What's the relationship between the internet and the quantum world? In an installation at the Arebyte gallery, London-based artist Marios Athanasiou draws parallels with new work, Superposition. His piece takes its name from the concept of quantum superposition, which supposes that matter in the subatomic world can exist in two states simultaneously (wave, particle) until it is measured by an instrument, forcing it to take only one form.
Superposition takes this concept and transposes it to the physical and digital worlds. In the physical world the energy exists in one state, as the physical manifestation of the artwork. On the internet it exists in an omnipresent manner, as code in a browser.
In the gallery space, the installation takes the form of a black cube with a tank filled with green liquid. The liquid is reactive to UV light so it appear to visitors as if it's solid or floating in midair. Transducers placed beneath the menacing pool of green cause it to vibrate creating patterns that ripple across the surface—these are picked up by sensors and translated into code. Then, the code is used to create a virtual version of the setup where virtual waves ripple in a virtual tank, which can be seen at www.superposition.xyz.
These virtual waves are then turned into audio data which, in turn, feed back to the transducers beneath the real water tank. This causes vibrations on its surface, creating what Athanasiou calls a "cybernetic feedback loop of energy in a constant flux of transformation."
The Creators Project fired off a few questions to Athanasiou to find out more about the artwork and his interest in quantum physics as it relates to our experience of virtual realities.
Video, GIF, and photography by Christian Kraatz
The Creators Project: What interests you about exploring the relationship between offline and online using quantum physics and VR?
Marios Athanasiou: The world described by quantum physics is a world that we cannot comprehend because our brains are wired for our physical, everyday world. Virtual reality offers us an opportunity to go beyond what we are wired for; it gives us the opportunity to create extreme realities governed by different laws of physics. By creating these extreme realities we will be able to better understand quantum physics, which will eventually lead to a better understanding of our everyday physical reality.
What similarities do you see between them?
One of the main similarities I see between them is the concept of immateriality and the concept of time. In the quantum world and virtual reality, an object is a wave of possibility or computer code respectively until we observe it and it then becomes the object we perceive. They both exist as information until they are activated by our perception. Also, in both "worlds," the concept of time is not set but elastic. In the quantum world the arrow of time is not one directional but it acts more as a loop. In virtual reality, too, time is flexible; it is up to the programmer to decide the direction of the arrow of time.
What will visitors experience when they visit the exhibition?
The work is divided into two equal parts. One half of the artwork is a solid, unique object only accessible at the gallery. The other half can be accessed anywhere, anytime as a webpage on the Internet. Visitors at the gallery will experience the physical manifestation of one of the two inputs-outputs of the feedback system. In order to complete the work the visitors will have to visit superposition.xyz, which is the virtual manifestation of the inputs-outputs.
Can you elaborate a bit more on what you mean by "cybernetic system of energy" in this piece?
My aim with this work is to draw attention to the interaction between the physical and virtual world and the effect this interaction has on human perception of reality. By cybernetic system of energy I mean a closed feedback loop of energy transforming from one form to another that can be experienced and observed by the visitors.
Black and green seems to be a recurrence in your work. Any particular reason you like working with these colors?
These two colors are associated with the early 80s cyberpunk sci-fi books such as Neuromancer by William Gibson before it got commercialized by films such as The Matrix. Cyberpunks were one of the few technological resistance movements against authoritative and governmental technological forms of control that have become common place today.
The pool of green liquid