Our brains process information, regulate bodies, solve problems, and create a seamless flow from one experience to the next by continuously multitasking. Virtually all of this happens outside the stream of consciousness. “Brainstorming” is just bringing our attention to the power that we all have, but use so sparingly.
The inspiration and form of this piece comes from the phenomenon of soliton waves. First described in 1834 by John Scott Russell as a “wave of translation” that he observed in a canal in Scotland. In mathematics and physics, a soliton is a self-reinforcing solitary wave that maintains its shape while it propagates at a constant velocity. The properties that are commonly used to describe them are – they are of permanent form, they are localized within a region, and they can interact with other solitons while emerging from the collision unchanged, except for a phase shift.
My interest in soliton waves came from a passage in Ernest Shackleton’s book about the voyage of the Endurance. In the book, he describes a last desperate effort to escape from Elephant Island near where the Endurance shipwrecked in the Antarctic. Shackleton and five others sailed in a lifeboat from Elephant Island approximately 800 miles to South Georgia Island to rescue themselves and the crew that had been left behind.
On that perilous journey they encountered soliton waves in the unblocked waters that circle the continent of Antarctica. The spin of the earth, the pull of the moon, the unrelenting wind are just some of the factors that propel these enormous waves that circle the Antarctic in BOTH directions. He describes being in a tiny boat as two giant soliton waves pass through each other going in opposite directions. As the waves approach, the men believe that they are about to be crushed only to find themselves lifted high as the waves gracefully pass beneath their boat. We now have satellite imagery that shows solitons circling the Antarctic continent.
In Brainstorm, I modeled the meeting of solitons using four sheets of paper that intertwine in both directions. The wire is the foam and turmoil of the ocean.
first model of Brainstorm and below: the process of making