematician and writer, Piet Hein, in 1933. The pieces consist of six irregular and convex poly-cubes of four units and one convex poly-cube of three units for a total cubic volume of 27 units (3x3x3). The sculpture is simply the SOMA pieces made as wooden shipping crates in a monumental scale each with a cryptic set of shipping stencils painted on one side. When solved and stacked as a cube the sculpture measures four and a half feet in each of its three dimensions. The game consists of smaller versions of the crates made of durable 3D printed plastic situated on pedestals around the central stack of SOMA crates. Viewers are invited to play with the sets of puzzle pieces in order to solve them into the shape of the stacked crates from their given vantage point. Players may choose to limit their viewing angle to a single pedestal for a greater challenge or move around the central sculpture for additional clues to solve the puzzle. At the most basic level players may also choose to solve the given shape exactly as it appears in the crate stack before them, however, more advanced players may also find a greater challenge in solving for the same shape in a different arrangement of pieces. For example, there are 240 distinct arrangements which result in a 3x3x3 cube. More interesting and visually appealing than a cube however is the myriad other ways the pieces may be stacked and the forms that result. The crate stack may be rearranged periodically throughout the exhibition to keep the game fresh and continuously challenging. Aside from simply solving the puzzle as it is stacked in the gallery players may also free-play stacking groups of pieces however they wish to explore the countless arrangements and forms possible through such a deceptively simple set of shapes. Anatomy of a cube is a new twist on a classic puzzle. The scale of the stacked crates belies the notion that large abstract problems or puzzles may be solved through play with models and the elegant simplicity of this classic puzzle game carries with it the idea that there is often more than a single solution when a problem is approached from a creative and playful mindset. 

Artist Statement

The process of sense making, of taking in sensual data and modeling it in order to understand the world around us it is of primary interest to my work. The results are sculptures and installations which often represent both a phenomena and its contradiction exploring both the rational construction of a model based reality as well as the irrational potential of models based in false premise or followed dogmatically or blindly without further questioning. The experience of this work is one of internal, self-conscious, self-contradiction that is created by the satisfaction of curiosity by a viewer through some apparent means like a peep hole installed in the side of a crate or through objects that appear entirely plausible on first glance but make no rational sense on closer inspection.