We are very excited to announce the winners of the 2022 EQUS Quantum Art Competition—a big congratulations to Bori Benko, who won first prize for her artwork titled ‘EMERGENCE’, and to Sandy Lidgett for her artwork titled ‘Demon in the Machine’. Bori receives AU$3,000 for the winning entry and Sandy receives a runner-up prize of AU$1,500.
Bori’s artwork, ‘EMERGENCE’, explores and celebrates the fascinating phenomenon of the moiré interference pattern. The patterns are created whenever one semitransparent object with a repetitive pattern is placed over another. Bori's inspiration for her artwork comes from how the phenomenon of moiré interference relates to the overlapping of human mental, emotional and physical vibrational patterns.
Sandy’s artwork, ‘Demon in the Machine’, experiments with the emergence of shapes dictated by other shapes around them. Sandy’s approach to the ompetition theme is based on her background in biochemistry.
The winners were selected by our expert panel of judges:
Professor Marille Hahne was impressed by the winners’ interpretation of the theme:
“Bori Benko makes an interesting exploration about moving interface patterns that can contribute to the idea of emergence. It is a skilled production which can fascinate the viewers and make them think about the complexity of light and interference patterns. The shape that reminds us of a human head tends to distract one from concentrating on the hole phenomenon. Sandy’s interpretation of the theme emergence is not obvious at first sight. However, the painted shapes are mesmerising and are reminiscent of leaves that have randomly fallen onto the ground. With the theme emergence in mind, many thought-provoking ideas can be associated with this painting. The originality of this artwork is very high and very skillfully executed.”
Professor Andrea Morello also enjoyed the visual appeal created by the movement of Bori’s work and Sandy’s interpretation of the theme related to biological processes:
“Bori did a great job at showing, in an almost tangible way, the concept of emergence, to be understood as a property of a large system that emerges in nontrivial ways from properties of its microscopic constituents. The way the forms move and create a visual appeal, starting from a fine comb of lines on a transparent platform, is very evocative of how I imagine emergence works in physical systems. Sandy’s work was very creative in the way it interpreted the theme and related it to biological processes. It is indeed the case that biology is seen as an emergent phenomenon. The way Sandy embodied it in her artwork and the way it was produced seems very original.”
The EQUS Public Engagement Committee is organising an exhibition in Sydney later this year, where the winners will have the opportunity to have their artwork displayed.
The EQUS Quantum Art Competition is an initiative of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS), aimed at promoting the intersection between art and science.
Materials: Printed acrylic glass, polyethylene threads
Size: 150 cm x 150 cm x 150 cm
Art and quantum physics are two very complex realms and approaches to human inquiry about the world. Each is driven by discovery, curiosity, and a profound longing to know oneself and the surrounding world. When done successfully they can influence us to see the world in a different light; can change our fundamental truths.
Scientists do this through repeated experiments that attempt to reveal a novel aspect of reality. By contrast, artists often start with a new vision of reality, yet from that foundation, we also work through exploration and experimentation.
The kinetic installation I have created for the EQUS Quantum Art Competition 2022, 'Emergence', explores and celebrates the fascinating phenomenon of the moiré interference pattern.
The transparent acrylic glass objects, printed with very similar curved line patterns and hung at particular angles, gently rotate in response to air movement; when overlapping each other new sinuous moving patterns emerge that seem to shimmer and flow.
The stunningly beautiful and suggestive accelerations of these patterns are not illusory. The emergence of the moving patterns occurs not based on the properties of the individual patterns but on the luminance modulations resulting from their superposition. In the moiré, small differences between spatial frequencies of the component patterns are magnified.
‘Emergence’ relates to quantum physics and technology in a significant way. Scientists developing new materials are actively studying moiré patterns in overlapping atomically thin materials, producing intriguing electronic phenomena that include unconventional superconductivity and ferromagnetism.
“When a layer of graphene, a sheet of carbon crystal with atoms arranged in a hexagonal one-atom-thick lattice, is dropped on another one and rotated to just the correct angle of about 1.1 degrees, the graphene magically acquires the ability to become superconductive when the requisite number of electrons are added. This concordance between the visual and the electrical in graphene almost seems to be an example of life imitating art right down to the quantum level.”*
Besides the correlations with quantum physics, the artwork also inquires how the phenomenon of moiré interference relates to the overlapping of human mental, emotional, and physical vibrational patterns.
Materials: W&N watercolours on Arches 300gsm paper
Size: 560 mm x 760 mm
This work is an experiment in emergence using a 000 Cotman brush and Windsor & Newton watercolours which grew out of shapes dictated by those around them as the work began to form.
