University of Minnesota

Deterministic Chaos

Catherine Widgery

Catherine Widgery (born 1953, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

Deterministic Chaos, 2017

Concrete, stainless steel, dichroic glass

12 ft. h X 2 ½ ft. w

Location: Outside and inside the Tate Science Building, east bank campus

Deterministic Chaos is a public artwork by artist Catherine Widgery working in collaboration with the building architectural team as well as the scientists in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University. While science works to understand phenomena and communicate discoveries as clearly as possible, the art here brings the invisible energies and rhythms of the light and wind into the awareness of those who enter the building. The artwork elements provide an ordered matrix for revealing the changing and unpredictable forces in our surroundings.

There are mysteries and ambiguities in art and in the unpredictable events of light and wind that are in a dynamic tension with the clarity science searches to define. Deterministic Chaos expresses the dance between these two world views as each enriches the other.

The work is comprised of three parts. Outside an arc of screens on benches refers to the path of the sun throughout the day, the way a sundial marks the passing of time. The stainless steel screens hold binary code puzzles expressed with polished stainless steel squares. These represent the “1” or the “0” of coded language and are enigmas for the viewer to try to unravel. Suspended in a mesh grid, these squares move in the breeze, catching the sunlight and the surrounding reflections. As the angle of the sun changes throughout the day, bits of light move and bounce around the benches and sidewalks, turning the codes into living light works An ambiguous title etched into the base of each screen gives a clue to the meaning of the code.

In the two entry vestibules, subtly revealed scientific codes are embedded in the dichroic panels as they catch the light and reflect and project the patterns on the floors and walls. Here, too, oblique titles are ghost written as hints about the meaning of the puzzles held within.

Finally echoing the arc of screens outside, an arc on the interior wall has four screens of dichroic glass squares that move in response to the air of the building’s ventilation system. The lights project a dancing rainbow of color and movement across the white walls and floor, so that bouncing light animates the whole room.

Veiling reflections in the glass façade of the building pairs the physical elements with their reflections and the wind outside moving the squares is in ‘conversation’ with the air inside the building as if the walls were somehow permeable not just to light but the air as well.

The space is transformed inside and out and the patterns of light and wind are never the same. From these simple, ordered matrices, are infinite possibilities.

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