Untiled Faces, fascinating maths

Nathan Selikoff

At first glance the work “Untiled Faces” by Nathan Selikoff looks like a primitive videogame, a veteran of the ’70s games room. By interacting with its toggle switches, however, one senses that what happens in the very small screens framed by dark, Spartan wood is a process far removed from that of a simple arcade. The device is based on the visual representation of chaotic systems, a complex mathematical model that can describe the evolution of a system in relation to time. The box to the left is a representation of a set of “strange attractors” that are particular components of the same chaotic, dynamic systems that characterize the final stage. Moving the lever corresponding to the left screen (on which is shown a simple grid that is a sort of matrix of strange attractor), the user chooses a cell of this grid identified by a small red square. The portion of the system selected by the red square is shown in real time (with a deep zoom) into the far right screen. The central screen, obtaining positioning data from the other two screens, displays the 3D version of the strange attractor of the first box. As if it were taken by a camera in real time, the frame varies according to the movement of the corresponding lever. The (quite difficult) discovery of being faced with a very complex mathematical representation gives this interactive sculpture a disarming charm, more effective because it is in contrast with the hardness of the aesthetic lines of its container.

Chiara Ciociola