Digital artist and director Markos Kay pioneers at visualising the unvisualisable.
“Art and science are drivers of cultures,” says Kay, who visited the Middle East for the first time last month to exhibit a new film called ‘Quantum Fluctuations: Experiments in Flux’ at the Imagine Science Film Festival in Abu Dhabi. “I want to challenge our ideas of how our knowledge of reality is formed.”
He is perhaps best known for a generative short called The Flow (2011), which was featured in an episode of the TV hit series Breaking Bad.
The Flow takes its audience inside a proton, with the aid of simulation software and algorithms, to see a dramatically-visualised interplay of quarks and electrons, resulting in nuclei and atoms. “I was really frustrated that nobody is trying to visualise all this in a more accurate way, so I tried to make my own film. I wanted to show people how complex this stuff is,” he says.
Kay’s work explores and abstracts the complex worlds of molecular biology and particle physics, be it through presenting a different way of observing cells or using the visual language of a microscope to give life to an organic process. “The desire of an artist to find ways to interpret and observe the world is similar to a scientist’s,” he says of his own experiments.
His films are usually filled with detail and movement, and often feature scores of orchestral sounds or a generative, organic soundscape created by algorithm-based software.
His new film, ‘Quantum Fluctuations’, for instance, meditates on the transient nature of the quantum world which, he says, is impossible to observe directly. The film re-imagines the complex interactions of elementary particles as they collide inside the Large Hadron Collider at CERN –– and it’s all presented against a musical backdrop that is designed by Kay himself. Through striking computer-generated imagery, we can see interactions that occur in the background of a collision; for example, particle showers that erupt from proton beams colliding, giving birth to composite particles that eventually decay.
“Since the time of Heisenberg, it’s been almost impossible to visualise these events and simulations. It felt like a challenge,” Kay says. The film was produced by experimental design studio Epoche.io and will be part of an art and science documentary called “Sense of beauty” that focuses on CERN’s particle physics and that will be released later this year.
His latest project Humans After all, in collaboration with photographer Jan Kriwol depicts people in the context of everyday life through their circulatory systems. The project that showcases its subjects – humans stripped down to blood vessels and neural circuits – in an urban setting is meant to highlight the fragility and vitality of the human body.
“Through my work, I try to create immersive environments so that people can feel they’re entering a distant world.”