Drawing on complexity (Experimenta series) - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Drawing on complexity (Experimenta series)

Friday 9 August
9:30am — 4:30pm
Limited to 15 participants

Workshop participants will join artist Briony Barr in an experiment that combines collaborative, expanded drawing with an exploration of complex adaptive systems. This will be part of a new series of Drawing on complexity experiments; rule-based, participatory artworks created by groups of people using colourful PVC tape.

Over a one-day session, a group of participants (called ‘agents’) will draw with colourful PVC tape following simple rules determining the placement of the tape and how to collaborate with others. As the lines build up over time, so will the emergent patterns – a hallmark of the complex adaptive systems that have inspired the project. This process is also inspired by ‘agent-based modelling’, a digital method used to model systems with many interacting parts.

From a bustling crowd of people, a fluctuating stock market to the behaviour of a weather system or grains of sand in a desert, complex systems can be found everywhere around us. They are studied by an extremely diverse range of scientific disciplines, from sociology to physics to mathematics. Like a ‘grass-roots’ movement, complex systems evolve from the ‘bottom up’, meaning larger patterns and behaviour (like a stock market crash or a hurricane) evolve from interactions and feedback between the parts. This unpredictable process is often described as ‘the whole being more than the sum of the parts’.

Part of a larger investigation into pattern formation, this experiment is part of body of work that will compare what patterns (social or aesthetic) will emerge when different groups of people make a drawing together within a similar set of parameters. Exhibiting as part of Experimenta Make Sense: International Triennial of Media Art, documentation of each drawing will be presented over a three-year period, across regional Australia.

Drawing on Complexity (The Experimenta Series) is based on a concept created by Australian artist Briony Barr in collaboration with physicist Andrew Melatos – The University of Melbourne. Previous drawing experiments have taken place at both science and art institutions including at The National Art School in Sydney, Museum Victoria (Scienceworks), The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea and the Santa Fe Institute in USA.

Drop-in participation for Drawing on complexity (Experimenta series) is also being presented as part of Experimenta Make Sense: International Triennial of Media Art at USC Art Gallery.


  • Participants must be available for the full length of the workshop.

  • An introduction to complex systems and the artistic themes of the work will be given at the start of the session.

  • No prior artistic skills necessary.

  • The artwork will be created on the ground. Participants who require mobility assistance must notify USC Art Gallery prior to the workshop.

  • Casual, comfortable, colourful clothes to be worn. Participants will be required to remove shoes while creating artwork.

  • The workshop will be filmed from a bird’s eye point of view and exhibited during the exhibition and throughout the exhibition and tour.


Briony Barr is a conceptual artist whose work explores pattern-formation and emergence. Comprising rule-based drawing, participatory installation and scientific experimentation, Briony regularly collaborates with fellow artists, scientists (typically microbiologists and physicists) and often, large groups of people. She has staged collaborative drawing experiments at galleries, schools, universities, science institutions, art museums, civic art studios and conferences, involving the general public, artists, primary and secondary students, physicists and astronomers. Through the application of different rules and boundaries (often designed in collaboration with physicist, Andrew Melatos), these artworks have explored scientific ideas such as complex adaptive systems and selforganisation, sociological themes such as group dynamics and cooperation and artistic themes such as playfulness, risk- taking and innovation. Sometimes, all at the same time.