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Surface Tension - The wave in the mind


LED light, motor, 3d-printed PLA lamp case, laser engraved papers, data-driven simulation, Suminagashi prints on recycled paper

Tempests of sea waves are still on paper. The images are frames extracted from a simulation of two storms that happened in the Baltic Sea: Rafael on 22-Dec-2004 at 22:20 (left), and Toini on 11-Jan-2017 at 22:25 (right). The data relative to these two sea conditions, gently provided by the FMI, were measured at the buoy in the Northern Baltic: 59°15´ N, 21°00´ E., close to the Suomen Leijona lighthouse. They feed a physically based mathematical model of wave motion and a computer program developed by the artist to generate the 3D visualization.

Before the advent of powerful computer and sensing technology, wave phenomena were only described and logged by visual observation and subjective evaluation of individuals.

Currently, an increased amount of data, in terms of time accuracy and spatial diffusion, more accurate mathematical models, and machines with increased computation power, allow scientists to more realistically describe and visualize phenomena and provide more accurate forecasts of meteorological events.

Simulation technology allows one to model and predict phenomena but also reconstructs events that we haven’t witnessed in the first place, first person. Here, thanks to the available historical data, the simulation is a time machine that creates narratives and writes stories of the past. It is a speculative recording, a sequence of images no camera has captured, only a buoy and its embedded sensors.

Computation shapes both the future of our experiences and our understanding of the past. The scale-model lighthouse in the middle of the room rhythmically investigates the space and presents us with glimpses of three touching horizons.

On the other hand, tactile sense and listening to matter through the human body can offer us different kinds of knowledge about the environment. The armor hanging from the ceiling presents hundreds of attempts to connect with water to understand how its movements move the viewer. By using the old traditional printing technique, Suminagashi (墨 流 し) or "floating ink" on water, the prints appear different depending on the surface tension. Understanding the surface tension of water is important in a wide range of applications including heat transfer, desalination, and oceanography. Although much is known about the surface tension of fresh water, very little has been known about the surface tension of seawater. In salty water, tap water, or water from lakes, the surface tension changes and creates different kinds of traces on the paper.

In the installation, the armor hides and covers as well as shelters. On its surface, the different patterns, and different waters are mixed and moving endlessly. Little do we understand all the connections between elements and natural forces. Right now it feels more than important to think about our knowledge formation and to boldly weave together different ways in which we can explore and understand the world.

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