Author Archives: matt chamberlain

Ant City investigation – [AGENTS]

Ants live in colonies consisting of millions of individuals. They don’t have leaders. Although there is the queen ant, she doesn’t tell the other ants what to do. Every ant knows their own roles and carries out their tasks faithfully. They are able to work together effectively because they all have the same goal for the good and unity of the colony.

In an ant colony, different ants have different team roles. There are the worker ants, drones and queen ants. Amongst the worker ants, there are workers of different sizes. The larger ants have stronger mandibles which are more effective for fighting. These are also known as soldier ants, although most of the time they will do the work of a worker ant. Meanwhile, the smaller ants are in charge of taking care of the young.

Below is an example of the ant algorithm in which they adopt a strategy for applying the shortest path technique. As a result, ants act as agents, developing an extremely intelligent network for collecting food and resources. They apply this same knowledge and behavior towards their colonies which creates an extremely efficient and adaptable city.

ACA – Ant Colony Algorythm

Elysian {DNA}

Elysian – [ Beautiful,  Creative; Divinely inspired; Peaceful and Perfect ]

My installation entitled, ‘Elysian’ is based on scientific principles of dna, wave forms, kinetic energy and how we perceive through our senses. Elysian invites people to visualise the form of dna in an infinite space as a fractal kinetic system. Its encourages a new relationship to experience between art and observer.

I believe dna to be much more than simply a chemical structure with coding instructions, and that the visual and physical depiction of the familiar double helix is only one aspect of a multi dimensional reality. I prefer to imagine dna as a pathway of energy and information connecting all levels of manifest reality, and that this unique pathway and the flowing currents of our souls along it are opitimised by love.


Elysian aims to capture the essence of ‘The Sacred’, providing a unique opportunity for people to connect directly and consciously with their dna, by experiencing mindful movement through the actual shape of dna as a fractal kinetic system. The infinite space of immateriality enable access to a world and dimension more profound
than our own. An escapism. A space in which emotions wander freely without constraint: Love, joy, wonder, dread, awe. Elysian ultimately intends to evoke ritual exploration. 

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Elysian is not designed for rational thinking but rather for exploration and playful surrender. The spinning kinetics flashing lights and noise, coupled with the infinite void and physical pulling of rope, are all elements to induce honest and playful engagement and to banish all notion of reasoned and literal thought. Elysian seeks to capture the emotion of the festival and ultimately become a means of catharsis for the people of the Black Rock City. 

Proposal Elemental Analysis: 


Elysian: Parallel Space

Elysian amplifies our perceptions to play with our senses. Its design reacts to movement of people inside coupled with the physical interaction of people outside. It behaves differently depending on the time of day. In sunlight the walls reflect the festivals landscape, concealing itself in the desert, creating a period of discovery. At night the walls transform producing a beautiful interplay between inside and out. Standing inside the pavilion you cannot see out and so you are lost in an infinite space of mesmerizing kinetic wave forms. Participants adjusting the levers outside can see inside and begin altering the waveforms. These waves step from moments of harmony to deformed chaos. The role of the individual inside is to control the light. The more they move, the more the light changes. You interact with Elysium through your senses. The mirrors produce a stunning depth of field illusion, the lights flash at a rate faster than your eyes can see, called chromastrobic light and the rope rapidly spins to cause a whistling noise that together break the rules in your mind and induce the playful side as you work out the space around you that doesn’t exist in the physical world. I wanted Elysian to be a collaboration where people of the festival manipulate the effects to freely create there own sculptural dna forms.

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Inside are four spinning motors have rope attached which extends to the ceiling. At the base of each motor are four electronically controlled dmx led lights. As the motors spin, the rope transforms into a visual waveform. Small micro controllers pick up movement inside through small infrared sensors and vary the lighting output.

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Earlier Concept System:

An earlier concept for the system enabled the viewer to pull the rope in order to disrupt the wave at the same time as viewing the outcome. This idea was later redesigned to enable a collaborative response in which one person alters the rope whilst another views the outcome in a different location.ier

[01]    DNA – Concept and Origin

Everyday I wear a gold necklace that has engraved upon it two serpent
s intertwined ol.jpgaround a staff. It forms the symbol  commonly used for identifying an individual with medical conditions. I wear it for this reason, but in reality it has a far deeper meaning. I have always viewed the serpents as a symbol of dna and therefore a symbol of me as an individual. All living organisms acquire their uniqueness by there carefully defined strands of dna and yet by the very nature that we all possess dna we are in fact one and the same. Through this careful balance derives my intensive interest into the matter of dna and how we might perceive it in the real world.


‘There are as many atoms in a single molecule of your DNA as there are stars in the galaxy, We are, each of us, a little universe’ 

DNA stands are the genetic code that determines all the unique characteristics of every living thing.  Simply put your DNA is what makes you, you! You inherited your DNA from your parents, known as ‘hereditary material’ (information that is passed on to the next generation). Nobody else in the world will have DNA the same as you, unless you have an identical twin. Deoxyribonucleic acid is the large molecule shaped like a double helix and a ladder that’s been twisted many times.


 In the early 1950’s two scientists, Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins, carried out intensive studies into DNA using x-rays. Franklin produced an x-ray photograph that enabled two other researchers, James Watson and Francis Crick to determine the 3D structure of DNA. The structure was found to be a double helix. In 1962 Crick and Watson, along with Wilkins all received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery. Rosalind Franklin had died four years earlier and her pivotal contribution was not fully acknowledged until much later.