I’m interested how the concept of emergent complexity relates to living systems that defy the second law of thermodynamics. Trained in biochemistry and molecular biology in the 1990s I am surprised how mysterious life continues to be. I’m intrigued by the research Paul Davies is doing at the Beyond Centre in Arizona on the concepts of emergence, as outlined in his recent book, The Demon in the Machine. James Clerk Maxwell seems to me to be too little spoken of, and I like how Davies relates Maxwell to his own search for a physical law of information. I like Davies’ discussions about how laws change as the playing field changes - as complexity emerges, new rules emerge. Studying biochemistry humbled me into realising that the reductive way we have of looking at living systems is limiting, especially in terms of tertiary and quaternary protein conformation and membrane function.
In terms of this work, I thought of myself as a wet, room-temperature quantum computer, making decisions in a semi-meditative state at the mercy, as it were, of my Maxwell Demons. The choice of colour has a mammalian connection, perhaps, some sort of fleshy shadow of an a priori somatic abstract that exists below our consciousness.
I’m also influenced by Roger Penrose’s ideas on emergent complexity and feedback loops that have to do with pattern and scale. He recalls working, as a boy, with his father on the tribar design they sent to MC Escher, which Escher then used in various works. Penrose often comes back to the Angels and Demons (more demons!) work by Escher as an example of what might be happening at the edges of the very big and the very small, and how scale (or even entropy/enthalpy) might flip, where there are slow, bored photons at the end of the universe. Anyway, I don’t pretend to understand all this, which is why I like to muse on these ideas while I paint, and it seems they often inform the way I make work.
In the making of this painting, patterns and shapes emerged as it progressed. The supporting (white) space began to take on its own character as the work developed, and it was interesting to notice how difficult it was to see the white as a form in itself, especially where it was a thinly interlaced lattice in the mostly-red areas. The feedback idea was imposed by the edges of the paper, where the shapes no longer had the freedom to expand indefinitely and began to grow the entire form back inwards. It could also allude to enclosed systems reaching a point of equilibrium, or passing beyond the tipping point, whereupon the red (flesh) begins to exhaust the white substrate.
This poetic audio piece is inspired by the scales of both the quantum realm and the universe of the very large. We were particularly interested in the known and unknown languages between the two and how Emergence looks at the applications and arrangements of information: how we understand symbols and codes, reality as information and perception. We also delved into conceptual dualities such as Schrödinger equations; wave/particle; entanglement; quantum/general relativity; and existing as physical and conscious entities who, at times are in no need to understand the subatomic level, while also being curious creatures who explore the very small and are governed by the rules of both the macro and micro. By experimenting with symbolist language and the ideas of emergence and playing around with the ideas behind the concepts, we wanted to create a lyrical conversation between both worlds.
The poem is as follows:
once you say it out loud
the wave collapses
before: all probabilities in mosaic geometries
orchestras of possibility on crests of vibrations
amplitudes & resonant scales lapping on infinite shores
you, distinct telomeres & all the choice in the universe
information: amplified reality
the tree is itself // relative to the deepening red of the sky
also, folding assemblies of electrons, protons, neutrons
what we see, what we feel, what we know, what we don’t
the tree as idea, seed, ascending, being & gone all at once
you sitting under the branches, scattered leaves as the sun
calibrates phrases of your book, reams of energised words
en/ tangle/ ment
spacetime’s appliqué of communication
walks of abstractions, systems with multiple parts
how the connections hold awaited rungs of meaning
you, by the lake / me, on the edge of an oversized rock
echoes / synaptic scars / umbilicus
how everything interacts / loops of transformations
the photograph down to its final pixel
how we move as one & stand on our own
the symmetry of all numbers & the imbalance of sums
you, an asteroid in frame, the golden ratio
the boundless impossibility of time
but how we breathe within a Planck length
macro becomes micro becomes macro
a library of linked language
there is no and / without or
once you say it out loud
In 1802 an experiment was conducted by Thomas Young in an attempt to define the physical properties of light as either a wave or a particle. This experiment is now widely known as the 'double slit experiment' and rather than demonstrating that light behaves as either a wave or a particle, the experiment showed that light behaved both as a wave and a particle depending on the role of the observer.
In many ways, this simple experiment lead to the 'emergence' of our modern understanding of quantum mechanics with it raising more questions than it had intended to answer.
This work is a simple representation of how the experiment demonstrated the wave nature of light. With a single source of light in the middle and two parallel openings on each side of the central box. Each stream of light interferes with each other to create brighter, where the wavefronts are additive, and darker sections, where the wavefronts are subtractive. This causes a pattern of interference which can be seen as the line surrounding the outer edges. This interference pattern which remains the same even when the light is measured as singular photon particles or as a wave probability and only changes when the observer detects where the light is going before it travels through the slits.
My practice explores the phenomenon of virtualisation and ‘blended reality’. I am especially interested in how geospatial technologies such as Google Earth have influenced our perception of space and place.
