Whenever the fish is looking at a lightbulb, it is turned on. Meaning that from the fishe's perspective all the lightbulbs are always turned on, as he never sees a lightbulb without looking towards it. This piece is inspired on the Bohrian interpretation of the double slit experiment (Quantumn Mechanics).
produced by: Julia Creuheras
“Vaig peix” is a popular catalan sentence that means “I am lost”. Funny enough, the literal translation of the second word means “fish ” in english.
In the centre of the piece there is a robotic fish in a fish tank. On top of it, there is an umbrella from where several light bulbs and spoons hang. With optical flow I track the directional vector of the fish (which tells me where the fish is looking at). Therefore, to wherever the fish is looking at, a light bulb is turned on and the spoon moves making a slight noise. From the fishe’s perspective, the lights are always on, because every time he is looking at one, it’s on while the rest are off.
What I am trying to enlight with this piece is the fact that the observer alters the observed with its presence. This is a concept of Quantumn Mechanics called Wave-particle duality, discovered when performing the double slit experiment.
Concept and background research
The double-slit experiment (and its variations) has become a classic thought experiment, for its clarity in expressing the central puzzles of quantum mechanics. Particles (electrons) are localized objects that occupy a given location at each moment in time. Waves (photons) have an entirely different nature: they are not even properly entities but rather disturbances in some medium field. In the experiment a coherent light source, such as a laser beam (photons), illuminates a plate pierced by two parallel slits, and the light passing through the slits is observed in a screen behind the plate. The wave nature of light makes the light waves to pass through the two slits to interfere, producing bright and dark bands on the screen. If electrons (particles) are bounced, an interference pattern is also created which is how light would act. . Matter could exhibit wave behaviour as well as particle behaviour. Wave-particle duality seemed to be a feature of both light and matter.
But this is not everything; if we were to perform a two-slit experiment with a which –path device (which can be used to determine which slit each electron goes through on its way to the detecting screen) we would find that the interference pattern is destroyed. That is, if a measurement is made and it identifies the electron as a particle, as in this case, then the result would be a particle pattern. So basically, if a single photon is shot and there is no detector or eye looking at it, it will create an interference pattern acting like a wave. However, if there is an eye or detector looking at it, it will create a 2 frames pattern acting like matter. The study of the subatomic particles revealed that they could as corpuscular entities but at the same time they could show ondictionary properties.
“The nature of this results means that the nature of the observed phenomenon changes with corresponding changes in the apparatus which is contrary to the ontology assumed by classical physics where an entity is a wave of a particle independent of the experimental circumstances and to the epistemological assumption that experiments reveal pre-existing determinate nature of the entity being measured.” (Barad,2017) Because the experimenter disturbs the pristine system, Bohr argued, there are limits to what we can know about the nature of nature. To measure a quantity we must interact with it. The observer is part of the system being measured. He says we choose in advance how it will turn out by deciding how we would like to measure it. Concepts are defined by the circumstances required for their measurement. All the probabilities bar one vanish. Light is both particle and wave until we decide which form we want to test- then it adopts that form. Therefore something unseen exists in all possible forms. The universe operates in unseen ways, and we can only picture one at a time. Nothing in the universe exists as such, given that the concept of “existing” is also enclosed in a human paradigm.
Einstein did not want to relent on what was for him the key issue: there was an objective reality independent to whoever interacted with whatever. However, Bohr, would not relent on the validity of the profoundly new way in which the real was conceptualized by the new theory of quantum physic. Rather than the universe being filled with concrete entities that exist independently and whose motions and properties could be verified through experiments, quantum physics revealed that universe is a seething mass of probabilities brought to fruition only by the action of the observer. For him, we must accept the idea that for him reality is about interaction. Bohr argued that quantum physics not only revolutionized physics but shook the very foundation of western epistemology and ontology.
So when you see something you create it, otherwise it wouldn’t be there if your eyes weren’t looking at it. The image doesn’t exist by it’s own. It requires an eye looking at it so that it takes a visual shape and realism. The shape of a quantum object does not a priori exist but it depends on the interaction of this quantum object with the environment.
So going back to the machine I made, the fish as humans, live in a dream where everything around them are independent objective realities but I try to evidence the fact that we actively intervene with what we see and that there is no objective realities we can seek to understand. That’s why the light bulbs turn on and the spoons move as the fish looks at them. The fish will never know, but he is provoking the light to turn on, it wasn’t on before the fish looked at it.
I used 8 relay modules to control the lightbulbs and servo motors to control the movement of the spoons. i used computer vision to track the vector direction of the spoon.
The fish was initially going to be a real fish. However, the fish that I have just lives in warm water and it would have been a nightmare to take him to uni and take the heater also. So I decided to use a fish robot. Also, i woul avoid any critics about the healithiness of the fish and the morality of making art out of a living being that might not be in its best environmental condition.
In terms of the final outcome I am pretty happy with it. But I am going to record a better video for the future!