I just completed the four-day presentation of Quantum Logos (vision serpent) at Ars Electronica Deep Space 8k theater. It was quite a ride, with my colleagues in arms Ina ConradiBianka Hofmann, and Bob Kastner. Full of the requisite stress that comes with significant efforts. Although I produced and animated all of the visuals myself, I received a much needed musical score from Tate Egon Chavez. Other consultation came from Rupert Ursin, deputy director at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. I’m an artist/animator and not trained in Quantum Theory or cultural archetype and metaphor, though these are fascinating subjects to study.

I started this project in earnest this past January. However, my research on the topic began much earlier when I started reading books like James Maffie’s Aztec Philosophy: Understanding a World in Motion, and Alexus McLeod’s Philosophy of the Ancient Maya: Lords of Time. These books offer a great view of the metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical wisdom of the Mexica and Maya civilizations. Taking these ideas without expropriating direct cultural imagery and studying other great cultures and the essence of their creation myths and themes provided a rich template from which to derive design inspiration.

I didn’t exclusively use these designs themes, however. I studied the work of numerous quantum physicists of various subject fields. Only with the generosity of scientists who publish talks online could I possibly begin to understand, in a minor way, the complexity of the subject. I attended lectures at the UCLA ArtSci Center helmed by artist Professor Victoria Vesna and scientist Dr. James Gimzewski including talks by professors from the California NanoScience Institute and other casual discussions with academics in the field. I also studied lectures from the World Festival of Science and other sources on quantum physics, gravity, time, and biology. 

To get a better understanding of indigenous American ideas, aside from studying books mentioned earlier, I began to study Nahuatl, a Uto-Aztecan language spoken by a subset of indigenous people of Mexico. This study helped in understanding the nature and depth of the culture though from a new view. In particular, it helped me understand the emotive pathos expressed in metaphor in their poetry and prose.

Visualization of fields of energy

The project is a 10:30-minute real-time movie. A short pause adjoins it with a verbal introduction to the idea of becoming a source of energy in a quantum field. Then the wall and floor transitioned into an interactive interlude. Designed as a field of quantum energy with it’s rippling interactive reaction. The piece resembles the depths of a sacred Mayan cenote, where the audience enters the quantum world, and effects rippling fields around them.

My software of choice on this project is Derivative Touchdesigner. The short is essentially comprised of 2D compositions though I have two 3D scenes, one consist of 3D tree models and another generated with GLSL shaders. I reworked multiple shaders, morphed and mixed them, and animated parts to achieve the desired visual effect. Abstract animation is difficult to understand, using it to describe quantum physics proved a big challenge. I like to make images that remind the viewer of simple things (like water, fire, desert, mountains, and trees). That way, I can use their intuitive interpretation to convey various ideas and concepts I’m trying to express.

This research is ongoing and I am excited about further developing the work. 

This work is mentioned on the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information – Vienna (IQOQI-Vienna) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences website: https://www.iqoqi-vienna.at/news-events/events/news-detail/article/scientists-and-artists-co-create-visual-and-sonic-narratives-to-communicate-quantum-technology/

A mention on the Ars Electronica Festival 2019 Blog