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WATCH: Inside Seed Vortex

Posted by BG Staff // February 8th, 2018

Easily the Bedford's most involved hard-hat installation to date, Ned Kahn's Seed Vortex is an enormous spinning disc spanning over 20 feet in diameter and weighing thousands of pounds. Visitors have been curious about how we got it in the door, and what it symbolizes. Check out the feature below from Walnut Creek TV to learn more about Ned, how we built Seed Vortex, and why it's a metaphor for human interactions like political and social change. Together with the other works in the show, Seed Vortex exemplifies Ned's lifelong fascination with art and science. 

Ned Kahn: Seed Vortex is on view at the Bedford through March 25. And don't miss our Arts + Craft Beer event, featuring art activities inspired by the works in the show, mustard making with local chefs, and complimentary refreshments, including craft beer tasting with Calicraft Brewing. It'll be an afternoon of fun perfect for the whole family to see and make something cool!

Arts + Craft Beer
Saturday, February 24
Admission: $7 Adults, $3 Youth, Free for kids 12 and younger.
Advance tickets available at Eventbrite or at the door.



In the Studio: Ned Kahn

Posted by BG Staff // January 18th, 2018

Ned Kahn studio visit 

Bay Area artist Ned Kahn has been creating kinetic artwork for over 30 years, renowned for merging art, science, and technology in complex and monumental work that mesmerizes and dazzles viewers around the world. Last spring, we visited his warehouse-like studio in Sebastopol for a peek into his process and to prepare for our own massive installation of his work now on view at the Bedford, Seed Vortex.


Ned Kahn studio visit 3

Driving up to Ned’s studio is like entering a living lab. Outside in the courtyard, several samples for larger pieces were set up to catch the natural elements that are like collaborators in his artwork: wind, light, fog, sand, and water. He and a team of studio assistants study the way the materials respond, and they do extensive research and development testing to ensure the material will function as intended in the final artwork. 


Ned Kahn studio visit 4

“I’ve always been attracted to the idea of making visible things that are invisible… I’m intrigued with the way patterns can emerge when things flow. These patterns are not static objects, they are patterns of behavior—recurring themes in nature.”  –Ned Kahn


Ned Kahn studio visit - Ned and Todd

Inside the studio workshop, the testing and experimentation continues. In the photo above left, Ned demonstrates how to operate the small Seed Vortex, here filled with larger, blonde mustard seeds. After many months and countless seeds scattered on the floor, Ned decided a smaller seed was necessary. The artwork demonstrates granular motion, where rotating mustard seeds influence neighboring seeds, creating pattern changes that in turn influence and restructure the entire system, much like political or social change, says Ned. Pictured right, studio assistant Todd Barricklow stands next to the massive steel beams that support the large Seed Vortex’s spinning disk, showing the effects of granular motion on a grand scale.


 Ned Kahn studio visit 1

Originally from Stanford, CT, Ned earned his undergraduate degree in environmental science before moving to San Francisco in the 1980s. There he discovered and was enamored with the work on display at the Exploratorium, doggedly seeking and securing an apprenticeship at the museum to build exhibits, under the guidance of its founder, physicist Frank Oppenheimer. Conversations with Oppenheimer and his own lifelong fascination with science led Ned to develop kinetic, interactive sculpture for the museum that explored the mystery and wonder of natural phenomena, including versions of two pieces in the Bedford show, Chaotic Pendulum and Cloud Rings.


Ned Kahn studio visit 5

Since then, he’s completed numerous public and museum commissions around the greater Bay Area and beyond, including projects in the UK, Singapore, Australia, Japan, United Arab Emirates, and throughout the US. He was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2003. Above left, the prototype Ned made for Sebastopol’s first city-commissioned public artwork “Spire,” a 60-ft tower of steel that mimics the reflection of sunlight on water as the outside disks move in the wind. Pictured right, a sample of plastic chainmail mesh developed by New Zealand artist and designer Kayne Horsham for use in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Ned had previously used aluminum chainmail in projects, but found the material too costly. Collaborating with Horsham, he used this lighter material (dubbed "Kaynemaile") in Enagua, a massive tower project in Los Angeles completed in 2015. The tower's Kaynemaile mesh facade moves with a lively grace in the fierce Santa Ana winds coming off the ocean, resembling a billowing fabric.


Ned Kahn studio visit 2

Discover more of Ned’s work, including great videos of the pieces in action, at

Ned Kahn: Seed Vortex is on view at the Bedford through March 25.


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