Daily travel around Sydney can be a surreal experience for me because the architecture and the city planning is different from overlooking the suburbs on Google maps. Here I could perceive two spaces as multiple layers where the physical and virtual realities merge into the areas of Sydney in Australia.
In particular, the shapes of buildings and the layout of cities. The houses are closely packed with long rows of double-storey brick terraces that look like a series of building styles characteristic of the late 19th century and early 20th century. It is the intriguing exterior of the buildings that provokes my curiosity about the aerial view of the layout of these buildings.
On a daily basis I record the spaces I walk through using mapping technology, like Google Maps. I use these recordings as reference to create line drawings and paintings of Sydney onto the aluminium surface. I then superimpose these with my hand-drawn ‘scratch holograms’ to create the ‘virtual’ reality that you see move.
One interesting point of my artwork is the methodology; I use the hand-drawn ‘scratch hologram technique. It can create a virtual image in a different way then lens-based media. Through light reflection, the scratch hologram creates a three-dimensional effect by providing a moving image, which is a free-floating form infinitely and independently on a trajectory. The images of scratch hologram simultaneously appear and disappear, depending on the viewer’s position. This is a powerful representation of how human sensory responses are being affected by technology through manual equivalents such as the scratch hologram as a way of continually repositioning the human at the centre of the technological.
I feel that using geospatial technologies is a direct reflection of my thought, imagination and dream. Using Google Earth is like travelling in a virtual world( thought, imagination and dream ) where the viewer becomes part of another dimension. I believe that we not only desire to replicate reality by utilising this technology, but we want to transition entirely into this dimension, where we can expand our worlds around us endlessly.
When looking into the crystal ball to understand “emergence”, questions regarding future science and technology’s escalated integration into everyday life arise. Quantum concepts become spiritually adjacent, as we learn how to see hidden worlds over time. This ultraviolet light reactive drawing is scientifically enhanced by chromodepth 3D glasses giving an illusion of depth emerging outwardly. A highlighted omnipresence of abundant human innovation breaks down to the subatomic level to illustrate where things emerge from. A model of our blooming time where fantasies and dreams constantly become realities now. This magical computer and internet inspired wizardry is a great orchestra conducted by a central figure who appears engulfed in a complex navigation software spell assisted by an a.i. spider on the monitor screen. This orchestra ranges in a myriad of voices. At one end of the spectrum a satellite beams information to a telescope that is printing out a spiral galaxy photo. At another end a robotic hand writing computer code is broken down to electricity, and onward to the atomic level, then further to the subatomic level where particles dance and even disappear. Where does it all arise from? Why do quantum mechanics animating everything behave lively? Whether the emergence of a singularity or a hive mind Renaissance is in humanity’s fate, the fact is much more is at play than plain sight.
This picture embodies the miraculous experience of enhancing the eye in an experimental setting to scrutinise reality for what it is & how it works. In our present day, years of scientific and artistic breakthroughs truly begin to take form by speaking and interacting with us. A new world emerges by perceiving us through its own optical understanding. Similarly, with special glasses, a 3Dimensional image jumps out revealing a life of its own. The viewer debates hidden dimensions present on this flat surface without physical change. The viewer feels the electron’s spark, quarks’ curiosity, and senses mysterious forces from a Hadron collision inspired miniature black hole. In the foreground one breathes fresh air from a distant windmill emerging a green economy, viewed by escaping through a window with flowing curtains. An ultraviolet light allows a secret variation to emerge in glowing fluorescent neons similar to how flowers appear to the eyes of bees. The matter of emergence is reprepresented in a ‘question mark’ upheld to a computer in the centre, which is being commanded by the figure’s hand in an X,Y, Z grid. This waving our hands in the air to create magic lies before us here and now in the destiny of the seeker. The courage of the human heart and mind leads the way. It is this user logging on who waves the wand which weaves the spell. The emergent is conjured by those who adventure into such mysteries. While humans begin to understand the quantum world around us, this knowledge makes for a new emergence in human capabilities. Through these curiosities the fantasy can become the real.
Bucky’s Indian Defence
‘Bucky’ is a nod to R. Buckminster Fuller who hypothesised the tetrahedron underpinned the universe and that the latter, could also be described as a game of chess (with the moves to be made stemming from the visible and non-visible vectors within the tetrahedra). This chess analogy also inspired my title as a Sicilian defence in chess, involving E8 (the black king (Bucky, as one of my heroes as the ‘king’, and the symbolic E8 mother crystal, herein) and C4 (reflective of a 4D quasicrystal which I’ve also tried to encapsulate in the work - the ‘c'lear perspex board), is known as the “Indian Defence".
