Our installation for the Amy Johnson Festival now has the title ‘Strange Attractor’ and will be made up of the following elements; a magnetic pendulum, a large disk of sand with three magnetic points, three colour changing circles of light.
The magnetic pendulum will swing in an arc across a large disk of white sand onto which three circles of continuously changing coloured light are projected. These circles will overlap each other to form a central section of white light under which three magnetic centres exert an invisible force. Below are some of the colour combinations that are created when the colours mix – the greys and neutral colours are particularly compelling.
The pendulum cuts a fine pattern in the sand tracing its various journeys towards equilibrium and the calm elliptical spiral at the centre. The magnets however, exert a strange attraction and bring a degree of uncertainty to the airspace and the exact direction that will be taken. Occasionally the pendulum completely changes direction and can even become stranded at a magnetic pole.
We have set up a pendulum in order to work out exactly the weight, length, and magnet positions we want to use. We were curious to see in more detail how the pendulum makes its way towards the centre of the circle. The images below have been taken in the dark with a small light attached to the end of the pendulum. These are photographic exposures of about 5 minutes each to show the extraordinarily beautiful paths of movement of the pendulum as it circles towards equilibrium.
The journeys start from the outside where the pattern is forms a series of ordered and slightly shifting ellipses of slowly reducing size. As the pendulum comes into the influence of the three magnets which are placed at 120 degree intervals around a 600 mm diameter circle, the patterns becomes chaotic, occasionally changing direction of rotation. The pendulum finally reaches a second state of order as it moves towards the centre away from magnetic influence. Here the pattern becomes intricate and dense.
Viewers will be invited to swing the pendulum and follow the flight as it passes through borders of colour, sandy terrain and magnetic atmosphere. As we have been working on this idea we have noticed the parallels and connections with flight and atmosphere. For example the tip of the pendulum actually describes a path of travel that follows the inside surface of a sphere, and the magnets suggest planetary forces.
Strange Attractor is a wonderfully ambiguous term which can refer not just to chaos theory and the ‘butterfly effect’ explored by the mathematician Edward Lorenz (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorenz_system) but also our fascination with light, material and pattern amidst the compelling uncertainty of elemental forces. Art and science have a natural overlap as they are both functions of our interpretation and understanding of the universe and the world we live in.