Strange Attractors

a Lorenz System controlled by an other Lorenz System, 2019

Ever since the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot geometrically described structures in nature as ‘self-similar systems’ in „How Long Is the Coast of Britain? Statistical Self-Similarity and Fractional Dimension“ a paper published in 1967, fractal structures have remained a subject of artistic enquiry. Strange attractors in their quality of chaotic fractals constitute together with self-similar structures an important part of chaos research, and feature as core and lead theme of the exhibition.


In this context, the installation “Selbstähnliche Strukturen“ (Self-Similar Structures) combines macro images of mosses and lichens with digital aerial images so as to reveal the hidden structures of the unique flora of the Magallanes region in Chile – fractal structures remain self-similar even if the observation scale is altered (Benoit Mandebrot “ Theory of Roughness”). The project aims at artistically exploring self-similarity in the natural structures of this region both macroscopically as well as from an aerial perspective, in the knowledge that natural structures are always imperfect structures characterized by fractures in regularity and a transgression of the expected.


„Seltsame Attraktoren“ (Strange Attractors) is about a generative system for sound and projections based on an analogue computer that calculates these Strange Attractors. The title of the work refers to the mathematical term of the same name (David Ruelle / Floris Takens, 1971) borrowed from chaos theory which describes physical laws of chaotic behaviour in dynamic processes. Based on strange attractors it’s possible to for instance to mathematically describe turbulent currents of liquids or gases that cannot otherwise by analytically captured due to their complexity and level of randomness.

The work raised the question of the artistic definition of boundaries in a space which in fact is determined by coincidence. Strange attractors are defined among others by the fact that they always establish a limiting framework or an according order within which the actual chaos can take place. This means that – at least from a mathematical perspective – haphazardness and chaos are enabled by a framework that creates an order, because without this framework any conceivable chaotic system would rise ad infinitum, and by doing so would escape observation and description. If this thought were transferred to art, it would mean that artistically created chaotic systems would not be visible or audible. Accordingly, the installation raises the question whether the artists themselves create the framework that creates the order, allowing the work to emerge ‘haphazardly’.


The work was show in the exhibition “Self-Similar and Strange” at https://www.art-claims-impulse.com/ in 2019.




Wolfgang Spahn is a visual & sound artist based in Berlin. His work includes interactive installations, performances of light & sound and miniature-slide-paintings. His art explores the field of analogue and digital media and focuses on both their contradiction and their correlation.



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