Metastable Equilibrium #1, 2022, Giclee print, 13 x 19 in.
Generations includes two series: Metastable and Lineage. In both series, each artwork is created with computer algorithms written by Oberman. The code is crafted to create certain images, but carefully incorporates deliberate randomness in certain design elements at certain times and under specified conditions. This variability enhances the images in serendipitous and often surprising ways, similar to the way paper textures or bleeding ink adds visual interest to a drawing.
Exploring the illusion of safety, order, choice, and individuality in society, the Metastable series explores situations that appear stable yet may become unstable due to some force or action. Some situations are inherently stable, like an unmoving ball on level ground. Some situations are unstable, such as a ball falling. A ball resting on a ledge on a mountainside is stable until nudged a little, at which point it becomes unstable—it falls; we call this situation “metastable”. This term can also describe how lives are disrupted or uprooted due to a natural disaster, war, or illness. The four images from the Metastable series represent the before and after states of such an event, moving from metastable to unstable. These artworks are created with an identical code with a small difference in one setting, separating them and representing a triggering force. It’s normal for our brains to associate the soft hues of these images with the stability and calm of the first image, and therefore try to find order, patterns, and meaning in all of them.
This series investigates our perception of similarities and differences. Each artwork is created from the same code, but in each new image, there are small, random changes that alter color, shape, stroke width, shading, fills, size, and location. Much like the faces of our relatives, we can see that each image is unique, yet a common code ensures there is a shared visual ancestry, similar to the genetic code shared between family members. Though some images vary dramatically, we know they are related. How? One clue comes from studies that have shown that to determine if images are related, we prioritize looking for similarities before searching for differences. If one hundred more images were created, would it reach the point where new images no longer seem similar? One thousand? Ten thousand?
Brett Oberman has been involved in the intersection of art and technology for decades. He has earned degrees from Harvard in Physics and Chemistry and has had several collaborations with MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Oberman has worked in various mediums, including holography, photography, printmaking, glass, and lighting. Today, he uses computers and algorithms to create physical artworks. He does not and will not use any AI tools in his process.
His work explores the relationships between physical and emotional experiences and reflects on how unknown and unseen logic, patterns, and chance can manifest in our lives. He often draws on concepts in physics or chemistry to present new visual metaphors for understanding a variety of human conditions and situations.
Lineage A027, 2023, India ink on paper, 11 x 14 in.