This academic- and artistic-research project addresses the importance of imaginative and speculative usage of fluid simulation software. Since the 1960s, computer graphics researchers have been concerned with the specific challenge of modeling natural phenomena.[1] The resulting technology of fluid simulation is used for the visualization of splashing waters, whirling fires, smoke, and wind. Structured by its specific goal of achieving hyperrealism, this technology is argued to contain terrestrial-biased ways of knowing that influence our thinking about- and understanding of the natural world. Following Melody Jue’s notion of thinking through seawater, this project argues how simulating phenomena like ocean waves and drifting clouds through a language of computational science enforces an understanding of nature as controlled- and objectively observed by humans positioned outside, instead of embedded within.[2] The academic research addresses how the mathematical concepts used for the control of unpredictable systems, like the weather and financial markets, were adapted into animation software for fluids. Additionally, it questions a conception of physical simulations as realistic representations whilst, following media historian Jordan Gowanlock, this technology, structured by the research agenda of the US military-industrial complex, requires a thinking through the epistemic frame of knowing the world through building models, instead of through methods of recording.[3] The accompanying artistic-research questions the possibilities of imaginative and speculative conceptions of natural phenomena through a technology designed for the prediction and control of the unpredictable. The artistic project was kindly supported by Het Stimuleeringsfonds Creatieve Industrie (December 2023- June 2024).

Title: Fluid Simulation: Archive of Material Imagination
Duration: 00:11:25:00

[1] Ronald Fedkiw, “Simulating Natural Phenomena,” in Geometric Level Set Methods in Imaging, Vision, and Graphics, ed. Stanley Osher and Nikos Paragios (Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2003), 461.
[2] Melody Jue, Wild Blue Media: Thinking through Seawater (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020), 80-83.
[3] Jordan Gowanlock, Animating Unpredictable Effects: Nonlinearity in Hollywood’s R&D Complex (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021), 7.

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