Art Futura 2002 Barcelona October 31 - November 3

Art Futura is an exhibition and conference about art and technology held annually at the CCCB in Barcelona. The Contemporary Culture Centre Barcelona (CCCB) is located in the centre of the city.



HyperSpheres and The Wave Equation are the names I gave to the two major installations on show. I chose a mathematical theme in honour of my father, F G Friedlander, a Cambridge mathematician and fellow of the Royal Society. He died last year. Waves were an abiding interest for him, as they have become for me. The name of one of the installations is taken from the title of his book, 'The Wave Equation on a Curved Space Time'. Extracts from the book were projected into both the installations. The HyperSpheres were created last year but I have now added an extra large HyperSphere and the data projection in 3D. The Wave Equation was created specially for this show.

A third installation was exhibited suspended 30 metres up in the courtyard outside. This was on show at night only.

  Society is influenced by science directly through the development of new technology, but there are other important subtle ways science influences us. At the core of scientific thinking are principles that are accepted as the basis of many of our ideas. Although these are not easy to understand, they pervasively influence our culture and the way we think as individuals. To understand how we are being influenced, we need to understand these ideas and how they are changing today. We find ourselves at the beginning of a new century, the revolutions in thought from the last century now form the shoulders upon which we must stand in order to see further into the future.

Science grew out of a rational inquiry into nature. During the 20th century, we came to understand some of the limits to reason. We overthrew the dogma of the clockwork universe, accepting relativity and uncertainty as fundamental. Towards the end of the century, laws of chaos came to be developed. Alongside these developments, theoretical physicists continued to hunt for a Theory of Everything. Let us focus on this as it has been my greatest influence.

Theoretical physicist are broadly divided into three camps. The oldest and most traditional have continued to work with the accepted theories of physics and seek out new results from within this realm. Relativity is now considered to be a classical theory together with all earlier physics. Quantum mechanics is equally fundamental but separate and another foundation upon which this work is built.

Since about 1980, there has been a large group of scientists seeking a new theory to combine relativity with quantum theory. Nobody knows quite what this will look like, but it is referred to as 'The Theory of Everything'. Most of this new research is involved with 'String Theory'. There are many different versions, exploring exotic multi-dimensional geometry, and trying to find how one dimensional objects, 'strings', would behave in these higher dimensional spaces. They find that depending on the vibrations of these strings, they can behave as all the known forces and particles. Thus each different vibrating pattern of the same 'string' makes it behave as a different particle. Recently M Theory has sought to provide a more coherent basis for these various String Theories.

There is another smaller group of researchers investigating something they call 'Loop Quantum Gravity'. According to their theory, space and time itself may not be fundamental, but constructed of something simpler. They propose a network of spins as the ultimate constituents of existence.

Today there is not one Theory of Everything, but numerous such theories. This may sound like confusion amongst the experts, but strangely there is a growing consensus on certain key issues. One of these, the Holographic Principle looks set to become one of the most important ideas in this new physics. Debate is still ongoing about what form this new principle should take and what it signifies. I will end by quoting the physicist, Lee Smolin:


'The universe cannot be described from the point of view of an observer who exists somehow outside of it. Instead there are many partial viewpoints, where observers may receive information from their pasts. According to the holographic principle, geometrical quantities such as the areas of surfaces have their origins in measuring the flow of information to observers inside the universe.

Thus, it is not enough to say that the world is a hologram. The world must be a network of holograms, each of which contains coded within it information about the relationships between the others. In short, the holographic principle is the ultimate realization of the notion that the world is a network of relationships. Those relationships are revealed by this new principle to involve nothing but information. Any element in this network is nothing but a partial realization of the relationships between the other elements. In the end, perhaps, the history of a universe is nothing but the flow of information.'

Art Futura