Whether it’s the vast interconnectedness of an old growth forest or the endless scroll of a social media algorithm, we seek out systems whose complexity facilitates novel and surprising experiences. Strange Flock is a multi-media installation which taps into this human desire for complex systems.

The core of the work is a 3d particle simulation based on strange attractors, where a particle’s randomized initial position determines its unique path through space. These particles float and murmurate, forming ornate structures based off information stored in a simple equation. These visuals are supported by a droning soundtrack which reacts to the dance of the particles, shifting in tone from distant whale song to swarming insects as the particles pick up their pace.

The visuals are projected large, so that they fill the view of the visitors. As a visitor steps close to the projections, their presence is picked up by a small web cam. The timing and intensity of their movement is fed into the system, adjusting certain parameters; disturbing the equilibrium. The particles reform around this new and particular presence, providing each visitor with a unique experience of the piece.

Most visitors are unaware of their effect on the system until they take a step to look closer. This interaction raises important questions about the nature of complex systems and the myth of the observer. To observe is to participate and through participation comes responsibility. While this Strange Flock is simply a simulation of nature, it highlights the ways we form relationship with the non-human world, often without realizing it. Study of these relationships is important in a time when we are constructing, through AI and complex algorithms, non-human entities which have ever increasing power over our lives.