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Schrodinger's Box

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Date Minted: July 2, 2020

Artist Description:  Schrodinger's Box is an expression of the famous Schrodinger's Cat thought-experiment: if a cat is placed near something that could kill the cat inside a closed box, we would not be able to know if the cat is dead or alive until the box is opened at which point it falls into one of the two states, dead or alive. The importance of the "observer" and the "observation" has been surprisingly found in quantum physics and deep spiritual realms. The fact that something comes into its stable form when it is observed and otherwise there is just a probability of its nature, is truly interesting and baffling. Schrodinger's Box is an expression of the same idea. Using generative code, I made this interactive experiment to showcase this concept using the user's interaction. If you move the mouse towards the centre (that is if you focus on the object), the object becomes stable. And if you are away (not focussed), it is in a state of probability denoted by the chaotic fluctuation. The final artwork can be found at:

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Schrodinger’s Box is all about perception, what power the observer holds over the observed, and not just in an artistic sense, but in a natural —can you even say, cosmic?— sense as well. Artist Fabin Rasheed is very clear about that in their lengthy Artist’s Description, which gives a breathy context around the piece, detailing the inspiration received from the famous experiment of Erwin Schrodinger’s Cat, quantum physics (specifically the concept of superposition, whereby small particles like electrons have an equally likely chance of being in multiple places at once, physically therefore existing in these multiple places until actively observed in one place or another), and spiritualism. 

The idea behind the piece was to emulate superposition by creating something which would become static and observable if order were placed upon it, but which otherwise exists in a natural state of entropy, mimicking the electrons (and the famous maybe-dead-maybe-alive cat which inspired the piece’s title) referenced earlier. At the physical and ideological center of the piece is a series of mishmashed rectangular plates, placed within and around each other into a kind of abstract dodecahedron-on-speed. All around this box are white slats imposed upon a black background. Even if we were not to see Schrodinger’s Box in its full interactive glory, there’s still a strange visual unsteadiness, a kind of omnipresent optical-illusion vibration, that proves pervasive should we focus our attention on the background of the piece. The juxtaposition of black cube with white-and-black-geometric background create this sensation of movement, of an underlying buzz wherein edges seem fuzzy, and the cube, now seen from our peripherals, appears distorted and in a state of dissolution. If we focus on the cube itself, however, that movement ceases, and our optical perception of the piece falls in line with the cohesion we seek to give our attention to.

Let’s say we’re looking at the fully-interactive piece, however, which is Schrodinger’s Box in its fully glory, as it’s meant to be seen. Herein, we find a sensational abundance of movement, something which not only exaggerates but refines the piece’s intent. When interactive, the background slats will move around, following your cursor around the webpage, thus never remaining in a single state, especially if the cursor is glazing around the image’s edges. Meanwhile, in the center of the piece, the geometric object we will find experiencing a massively split personality: It is imbued with intense tremors, and naturally explodes into countless individual squares — they flash in-and-out of existence, too fast to be properly perceived— moving hither and thither with unobservable speed. The conceit is that as your cursor is brought closer to the image’s physical center, order slowly sets upon the helter-skelter imagery. The individual rectangles come together, move more and more slowly, begin fusing into each other, until, should your cursor rest in the very precise center of the image, the rectangular slats have formed themselves into a proper cube, solid and stalwart, while the background turns completely white. It’s a complete abdication of its previous disorder, and it’s you the observer who is solely capable of making this happen. 

The freneticism of the piece-in-motion does an impressive job of capturing the gentle buzz which underlies all matter, the movement of atoms and their subatomic particles. You can almost feel your own eyes vibrating slightly as they observe this piece, as everything within it shakes in its own excited state of near-chaos. That owes a lot to the intelligent composition, the way the colors and shapes interact, especially in the background, to create an optical illusion of sorts. Regardless, the image seems desperate to return to its chaotic state, as if finality of form is a prison, and the image is rattling against the bars.

It’s interesting, being given the power to build and deconstruct this piece based on the observer’s whims, our whims, instead of being at the mercy of the artist’s. Many interactive pieces allow some change of perspective, and are often quite successful pieces in their own right, but few allow a piece to be deconstructed and understood so subjectively. It took me quite awhile to figure out that I could even impart this kind of power upon the piece (it could probably be better advertised).

This kind of power, dished out to observers instead of cemented by the artist, keeps in the spirit of science. After all, if Schrodinger’s Box is meant partly as scientific representation, it would make sense that the artist would not be the sole arbiter of the forces in question. It demonstrates the artist’s deep respect for their own microscopic place amongst a larger series of scientific processes, which we can quantify if not outright control. And it shows a deeply respectful reverence for the processes themselves. Rarely, do we find an artist more interested in the subject itself than their own representation of it. One can even say this runs counterintuitive to the idea of art consumption in general, wherein individuals seek out great art because we crave the myopic perspective of the artists in question.

And yet, Fabin Rasheed gives us the power to observe, control, redirect. Rasheed gamifies their own art piece, giving us an opportunity to set our own goals (who can resist trying to achieve true stasis in a piece so obsessively movement-oriented, finding that exact spot for our cursors in which the shape becomes stolid cube and the background a solid, restful white?) and define our own success, ultimately leaving it up to our own whims and perseverance to decide how successful the artist is.

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