Big whorls have little whorls
Which feed on their velocity,
And little whorls have lesser whorls
And so on to viscosity.
Lewis Fry Richardson, 1881 – 1953.
English mathematician, physicist, meteorologist, psychologist & poet.
Part scientific-model, part black-box theatre, A Hierarchy of Eddies is an art-science experiment in staging the phenomenon of turbulence. Comprising two axial fans and ten litres of polystyrene bean-bag balls inside an enclosed chamber, this kinetic work enacts a constantly changing system, analogous to fluid flows everywhere; from inside our bloodstream, to rivers, tornadoes, rising smoke from a cigarette or cyclones on the surface of Jupiter. Framed by a proscenium, the moving balls act like pixels, constantly drawing the currents of air as they circulate around the chamber. Their actions reveal how higher levels of energy within the large scale swirling structures, cascade into smaller and smaller scale structures. This dissipation of energy creates what is known as ‘a hierarchy of eddies’. A hallmark of turbulence, eddies (also known as vortices or whorls) can form in unpredictable ways, so much so that turbulence is considered one of the greatest mysteries of science. A Hierarchy of Eddies invites a viewer to keep pace with these mesmerising patterns as they form, collapse and reform; a cycle of cycles further amplified by intermittent strobe light. And while it is possible to quantify many of the dynamic forces at work inside this microcosm, many may prefer to simply witness the dramatic interplay unfold.
A Hierarchy of Eddies was commissioned by Experimenta Makes Sense: International Triennial of Media Art 2017 – 2020. The project was funded by a grant from The City of Melbourne.