Equilibrium

Interactive touch-screen video installation
1ch HD touch-screen LCD, custom software
Duration: N/A
Dimensions: variable

Stills on flickr

I discuss more in depth the journey and motivations that led to this work in this talk.

‘Equilibrium’ is an interactive abstraction, a data dramatization, of the delicate balance in which an ecosystem hangs – a fragile structure, a snapshot of a moment of harmony, amidst chaos and disorder.

The project was inspired during an expedition to Madagascar with the Unknown Fields Division following the trail of global resource extraction into the heart of one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet, exploring the endangered rainforests, mining landscapes and wild west sapphire towns. The country is a popular hotspot for tourists and wildlife lovers, rich in biodiversity with many endemic species and a unique ecology. It’s rich in resources desired by the affluent world such as rosewood, gold, sapphire, nickel and cobalt; and exploited by lawless industries. While the country’s residents live in extreme poverty – with a tradition of unsustainable slash-and-burn subsistence farming – corrupt battles ensue for political power. The land rich with these different types of resources – ecological, financial, social, political or simply subsistence – is pulled apart from all directions, based on the shifting balance of these values.

A system can be temporarily stable when the forces acting upon it and its components are balanced. At a macroscopic level its behaviour may appear to be static or pulsate slowly, even though microscopic interactions might still be occurring and components fluctuating furiously. The system can retain this steady state until an external perturbation, upon which it falls into chaos, searching for a new equilibrium, which it may or may not find.

These behavioural concepts apply to many systems beyond Madagascar: populations and ecosystems on various scales, climate, politics, social and economic trends, and many other biological and physical systems.

Touch the screen, disturb the balance, and watch the system fall into chaos. Then wait for it to settle and reconfigure, self-organize to form a new arrangement, while it searches for a new balance, a new harmony, a new temporary equilibrium.