The sciences and the arts often use very different approaches to abstraction. In the sciences, it is often data driven: how can numbers show us something new about the world? In the arts, it is most famously thought of as the opposite: how can abstraction reveal expression? How can these two systems be reconciled?
John loves to talk about the Lake Missoula floods, the result of the bursting of a glacial dam 10,000 years ago. This flood emptied a lake that covered much of present day Montana, and was larger than all our great lakes combined, into the Pacific Ocean in a matter of hours. Huge ripple makes can still be found in Washington and Oregon. John was a surfer, and he liked to imagine a tribesman in his kayak out on the lake, his ancestors perhaps arriving on the continent as few as 1000 years prior. He got to experience the ultimate wave. I often think about this flood as I click my camera’s shutter and let a rush of light into the darkness.
The breaking of that dam reshaped the world. A paradigm shift. New understandings the world often results in the destruction of old systems. I strive to intentionally break, stretch, and crack my expectation on how a camera works and how the world is put together… What remains after I’ve broken something I deeply believed in?
Grids and branches represent two very different systems for interpreting and reproducing the world. They’re the underlying data of today’s image files: pixels or vectors. Both systems are incredibly useful, and which to use depends on context. Vectors are horrible at carrying photographic information. Grids (or the crystalline structure of film grain) are essential to it, but that information breaks down when magnified.
Layering these systems on top of each other, surprising visual effects often occur. Moiré can result in the positive and negative reinforcement of different sized grids. Branches start to entwine as vines grow together, creating knots that seem impossible to untie. I often find that as the system itself breaks down, something else begins to present itself. The robustness of these systems can sometimes be part of their limitation. They are good at what showing us what is visible, but they can force the issue.
In the world of ecology, loose trends often leave us with scatter, and only through complicated mathematics can we map these vague trends at the abstract edges of the world. I try to subvert them or combine branches and grids in hopes that this might allow me to glimpse at their imperfect and unusual edges: to see where and how these abstractions necessary in constructing my views begin to break down. I’m searching for another means to organize visual information that is more vague and inconclusive.