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An Immersive, Experiential Event Series
Pasadena artist Ken Salter explores emergence in his evolving body of work called The Garden of Strange Loops. Emergence is a mathematical property where simple rules, applied repeatedly, lead to self-organizing systems whose complexity far exceed that of the underlying rules. From snowflakes to climate change, and flocks of birds to battalions of soldiers, emergence is the engine of creation and calamity — a secular explanation for, so-called, “acts of God.”
The focus of this work is emergence as it pertains to consciousness. This is the subject of cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter’s book, I Am a Strange Loop, which inspired the name for the work. The work is intended to provoke conversation, reflection and meditation on how the mind emerges from the brain.
This show features Reflecting Pool, the second device developed for The Garden of Strange Loops. Reflecting Pool is an interactive device that generates mesmerizing, neo-psychedelic, fractal images and sounds that captivate and hypnotize. The device responds to Tai-Chi style movements of the viewer’s hands; immersing the viewer’s senses, mind and body into a holistic experience.
For the first time, the device will be accompanied by music for guided meditation. Reminiscent of a 60’s liquid light show, images pulsate to the timeless and sublime music of Mazzy Star. Though pre-programmed, the process that generates the images uses light. Hence each playback is as unique and ephemeral as a campfire.
The choice of music is deliberate. Mazzy Star’s second album and title track, So Tonight That I Might See, is to the ears what Reflecting Pool is to the eyes. The song’s title is a cry for transformation and enlightenment. The audio-visual experience is intended to inch the viewer closer to that elusive state. This song and a handful of others, including Look on Down from the Bridge and Bells Ring, are part of the experience.
How it Works
Reflecting Pool consists of a downward facing camera looking at an upward facing video screen. The image from the video camera is replicated into several windows and arranged as a mosaic on the screen. The camera then takes a picture of this mosaic leading to a mosaic of mosaics. The cycle repeats, thirty times per second, with surprising results: fluid organic patterns with amazingly complex structure. Soothing tones are generated that represent the blend of colors on the screen. Visitors interact with the work by moving their hands gracefully, much like a Tai Chi practitioner, causing the hypnotic visuals to respond in a way that represent the movements and foster a meditative state.
What it Means
Understanding emergent phenomena is of vital importance. From the structure of snowflakes to galaxies, complex patterns and behaviors arising from simple rules is universal. Tipping points, such as catastrophic climate change and populist political revolutions, are also examples of emergent behavior. Consciousness and artificial intelligence are, perhaps, the most profound examples.
However Reflecting Pool can be appreciated from a purely aesthetic standpoint, without any concern for the underlying mathematics. Its hypnotic effect needs no explanation.
About the Artist
Pasadena artist Ken Salter has been at the frontier of entertainment technology and art for over 25 years. With engineering degrees from UC Berkeley and UCLA, Ken worked for Walt Disney Imagineering developing new technologies for theme park rides. He has numerous patents on ride and entertainment technology. He co-owns a company which manufactures large sculptures, using digital techniques, for some of the world’s most recognized artists. His interest in fractals and emergence originated in 2000 after reading several books on chaos and complexity science.
Ken was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008 at the age of 46. One of the benefits of this disease is that changes in brain chemistry enhance creativity and awaken artistic abilities. Accordingly, Ken showed his first piece, Chaotic Fractal Generator, at San Francisco’s Exploratorium in 2013. He also composed and recorded an unreleased album of psychedelic surf music that year.
In 2017 he built Reflecting Pool which has shown at a number of group shows and in a dedicated gallery at the Exploratorium along with several prints. He works from his studio in Old Town Pasadena.
Ken views reality from a systems perspective and is skeptical of faith. The concept of emergence reinforces his worldview that intricate systems that appear to be designed need no creator.
- Tickets are priced $15 each.
- There is a limit of 15 tickets per time slot
- Tickets can be purchased online or at the door, but we prefer you to do it online for a guaranteed time slot.
- Photography and video are welcome!
Gallery 30 South
30 S. Wilson Ave.