I am an artist with a background in science. I am fascinated by processes that repeat, but do so imperfectly. If you look around at the world, you will notice that most things are repeated. Think about what the world would look like if everything was unique. That would be a crazy thought. Even us humans. We are an idea repeated 9 billion times or so, but thankfully, imperfectly. This embodies the idea of things repeating indefinitely in space. I explore this idea with drawings. For example, see below (The Effect of Butterflies on Boat Building Blocks III; 150×120; ink on canvas).
But things do not only repeat in space. They repeat in time too. The entire process of evolution (which I am interested in as that was what got me into science in the first place) is about imperfect temporal repetition. Every generation the process is repeated, with the errors inherent becoming all the diversity of life we see around us. To try to capture this and EMBODY these processes into physical objects I have started to build mechanical objects out of bicycles and other household items that occur in my environment. At their core they have a regular process, but that regularity through its mechanical operation, transmits irregularities to its peripheral components. My machines -which I see as self-portraits – are not perfect. They carry a wobble, in part because their builder is not perfect. They – like us – have as their essential goal – merely to persist for as long as they possibly can. The ancient Greeks built sophisticated machinery to try to predict and describes the regularities that the universe had to offer, but my machines are much more interested in measuring and describing our irregular process, which must sit at the heart of all matter.
I find most fascinating and useful when these machines are evolved in public spaces
where people of that community may add and build components. This then makes them much more like true evolutionary units as they are directly influenced and AFFECTED by their immediate environment. Being built in spaces where science is done is also great (this was done during a day installation at CSIRO) and what I found most interesting is that it was not clear to onlookers that what they were seeing was art and this allowed a very different engagement with it.. it asked the question what is this thing in the environment? What can it mean? It is a different question to the question you would ask if it is encountered in a gallery.
This engagement with scientists is something I see as very important. To this end I have had an extensive collaboration with The Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technologies at UNSW, which culminated in an Exhibition at Bondi Pavilion in 2016. The value in this exhibition was not only in how the public were drawn into the science in a different way but also in the way the scientists were able to see their work from a different perspective:
“It is not possible to measure a quantum system and extract information about it without changing the system. This is counter intuitive, but it is something that we just accept as quantum physicists. We have to deal with it every day in our research, so it is good to see how an artist interprets this and gets to the core of the quantum-ness that we want to utilise to build a quantum computer.” Sven Rogge – Program Manager, CQC2T; Head of School of Physics, UNSW.
My goal going forward is to continue to build machines that embody our beautiful irregularities and try as much as possible to engage with scientists, using art as a vehicle for interpretation and use this approach as much as possible draw the general public into experiencing the wonders and curiosity that should have a greater role in driving our feelings and behaviour.