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Rhythm & the Machine #246

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Rank #188

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Our world is made up of near infinite examples of events that paradoxically represent both order and chaos. Chaos theory’s most famous tenant, the Butterfly Effect, explains how imperceptible changes in initial conditions can lead to massive and unpredictable differences in outcomes: how a butterfly flapping its wings weeks earlier may lead to a hurricane taking a different course. Wander positions Rhythm & the Machine at the paradox point, building a system that visually suggests both order and chaos, striking a different balance in each composition. Saturated color fields reminiscent of paint moving through water are seemingly randomly distorted and dragged across the canvas. All the while repeating colors and evenly spaced gestures point to an underlying ordered system. Intuitively you would not expect repeating the same thing over and over would lead to disorder, yet this is exactly what you find with many systems, such as pseudo-random number generators that are foundational to algorithmic generative art. Through a reduced system that elevates a few “random” elements—the placement & size of colored geometric shapes, the direction & intensity of the gesture—Rhythm & the Machine introduces distortionary forces that Wander does not dictate nor completely control. Suddenly each cluster of colors takes on a life of its own, creating new forms we cannot predict. Each work in the collection contains a second ‘instruction’ layer, which maps how the original colored shapes are placed and then distorted. This ‘instruction’ layer reminds us that chaos is in fact rooted in ordered systems. We can see the before and the after of the directional forces, how regular shapes became an abstracted color field. At the same time, the interactions are so complex and layered that trying to anticipate the future is a futile effort. We can try to understand but we cannot predict: a visual articulation of the butterfly effect. This insight is given added weight since the instruction layer is artificial and not a priori to the original digital work, where all of these functions happen simultaneously. The artist constructed it to provide the viewer this unique insight. We see the moment of divergence, repeated not just in a single canvas but also across the collection. The wide range of possibilities alludes to infinity—a concept impossible to fully comprehend but in this reduced visual language Wander shows us a piece of it and our minds are able to begin to explore the spread if not the edges.