The box symbolises a time frame of the natural world - a snapshot of reality incorporating: an ‘E8 crystal’, a ‘quasicrystal’, ‘pixels’, ‘information', ‘causality loops’, ‘non-determinism’ and the ‘golden ratio’, all which are subjectively perceived and analysed at any given moment, by the artwork viewer with an element of choice (consciousness).
The 8 layered, triangular lattice structure is symbolic of the E8 mother crystal (as it is impossible to visualise or construct an 8 dimensional form, other than mathematically via lie algebras) is constructed in a periodic pattern to reflect the above-mentioned tetrahedral vectors as the foundation of the universe. The wires extend outside the box, through the periodic holes (reflecting the ‘plank length’ or the lengths of the tetrahedral dice) to illustrate the infinite nature of the repetition. The variegated metallic tones, in daylight, give a celestial, fragile, ever-changing appearance befitting of the crystal.
The suspension of the E8 above a body of tetrahedra symbolises projection of the ‘mother’ crystal to a 4D quasicrystal (the 3D tetrahedra, plus the clear perspex base, which, as it connects all the particles and thus loops them - refers to ‘time’, and in totality, then, the base is not periodic (as the tetrahedra aren’t fixed and can move about)). This looseness and dice, evidences non-determinism and that the state of one tetrahedron influences the state of another in any given moment and further, that the state is determined by how the viewer observes the work or our consciousness. The packing of tetrahedra reflects the golden ratio and, in their replicated forms, the dice also represent pixels comprising reality. Information is shown via these tetrahedra again - as geometic symbols in their own right - and also via the numbers on the surfaces. As they are free to change their positions but are ‘connected’ via the surface of the clear perspex base, representative of the flow time (4D), also, then, the tetrahedra illustrate causality loops. Further, here, the different colours of the resin tetrahedra are symbolic of the past (pink - some contain triangular photographs), the present (blue) and the future (yellowy-green). Their lumping-together on the perspex reflects all time affecting all time, all of the time! The colours are also loosely based on those ascribed to quarks and thus antiquarks and therefore, cumulatively, they produce ‘no net colour’ - like the concept of our universe. An analogy could also be drawn to roygbiv and white in the classical world.
The distinct layers of the work reflect the currently disparate worlds of quantum and classical mechanics which are bridged or unified (by emergence theory) in this work.
The luminescence also connects to emergence theory’s quest to determine the speed of light and other fundamental constants. In darkness, the tetrahedra glow revealing only our ever-evolving 3D visible reality. This too is symbolic of emergence theory, stemming from the dark void between classical and quantum mechanics to unify and illuminate both in our visible, tangible realm of existence.
Artwork - Assuming things are real
Metal, automotive paint
1300 x 1200 x 120 approx.
Most of us live our lives in the benign expectation that reality surrounds us as a predictable, unchanging, and absolute experience.
What theories of Quantum mechanics tell us is that reality is dependent on the Observer. A phenomenon which materialises as an entirely subjective experience brought about by the active participation of the viewer. The attention of a measuring device whether human or other, conscious or unintentional is the catalyst for matter to emerge into this dimension, popping in and out of space in a non-linear fashion, unpredictable, seemingly chaotic and playful.
This sculpture is part of a series of works created over the past few years as part of my investigation into the nature of reality and how scientific theories of quantum physics can be used as inspiration to create aesthetic artifacts. Artists can show us things that are in the world that we would not otherwise notice. Things that are in always there but due to a new perspective, suddenly become visible, or known in a perceptual or sensory manner. In this way there can be the emergence of a new knowledge and awareness which may enrich a person’s appreciation of their surroundings.
The work is not meant to be a representation of a particular theory but a poetic response, channeling the playfulness inherent in quantum physics. The undulating structure causes the emergence of shadows and reflections which echo qualities of the fourth dimension. The crossing over of structure allowing for alternative readings of the work depending upon where the viewer stands.
"Memories of Waves"
This artwork takes inspiration from wave mechanics in quantum and Hokusai’s piece The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
Between vastly different worlds with diverse scales, we seek to reorientate ourselves in how we could view the world as a whole.
We have wavefunctions interfering in the microscopic quantum mechanical world. Yet on the other, we have colliding ocean waves in the macroscopic classical world.
While the underlying principles in these two worlds differ, an intuitive connection emerges.
This work also abstracts the Wigner quasiprobability function, a commonly used method for representing mechanical objects in the quantum domain, by depicting positive and negative values of the Wigner function as the “upright” and “inverted” ocean waves.
The smooth waves and sea foams captivate the mind, abstracting continuous variables of classical objects; while the white bubbles emerging from colliding waves signify noises in the quantum mechanical world.
Transience and emergence are the twin foci of this work. It reflects upon a moment of unreality when time is stopped (which cannot be). This is the emergence of pattern from an ongoing dynamic process in which the elements are interacting as one. The work responds to the idea of 'Quantum String' and its perpetual vibration from which all else emerges.