CLOUD is an interactive installation exploring complexity in post-digital systems by referencing aspects of quantum theory. The work was presented at Central St. Martin’s London in 2015 and Libby wrote about it in her solo authored paper ‘Quantum Computing and Complexity in Art‘ for Leonardo Journal (MIT Press).
CLOUD explores complexity in the post-digital by referencing the principles of quantum superposition (pluralities and multiplicities), quantum entanglement (nonlocal, inseparable connections) and quantum measurement (irreversible subjectivities).
CLOUD is an installation that spans digital and physical. The physical consists of 54 independently rotating, octahedron ‘pixels’ made from paper, tessellated within in a hand-knotted, linen net that in turn is suspended by a scaffold frame (commissioned as part of a wider exhibition). Each pixel is shaded half with graphite and the other half is left as blank paper.
Behind the sculpture are the electronics – namely a Servo motor for each pixel and ~500m of wiring. The orientations of the pixels are determined, in part, by data from a Microsoft Kinect depth camera, which senses the area in front of the piece, where a coded, invisible copy of the physical structure is digitally ‘reflected’ across the floor.
The presence of people in this space causes CLOUD to change its configuration. Before anyone enters the space, the pixels are in an ordered, low-entropy configuration: every single one is facing the same way (half-coloured and half-blank). Then, as participants walk around
in the space, their paths are gradually mapped onto CLOUD through a random orientation of the corresponding pixels. Each location in front of CLOUD has a one to one link with a pixel such that when a person steps into a location, the code controlling the installation randomly chooses to rotate the linked pixel left or right to reveal fully its shaded or blank side. Overall, the installation thus evolves from an ordered to a random state contingent on how people move in the space, with the pixels slowly re-ordering themselves after people have moved away from the piece for a certain amount of time.
CLOUD focuses on experience as well as representation, it could also be viewed as a sequence of images that renders quantum computing both “unpicturable and picturable”, articulating complexity through traces of properties that are essentially inconceivable. By taking quantum physics as a starting point, CLOUD thus breaks down the classical object-subject, natural-cultural boundaries hence placing it and the articulated complexity firmly within the post-digital. As a post-digital artwork, CLOUD brings together materials that are close to ‘natural’ (i.e. linen, graphite) with digital technologies making real “differential patterns of mattering” between humans and non-humans.