The Twinkling of An Eye (2018-2019)

British physicist Arthur Worthington began studying the complex process of fluid flow before the invention of photography. To capture the splash of a drop, a process too quick for the naked eye to see clearly, Worthington devised a meticulous observation procedure. Comprised of electromagnets and mechanical parts, the system will let a drop of definite size fall from a definite height and simultaneously triggered a flash of light of exceedingly short durations. In a dim laboratory, Worthington would rely on the strong flash to ‘freeze’ the splash long enough for the eye to attend. Relying on the latent images pressed into his retina, he would draw out the pattern. He would repeat the procedure, adjust the system to let a drop fall at different heights until he has observed the complete process. Illustrated in his findings are series after series of perfectly symmetrical patterns.

Consumer-grade 3D modelling software nowadays, such as Blender, have the ability to simulate fluid dynamic easily and create photorealistic renderings of water. This software often borrows the same algorithm from scientific researches to calculate the simulations. Blender specifically uses the Smoothed-particle hydrodynamics (SPH) technique to solve the particles fluid equations. The model was initially developed for astrophysical problems, simulating galaxy formation and stellar collisions.

This project simulates Worthington well-documented experiment from his book ’Study of A Splash’ using 3D modelling software. The resulting images epitomise the displacement of the human eye in knowledge production in the new era of simulation and computational images.

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Plat(T)form 2019 at Fotomuseum Winterthur