5th Dimensional Camera
5D camera is a fictional quantum imaging device displayed with its resulting images. The sculpture and prints are designed to help viewers to be able to intuit complex scientific concepts, allowing them to consider the implications of such discoveries. The sculptural aspect of the piece consists of a sensitive-looking mechanical device. An acute red cone is mounted horizontally from the short end of a long digital box, the back of which has a red numeric LCD display and two positioning handles. The entire unit sits on a stand, and is connected via thermally insulated hosing to a tank of supercooled liquid. This cryonic hardware is designed for the viewer to elicit associations with quantum computers, devices which are known to require such extreme temperatures to function.
The specific configuration and overall appearance of the tank and hose appear to be modeled directly after a quantum computing machine at the Quantum Information Procession Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration, or QIP IRC. This organization was one of the collaborators and consultants that worked with Superflux on this piece. The cone’s wide end, which sits away from the box, features a “lens” made of an array of chrome spheres. The spheres are arranged in a perfect hexagonal point space, which mirrors the viewer and their background in identical multitudes. The images that the instrument “produces” are displayed alongside it in the gallery. Each is a grid of photos with similar settings with similar figures, the multitude of slightly-different scenes corresponding with the compound-eye lenses of the device. Each photo in each grid comes with a story of how the character came to encounter and be pictured by the device. They each show a complex story of the variability of life, each one story unable be told in four dimensions. Some even appear to be related, showing the branching and diverging consequences of small choices.
One grid feature the story of a man who has filmed the outside of his apartment. Another shows a woman who comes home from each day and writes her most memorable event on a large piece of paper. Another image shows a grid of photos depicting one man alone in different stages of considering ending his life. The subtle differences in the scenes make one reflect on the minute and mostly unnoticed variables that direct the course of our lives.
The idea behind 5D Camera is informed by Hugh Everett’s “Many Worlds” interpretation of quantum behavior, as well as the more commonly accepted Copenhagen Interpretation. The fictional device uses a quantum computer to track a complex mathematical super-state and returns other possible scenarios which the current one is happening in contrast to what actually happens. This super-state is known as superposition. The artist explains:
This is a great description of the popular understanding of superpostion: alive and dead, heads and tails, all at the same time. It’s worth noting though, that superposition actually describes an even more profound effect of reality. It’s not that two things happen rather than one; it’s neither one, nor both or neither. This is a more complex and far less intuitive mathematical state, but it’s one of the most repeatable observations in physics. In exactly as confident a way as one can observe that two apples next to two apples becomes four apples, a photon can be mathematically shown to exist in a paradoxical no-state.
If there are two options, for instance, when you receive a photon and it could have either come through a left or right gate:
it hasn’t come from the right
It hasn’t come from the left
It hasn’t come from both the right and the left
It hasn’t come from neither the right or the left.
The implications of this are profound, as these seemingly insignificant nanoscopic interactions, in their multitudes, ultimately compose the flow of causality, and our experience as a result. What these results say is that at some point in spacetime, every possible quantum interaction exists at once. Our past and by consequence, our present is only the result of one such outcome resolving. But what if all outcomes do resolve somewhere? 5D Camera gives the viewers the opportunity to imagine what is constantly lost before ever being found, and how our very selves are a result of these unconscious choices.
This is not the first time Superflux has created a fictional piece of hardware to provoke thought. Our Friends Electric is a video art piece consisting of three scenes about people in the near future and the way their lives are affected by the smart technology they own. The portrayed relationships between human and machine focus on the increasing ability for voice software to produce not only the prosody, but the personality of living beings. With the recent ability of Google’s personal voice assistant to handle calls for appointments, the piece comes at an appropriate time. It challenges viewers to consider how our ability to create and organize sound gives us power over meaning, as well as how this is all changing as we produce increasingly complex software to replicate our own abilities. The short features devices which exist just outside of current design, but despite this face, its user interface is familiar to us. A blue box that answers phone calls with radio dials for confidence and mood, a code-based intellectual companion to which you can load in the complete works of your favorite authors, etc.
5th dimensional camera attempts to bring the same type of intuitive familiarity to the more intimidating subject of quantum physics.
5th Dimensional Camera has been displayed at MOMA’s interaction design exhibition “Talk to Me”.
Quantum computing video
Futurism – Many Worlds vs Copenhagen Interpretaion