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Quantum Theory Becomes A Playable Physical Object

With his homemade "Interactive Video Art Objects," artist and motion designer Will Reardon aims to bring live-animated artworks into the physical sphere.

DJ Pangburn

DJ Pangburn

Artist and motion designer Will Reardon wants to bring computer-generated, screen-based art objects out into the real world. Before getting to work on what he calls "Interactive Video Art Objects," (IVAOs), retro-futurist creations you'd almost expect to find in Terry Gilliam's Brazil or 12 MonkeysReardon was mapping out artistic territory in experimental motion graphics and audio-visual artworks in London. Now, after decamping to the Wiltshire, England countryside in 2011 to paint and sculpt, he says, the two paths are converging into “crossover projects”: IVAO #1 and IVAO #2.

Asked what inspired these projects, Reardon pointed to the quantum theory of light. The project, in fact, came into being because Reardon will be exhibiting these objects at a show centered on quantum theory:

The wave-particle duality theory states that light, depending on some earlier event— a measurement or an observation of the light, for instance— can simultaneously exist as both a wave and a particle. This dual nature can be found in the IVAOs' design and function, from the software right on down to the hardware.

“There are two of these controllers linked together: one to generate wave formations, the other to generate particles,” Reardon said. “A projector shows the two outputs superimposed, so the users are working together to create a unique animated artwork with both waves and particles combined—a simple analogy for quantum reality.”

It's undoubtedly an ambitious project, especially considering that this is only Reardon's second foray into the world of video art objects. His first, Compendium, he describes as “a screen in a box,” only able to play an explosion of luminous animated diagrams, shapes, and symbols scanned from practical mathematics and telegraphy books.

“I just wanted a way of presenting video art detached from the normal world of screens,” Reardon said. “Who wants to buy a piece of video art to play on their telly or computer?”

After Compendium, Reardon felt that the next logical step was to make video art objects that were interactive. He wanted knobs and sliders to affect the animation's various elements and attributes. While he hesitates to call IVAO #1 and IVAO #2 video synthesizers, there are clear similarities as far as the inclusions of inputs, outputs, knobs, and sliders.

“I generally like machines, technology, flashing lights, dials, and buttons, as well as electronic music and psychedelic visuals,” Reardon said in speaking of influences on Compendium and the IVAOs. “I always stare at graphic equalizers and I love 80s HiFi stereo systems. I like ancient stuff as well, and Compendium was meant to look as if it had been buried under the sea for a thousand years. These [current] projects are just me bringing together all the things I love.”

For one IVAO's physical construction, Reardon salvaged some offcut bits of oak from a local timber yard, and fixed them onto a base previously used for an old medicine cabinet. He then acquired screens from China, knobs and sliders from Sparkfun.com, and other “bits and bobs” from a local hardware store.

Reardon's particular animated visuals are created through a combination of After Effects plugin Trapcode Form (for 3D visuals), the VDMX VJ software, and x-OSC, an I/O board that gives any software access to 32 high-performance analogue/digital channels and on-board sensors (gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, etc.) via WiFi.

Reardon, who takes pride in his lack of electrical knowledge, plugs the art objects' switches, sliders, and knobs into x-OSC, which connects to the VDMX VJ software and begins the the animated visuals. See how the x-OSC hardware and VDMX software work in Reardon's video tutorial.

In the tutorial linked above, Reardon can be seen testing an IVAO against random abstract motion graphics he'd recently created. In another, Reardon shows his father two devices he hooked up to a projector— while cautioning that the animations seen in the video, which swirl and pop in colorful waves and particles, are still works-in-progress, Reardon promised that this will be the same setup he'll use for the The Quantum Theory of Light live show.

This September, at the Bradford-on-Avon Arts Festival, alongside other artists' tech/art cross-over projects, Reardon will exhibit IVAO #1 and IVAO #2. And as for the future? Reardon hopes to craft more interactive objects, making, as he said, “a fun show full of noise and color.”

To learn more about Will Reardon's IVAO projects, check out his official website here

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