Necrodelic Reverie

Among the delights of having a blog are the friendly emails you get from complete strangers. I got one last week from an artist, who is quite new to me, called Tobias Collier, concerning an old post of mine about randomness. Looking at his website I can see why he was interested in that particular topic, and also found so many things  of interest myself that I decided to do a small showcase here.

According to one of the reviews on his website:

Tobias Collier’s work can be seen as an attempt to visually articulate a great epistemological challenge: that of the human mind encountering the intellectually imponderable. Encompassing elements of sculpture, installation, drawing, performance and video, Tobias Collier’s practice partly relies upon the translation of scientific research methodologies to the processes of art making. Using Art as their field of enquiry, the subsequent works function as mechanisms within the context of a research practice and present a unique combination of scientific processes with poetic artistry.

Playing with current ideas around Astronomy and Cosmology, Tobias Collier’s quotidian metaphors examine our cultural relationship to outer space, using objects of daily existence. They highlight the limitations and inadequacy of man-made processes such as logic (modelling, hypothesizing, inferring and inducing), analogies and metaphors when attempting to comprehend systems and structures that extend beyond our everyday experience.

You can find a host of fascinating things on his website, including sculptures that manage to be both whimsical and profound:

Predicting Random Events, 2011

My favourite pieces, however, admittedly based only on what I have viewed on the website, are the stunning “inductive dot”  drawings, done in ink on paper, and described in the following passage:

The revelation of science that our universe, governed by the second law of thermodynamics, is ultimately fated to a cold quiet ‘heat death’, becomes an unavoidable issue for the work of London based artist Tobias Collier. His response is to propose the pursuit of necrodelic reverie. Small, yet hugely ornate, pointillist drawings are produced as a result of hours of ritualised practice. Like moments in an ongoing process, or records of a timeless activity, the end results are un-human, naturalised, nebulous star-fields or perhaps cloudscapes. In his sculpture references to collapsing or eroded structures, chemical reactions and combustions abound. Conscious cosmic thought entropically linked to the arrow of time, reconciled to universal destiny.

Here’s an example

Necrodelic Reverie, 2010

And this one, reminiscent of cloud formations in a planetary atmosphere:

Untitled, 2010

I find it fascinating that so many contemporary artists take their inspiration, and sometimes their techniques, from the sciences but so few scientists take a reciprocal interest in contemporary art. Anyway, I hope at least a few readers of this blog will now go and have a look at the work of Tobias Collier!



16 Responses to “Necrodelic Reverie”

  1. “… are produced as a result of hours of ritualised practice” – sounds like fractal behaviour. Repeated use of rules to form structure. Apparently Pollock’s pictures much the same – has been used to show fakes up.

  2. It would be interesting to analyse these drawings with the tools we use for statistical analysis of galaxy clustering.

  3. Anton Garrett Says:

    O boy, who posted that review on his website? Private Eye Pseuds’ Corner, here I come!

    I’ll stick with Titian, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Canaletto and Turner, as I regard technique as necessary but not sufficient. Far be it from me to criticise Tobias Collier; I just hope he isn’t doing this stuff with taxpayers’ money.


    • telescoper Says:

      ps. It’s a longstanding ambition of mine to appear in Pseud’s Corner. I’ve certainly written enough candidate material in my time.

  4. telescoper Says:

    I admire the Old Masters greatly but art neither began nor ended with them. And physics didn’t stop with Newton and Einstein.

    • Absolutely Telescoper.
      Garrett – so art stopped in the 19th C?!
      Here’s someone who seems to be making art about ideas and science that’s happening now.
      Even though science is flying with incredible achievements, it needs be cautious of hubris and take note of its similarly creative cousin.
      “Necrodelic reverie” – what?!!

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      No, but fundamental theoretical physics did stop with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. Thankfully physics advances on two fronts, experimental and theoretical, and we have the results of ever improving detector technology in astrophysics to challenge us to think. Honour to those who do.

      “I admire the Old Masters greatly but art neither began nor ended with them.”

      I think it did, but I’m content to phrase this as personal opinion here.

      • “No, but fundamental theoretical physics did stop with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.”

        Did it? That’s interesting. I suppose that’s based on a peculiar definition of “fundamental” expressly designed to exclude anything achieved after 1927 (such as quantum field theory for a start!).

        I might as well argue that mathematics ended with Leibniz, biology with Darwin, medicine with Fleming, and art with the Old Masters … oh, wait.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Certainly it’s about what I mean by ‘fundamental’, but I mean REALLY fundamental, like the relativity principle and the quantum principle. The former came in the first decade of the 20th century, the latter in the third decade. Obviously there was massive technical development to be done as a result, which I respect hugely, but what is the first word of ‘quantum field theory’?

      • I don’t know what your area is, Anton, but to suggest as you did that theoretical physics ended in 1927, or that quantum field theory is not a fundamental advance on quantum mechanics because they both have the word “quantum” … well, let’s just say it shows a certain ignorance of the subject.

        Of course, he who knows not and knows not that he knows not is always quick to comment on the internet.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Sesh: It’s a matter of perpective. The quantum principle of noncommutativity came around 1927, was applied to relativistic particles shortly after by Dirac, and (partly because of the resulting difficulties) to relativistic fields a decade or two later. But it’s still the quantum principle, not something that goes beyond it. To say that is not an insult to Schwinger, Feynman et al – it’s a fact.

        Why should we want to go beyond it? Well, two silver atoms, in which the outermost electron has identical wavefunction, register in the different detectors of a Stern-Gerlach apparatus. I want to know why. It is the job of physicists to ask such questions. Yet the Copenhagen interpretation says that you may not. Junking Copenhagen is a *precondition* for any further advance to be made. To tell a scientist not to think about science is appalling.

        If a scientist believes somebody is speaking uninformedly about science then is it not better to correct them than insult them? I held three postdoctoral research contracts in physics after getting my PhD from the University of Cambridge.

      • I see. So with due deference to your three post-doctoral positions I put it to you that your philosophical distaste of the Copenhagen interpretation is blinding you to the remarkable achievements of, and advances in, theoretical physics over the last 84 years, much as your aesthetic judgement blinds you to the merits of any art in the last two hundred years.

        Of course you are free to choose whatever definitions of “fundamental” you wish to suit the particular convoluted argument you are making, but then the problem lies with your definition, not with the science.

        I can define the criteria of a “fundamental” advance in physics to be such that Maxwell’s unification of electricity and magnetism and Glashow, Weinberg and Salam’s unification of electromagnetism and the weak force (and prediction of the Z!) both fail. This would only serve to make me look like a fool, not them.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Please do not try to phrase your personal judgements as truth. When I use the word ‘fundamental’ I mean it in the sense of Newton, Einstein, and the joint deducers of the quantum noncommutation principle. I have no taste to quibble over the word and I deny that I am insulting the great physicists of the last 80 years. I wish to insult only the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, and I gave a reason why. If you want a constructive debate, please engage with that.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Without technique, you can’t express your ideas (unless they are not very profound).

  5. “…but so few scientists take a reciprocal interest in contemporary art.”

    based on what evidence? wandering around the lumiere last week – or indeed the baltic – you often happened upon an astronomer or two.

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