Tripolar (2002)

Run Tripolar

Tripolar was commissioned for the Whitney Museum of American Art's CODeDOC project. The project explores the relationship between digital artists’ code and their finished work, presenting the code as a gateway to the running program.

Tripolar simulates a pendulum swinging above three magnets. The program draws the complete path that a pendulum would follow if it were released above the table exactly at the cursor’s point. This is a well-known chaotic system in which minute changes to the starting position produce large changes in the pendulum’s path, and the magnet on which it lands. By invisibly interpolating the starting position towards the actual mouse position, one can explore points between pixels, simulating a screen resolution hundreds of times the actual pixel resolution.

The source code demonstrates that changing any of the few parameters determining its operation radically alters the artwork: in most cases making it non-functional, hanging, exploding, imploding, or oscillating.

By its title, the program tries to suggest the connection between mental states and chaotic phenomena: if even a simple physical system is so unpredictable and sensitive to initial conditions, what about our minds? Chaos and complexity reign at all scales.

Commissioned by The Whitney Museum of American Art for its Artport