top of page



12 feet x 12 ft. x 12 ft.

Currently in the collection of the Artist


Step up onto the platform and turn the handle. 
 Feel the weight of the water as you bring it to life. 
 Hear the roaring sound of the water flowing around the drum. 
 Smell the water vapor that rises from the agitated stream of water. 


The Water Wheel is an interactive artwork in which museum visitors spin a giant flexible chamber containing either water or a colorful mixture of lightweight materials. It was created at the University of Minnesota in 1978-79. 

The piece uses a sheet of clear plastic sheeting loosely stretched between two large metal wheels that are mounted on welded steel structures. A small quantity of water (2 to 4 liters) forms a pool at the bottom of the plastic sheeting. When the mechanism rotates, the pool becomes a flowing stream. At faster speeds the water cascades like a roaring waterfall within the spinning chamber. At top speed centrifugal force locks the water within an outer valley of the flexible material. 

Although originally created to churn water, the Water Wheel was later exhibited in formal gallery situations where there was a fear that water leakage might damage carpeting or hardwood flooring. In these circumstances Styrofoam peanuts, tissue paper, ribbon and confetti were substituted for water. These dry materials exhibit fluid dynamics similar to flowing water, with the added beauty of a blizzard of slowly falling lightweight "snow". 

The Technorama Museum in Winterthur, Switzerland has been licensed to produce a copy of the Water Wheel. In conjunction with this project Norman produced a 2016 booklet and an instructional video for assembly or fabrication of the Water Wheel.Contact Norman for information about obtaining these materials.

Water Wheel has been exhibited at:
 University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN.
 PS-1, Queens, NY
 Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem,NC.
     Technorama, Winterthur, Switzerland.
City Gallery of Contemporary Art, Raleigh, NC.
  The Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA.
 Inventure Place,   Akron, OH.
 Science Museum Of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN.

1979 16mm film

with water

with confetti

bottom of page