This drawing is part of an on-going body of work exploring pattern system disruption. This drawing tests possible variations and disruptions to a particular repeating pattern system.
Through the performance of making my drawings, I attempt to find analogues for repetitive and routine behaviours in our everyday lives. The form of the carpet refers to the domestic setting, where much of the rhythm of our lives is played out.
A complex system is one that has very many interacting components. Examples of systems that may be considered complex are diverse: bee colonies, democracies, the human brain and the climate. Though complicated, complex systems may sometimes be reduced to a few simple rules, from which global order or patterns can emerge.
The mathematics of information theory and network theory describe well the myriad of interactions and communications in complex systems. The mathematical and philosophical foundations of the formation and evolution of complex systems are at the core of Karoline Wiesner’s work, and a recent interest in her research is the application of information and network theory to the stability of democracy.
The processes and methods of drawing were used to find drawn equivalents for concepts within the theory of complex systems. The aim was to make a performance of the qualities of a complex system, within the bounds of the theory and materiality of drawing.
The process began with discussions about each other’s work, interests and working methods, with visits to each other’s places of work: the research office, the studio. Notes and diagrams followed, exploring, explaining, testing and acting out possibilities and ideas.
Many working drawings were produced in the process of the collaboration and many different aspects of the theory were explored. One such characteristic is that of ‘disruption and recovery’. An example of this in nature might be a murmuration of starlings negotiating a church steeple. The birds are aware of the obstruction by communicating with their neighbours, and without any bird taking charge or directing the others. They are able to fly around the steeple, and the system recovers without any of the birds hitting it, and the group carry on their flight. To draw this characteristic, I began with a repeating set of marks. I made a disruption to the pattern of marks, and then continued to draw the pattern as best I could around the disruption, recovering the pattern again to the right of the page. The actions of disruption and recovery were performed in the process of making the drawing.
A reflexive an embodied approach to drawing was explored in making the final drawing – constructing a pattern of behaviours whilst working. The drawing emerged in response to marks that had been drawn before, and not by any pre-determined plan.
Considering ideas around the appearance of order from apparently random actions was also important. In making the drawing, there would be some sort of formation of the hexagonal grid pattern by the marks/ people, but this was not planned out, nor was a guide drawn on the paper. It just emerged as more and more people were drawn and I tried to make a sense out of their distribution. Other grid forms were tried, like a grid of parallelograms, but the hexagon seemed to work better: it was harder to visualise the hexagon pattern on the page, and so less easy to contrive the drawing before it started to appear.
Using the process of drawing to think about complex systems took a number of forms and had different considerations: As well as performative modes of drawing, some were material: for example, working repeatedly from left to right, laying down layers of marks, so as not to smudge the ink. This, in its own way, was a set of rules for the system (or drawing).
The reason for the figures appearing in the drawing is probably something related to conversations about Wiesner’s interest in democracies and the interactions of groups of people. They emerged in drawings of repeated small marks on the page, considering random actions, actions imposed by a set of rules, and actions dictated by the way the drawing was already forming. Working with ink and brush, the repeated marks just became people.
The connecting lines between the people are there to represent the ‘communication’ that occurs between the units of a complex system. There were many variations for what this communication might have looked like, that were tested on Wiesner. A fuzzy haze between the marks, pulsating lines, or radiating ones. The conclusion was that the lines were singular and directional, directly linking two people. These lines were made instinctively, imagining the interactions of the people on the page rather than considering the image or composition.
The conversations in the drawing reflect some of those between me and Wiesner, and also form a list of the aspects of complexity theory that were discussed.
The drawing produced as a result of the collaboration describes a number of the facets of complexity theory. The image is built up of a number of layers of ink drawing, each time overlaying the last and further filling the paper area. The image is made up of many repeated but different small marks. These marks are in the form of people. The people are all drawn separately, but together they for a crowd.
Left: A study (pencil and ink on watercolour paper, about A3). Photo by Max McClure
Top Right: Installation shot from Creative Reactions, 1-31 May 2019, North Gallery, Bedminster Bristol.
Bottom Right: Page from the Creative Reactions publication for the exhibition.
Sketchbook pages for ‘You Guys…’