Finalist for Industry Award for Best Visual Effects
Bianka Hofmann in a brief interview with the director, Mark Chavez.
The immersive, reactive audio-visual experience Quantum Logos (vision serpent) explores the basics of quantum theory as expressed through cultural archetypes. The artwork aims to make the universe’s underlying quantum reality accessible to the public; Whether it’s the so-called heart of the quantum theory, the double-slit experiment, or phenomena such as entanglement or superposition, all are abstract physical concepts that are difficult to grasp. Quantum Logos aims to ease access to these counter-intuitive phenomena of quantum reality. They all underlie the universe’s natural structures, from the waves of inanimate matter to the vivid systemic photosynthesis in plants to the human brain and consciousness, which seem to produce the results of quantum physical measurements. The work was realized within the art-sci collective Quantum Travelers.
BH: Mark, you choose an intriguing design approach, using cultural metaphors to artistically describe complex and crucial scientific concepts. How does this allow the audience to grasp the counter-intuitive and paradoxical logic and open to quantum research or even to the chances and risks of quantum technological implications for society?
MC: When Ina Conradi and I started this project, we were in a quandary at how to approach the topic of Quantum Theory. It is a vast subject and extremely difficult to understand. My colleagues on the project, Bianka Hofmann and Bob Kastner who are well versed in creative production and science communication. In addition, we had consultant Rupert Ursin, an Austrian experimental physicist active in the field of quantum entanglement and communications at the Institute for IQOQI Vienna, helping with my approach. Along with these experts I was engaged as an Artist-in-Residence at the UCLA Art/Sci Center. There I had the opportunity to engage with founder Victoria Vesna and science director James Gimzewski. A stellar cast of brilliant people from which I could ask questions regarding my approach. My expertise is not in math nor certainly not quantum physics. My colleagues recommended that I approach this work with what I best understand, art and animation as an interpretive tool. So, I decided to examine cultural archetype and see if there were parallels in design and meaning to the meta concepts explored in both fields. In addition, I have been studying Mesoamerican design and thinking and found that it offered a fresh conceptual design approach to the work. It is always good to look and ideas from a new perspective.
BH: With international media artist Ina Conradi, you already worked on award-winning collaborations, such as Elysian Fields. Why did you team up with a STEM science-oriented sci-art producer like me, and the business-oriented science communicator Bob Kastner and which benefits, or unexpected results had such an approach?
MC: I have been quite fortunate that my partner Ina Conradi and I have been able to work on these projects together. Interestingly our son Tate Chavez scored the music. Our prior collaboration, Chrysalis, was honored with an Advanced Imaging Society’s 2018 Lumiere Award for Best 3D Short Animation. We met Bianka Hofmann when we were both Artists-in-Residence at the UCLA Art/Sci Center under Victoria Vesna. She presented fascinating work her group at Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Medicine MEVIS was doing visualizing the human body from the topological surface to reconstructions of organs and digitized microscopic tissue. I found this fascinating and thought that I would love to work with people that do this kind of advanced imaging. There is no telling where this kind of technology might go. So we began working on ideas together with one of which we screened at Ars Electronica Festival 2018 in the Deep Space 8k Theater, and at our local Singapore based media screen, Media Art Nexus located at the North Spine Plaza at Nanyang Technological University part of the NTU Museum, (see the VR link to the work). We teamed up with you in the private project Quantum Logos as we wanted to push the boundaries of artistic approaches to communicate STEM science education even further, not only in an illustrative way, but by considering symbolic cultural patterns as well.
My expectations were not particularly motivated on short-term profits or a quick revenue stream from content but on creating something that would move people and add to the corpus of knowledge that perhaps would help people understand at least intuitively the nature of quantum theory.Then perhaps along with this, certainly funding for projects and collaborations.
BH: Technically you expanded your repertoire to better work with Derivative Touchdesigner with this reactive immersive audio-visual experience. The audience at the premiere at Ars Electronica’s Deep Space 8k in September 2019 could interact and create visual and acoustic metaphors themselves due to the ’Pharao’ laser tracking system within the stereoscopic 3D theater; you also provided an immersive stereoscopic edit in Singapore this year. What is it that these new soft-hardware tools allow you to realize and express as an artist?
MC: That is the interesting thing about the nature of this work and projects of this nature. The opportunity to learn new approaches and explore ideas from a new perspective. I do like working in the art of animation however what I most enjoy is the opportunity to extend my knowledge and take on new skill to express myself more deeply. Having made this project as an immersive interactive movie was interesting however only a beginning. I have mapped it over to NTU’s Institute for Media Innovation’s (IMI) Immersive Stereoscopic 3D Theater and have a rough version in VR.
BH: The current pandemic situation makes on-site exhibits with interactive, immersive experiences impossible. Do you have any plans for making the artwork accessible online or even interactive in an immersive VR version, for instance?
MC: I am planning to further develop a stereoscopic VR edit that connects to the IMI theater experience in real-time. I would also plan to make each person’s viewing experience relate to the last person’s experience creating a kind of entangled theatrical event in the viewing. I think this kind of experience best experimented with using abstract animation, however it would be interesting to create work that describes an narrative with character driven storytelling. I’ve got some ideas.