Five Body Problems

Five Body Problems #1:  A speculative rare earth recovery model and the poetics of head bashing the steering wheel

A five body problem attempts to predict the motion of five orbiting bodies based on their mass and initial position. This class of problems are difficult to solve as they are sensitive to initial conditions and often have unstable solutions. This animation does not attempt to solve a five body problem.

Instead I use nonlinear dynamics to guide animation, swarms of minerals resources and the technological artifact they become in their long mineral life. Entanglement is a useful idea here. The landscape, the resources. The consumer desire, the change in land use. These are bound up by historical notions of what land and ownership mean, and guide irreversible anthropogenic change. The real lesson of the anthropocene is that humans can no longer entertain the narrative that their societies and technology are somehow separate from the natural world. They are all entangled and embedded within each other. 

Five Body Problems #2: Lost and Found in the Wash

The work Five Body Problems #2: Lost and Found in the Wash uses digitally scanned landscapes to document my travel through a derelict mining site in the Mojave desert. The animation references my activity at the site, which included producing a large relief mold of an exposed rock wall. The process and artifacts are intermingled in a fictitious 3D space as they are intermingled subconsciously in my memory.  

Susan Sontag wrote that a photograph “is also a trace, something directly stenciled off the real, like a footprint or a death mask.” In this way 3D scans are also directly stenciled from the real. I make photogrammetry to share those traces and to trace my path through the landscape.

Five Body Problems #3: Afterlives

The trajectories of strange attractors guide a swarming mass of electronic waste in it’s most recognizable forms, mobile devices. All these devices contain precious metal and minerals, obtained through extractive practices, which often end up as waste products. A ticker runs across the screen displaying the average volume of rare earth minerals extracted annually since 2020. In the work I question the myth of limitless consumption and the expanding volume of technology required to maintain our digital dreams and desires.

Strange attractors and multi-body problems are nonlinear dynamic equations with unstable solutions. Their phase space paths may find equilibrium within a delicate set of initial conditions, or spiral into the zero coordinates of death. I depict technological decay and disruption as it is not clear if a stable solution exists for human societies and the Earth System.