Parting the Waves

The work 'Parting the waves' of Semiconductor (artist duo Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt) is part of the exhibition 'Future Emerging Art and Technology' at the LifeSpace Science Art Research Gallery in Dundee (UK). The opening took place last week (find some of photos I took in this Flickr album).

Parting the Waves takes the visual language and method of quantum simulations, as a framework for exploring how science describes and attempts to harness the quantum realm.

Semiconductor have taken as a starting point simulated ‘surface plots’: realised as three co-ordinate graphs, they present mathematical computations of particle interactions, in a quantum system. The plots appear as varying degrees of undulating waveforms, created by the intensity of particles interactions being affected by distance, over time. A pair of square screens installed at 90 degrees expands upon two moving image projections, becoming a graph-like object in the space, mimicking the system employed by scientists to present the simulations.

Sound drives the CGI work, generating and animating visual waveforms. Starting with Hertz: the standard unit for measuring frequency in cycles per second, specific tones have been selected which create harmonies and dissonances, to play with notions of phasing, shifting and interactions in a quantum system. As the tones shift, disturbing the system, so it responds visually, producing varying degrees of amplitude, wavelength and frequency which result in complex interference patterns. The colours are representative of the coding system scientists use, to identify specific parameters or patterns when model making.

Visual and audible noise is used to introduce the concept of coherence and de-coherence in a quantum system: the point at which a systems behaviour changes from that which can be explained by quantum mechanics to classical mechanics. Other details hint at mathematical tools and terms associated with the phenomena of quantum systems such as; superposition, entanglement and wave functions.

Quantum simulations are approximations of nature that are modelled and then compared to other models, to gradually build up a picture of the phenomena being studied. The layers of modelling are a language by which scientists can communicate their findings and get closer to nature. Semiconductor are interested in the extent to which these tools and scientific products bear man’s signature. By making a work where you experience nature through the language that is made to study it, they want to question how our experiences of nature are mediated through science.

Parting the Waves was created through a FEAT (Future Emerging Art and Technology) Residency. FEAT is an initiative of eutema GmbH (AT), Waag Society (NL), and (BE). It has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 686527 (H2020-FETOPEN-2015-CSA).

Special thanks to:
Sabrina Maniscalco, University of Turku
Anton Buyskikh, University of Strathclyde, Scotland
Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford University, UK
Computational Nonlinear and Quantum Optics Group, Strathclyde University, Scotland
Turku Centre for Quantum Physics, University of Turku, Finland

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