Media: New Group Exhibition At University of Waterloo, CA, Beauty of Physics, Canada

Shanghai Romance, Archival digital printArtist statement: © Carl Gopalkrishnan 2007.  Shanghai Romance (digital print).  Re-writing classic narratives with a quantum lens. Beauty of Physics Art Prize 2007 University of Waterloo

From previous academic research into visual narratives, I have been struck by how the internet has challenged our way of reading and perceiving the story/information. This opened up the idea that science influences how we ‘read’ and experience reality. In my recent readings about quantum physics, from popularized publications on concepts such as entanglement theory, I started to think about the gap in sciences knowledge about how the quantum reality affects the macro reality of daily life, and classical mathematics/physics properties.

Not being anywhere close to understanding the mathematics, and finding the visual and narrative analogies given in physics a little brief, I created in my mind my own analogy of the idea of entanglement. This process was sparked by reading about Schrödinger’s notions of probability and superposition. Further, when reading about the phenomenon of many worlds theory, for some reason I thought about the stories where I had experienced jarring uncertainty. That had occurred when reading a novel – Wuthering Heights.

I see Emily Bronte’s’ Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff (the observer) watching the two Catherine/Cathy’s, one alive and one dead (like Schrödinger’s Cat). Like millions of other readers at this point in the novel, I “fell out of time”, unable to reconcile the “two Cathys”, especially when forced to make a decision in the face of Healthcliff’s tormented obsession with both women.

In being the observer, Heathcliff also “fell out of time” in the novel and into a form of neurotic obsession because the original/dead Cathy was both alive and dead at the same time. He was thus influencing the linear reality by seeing both women as alive at the same time, and in so doing, moving the narrative into a new (quantum?) reality. We, the reader, similarly experience a jarringof reality and are forced to either choose Heathcliff’s reality (or confusion), or step back and say: “It’s only a novel and this character is nuts” to come back into our linear safety zone. cathy heathcliff cathy study

Through my previous postgraduate studies in narrative theory, I realized suddenly that my “falling out of time” was also falling out of the linear narrative of my normal reality. In the context of quantum physics, I see this as falling out of the macro world of classical physics into a quantum reality where uncertainty (as I know it) reigns.

In Shanghai Romance, Cathy and Heathcliff have been ‘reborn’ as a Chinese couple re-enacting the possibilities of their failed romance in a bar in 1930s Shanghai. The image is composed of scans of hand cut stencils, and distorted images from an old movie poster and my own painting Cathy, Heathcliff, Cathy. By using Photoshop to rearrange the visual narrative, I have tried to evoke this feeling of ‘falling out of time’ that is needed to conceive of ‘many worlds’.

(image from my visual diary, “Schrodinger’s Cathy”)

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