[02]    Parametric Understanding and Symbol Manipulation

Understanding the Basics:

In mathematics there is only one polygonal formation that would create a double helix. Ten regular pentagons orientated around a decagon.

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Shape Deconstruction:

Starting with the end state of a number of packed circles I drew a polygon around them. I then trying to work backwards to find out how, given the polygon, I could have drawn the circles. By constructing a square one circle-radius in width on several of the key points it generated a larger pentagon. I had a pentagon packed with circles, so I could work backwards and attempt to find a construction which would give me the centres of the circles. Since a square helped me last time, I decided to go for the most obvious square (actually rectangle) – the one built on the pentagon’s baseline – and voila: A circle the width of one of the pentagon’s sides, centred on the pentagon’s centre, gives the centres of the circles which pack that pentagon. This is a general solution that seems to only work for pentagons.

Adopting Knowledge to Science:

The diameter of the helix (HD) and the height of the helix extension (HE) have a direct and constant proportional ratio to the pentagon length (PL) and pentagon diameter (PD). In order to establish the precise nature of this ratio we must devise some trigonometrical equations. The pairing of purines and pyrimidines in the Crick and Watson proposal locates the molecular pentagons that make up a part of the purines on the outside of the paired bases. However, it has been demonstrated that a more fluent and natural geometry would require adjacent pentagons at the heart of the base pairing. 


Adopting Knowledge to Science:

Below represents the development of the pattern. It was a case of understanding what could be found from my previous understanding. Constructed parametrically, it shows step by step the methodology behind the system. The final proposal form was a simplified expression. 

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 *As I developed this pattern the American election had taken place. The pattern I had generated contained 50 stars,  the same number that are present on the US flag. I felt this highly significant and relevant to the projects location in  Nevada, USA. My symbol of DNA characterises each individual human but also represent a bond and connection  between all living this. A sense of unity and connection which defines Burning Man.

*It was this point that the ‘stars’ significance became more profound…


[03]    Wave and Light Analysis – Physical Experimentation

Chromastrobic Light and Waves:     [Artist Collaboration]

In order to fully understand the science and artistic quality of my project I met the discoverer of the phenomena ‘Cromastrobic Light’, Paul Friedlander. If we look at visual effects, we have to understand the limitations of our eyes. In much the same way that images which flash at rates higher than ten times per second will be perceived as a continuous sequence (like in a movie theater), if we surpass the total number of images per second that the eye can see, they will be seen as a continuous path.  It is this scientific understanding for the reason why we see a three dimensional form and not a rotating rope. The effect of Chromastrobic light adds another dimension that allows the eyes to perceive the rope as almost completely still for a millisecond before it changes. Chromastrobic light is only perceived when the lights flash at rate faster than our eyes can see. The video below represents this beautiful phenomena.

It was my intention to understand wave properties through a physical exploration. Below represents the standing wave experiment in which a spinning motor is fixed on one side with string attached. The opposite side is fixed. The experiment involved adjusting the tension of the string, the linear distance and the motor rpm.  With a greater understanding of wave simulation I began investigating their effects with LED DMX lights


[04]    A space of Immateriality

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Infinity: Space of Immateriality

The most challenging aspect of the design to understand, though, is the optical Illusion. Optical Illusions are like candy for the mind. Like quenching the minds sweet tooth is the infinity mirror. The mirrors inside Elysian produce a stunning depth of field illusion that causes you to lose a sense of reality and appreciate what you are looking at more intensively. Viewing the spinning dna forms in this manor will break the rules in your mind and induce the creative playful side as you begin to work out the space around you that doesn’t exist in the physical world.


Infinity: Space of Immateriality

The infinity mirror effect is produced whenever there are two parallel reflective surfaces which can bounce a beam of light back and forth an indefinite (theoretically infinite) number of times. The reflections appear to recede into the distance because the light actually is traversing the distance it appears to be traveling.

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Two-way Mirrors: Infinity with a twist

Using a one-way mirror allows light to pass through on one side but reflect the light backwards on the reverse side. Two-way mirrors allow some light to pass through and also reflect the light like a mirror on the same side. Rather than using glass, however, I will use one-way acrylic. The special property of the acrylic is it allows a small amount of additional light to pass through. A cheaper more accessible alternative. Placing two of these opposite to each other creates an infinite mirror system whilst being able to see it face on.


Two-way Mirrors: Architectural Device

I wanted to retain the effect of having lots of these spinning devices but without physically building them. Therefore, I am creating an infinite mirror effect to allude the viewer into a false sense of perception. The space will seem to be full entirely of spinning kinetic art forms when in fact there will actually only be four. By mirroring the floor and ceiling as well  they will spin in all directions. The star form of my pavilion should create a unique infinite mirror experience. Focused around the points of the star, the reflection should develop in a polar array. The kinetic forms will in principle reflect in a circle array around the end points of the star. The space will develop into an infinite array of DNA patterns and stars, coupled with the spinning string, lights and the individual viewers. Ultimately this produces a very close depiction of my earlier scheme with the benefit of being cheaper. It also uses sophisticated architectural devices to represent the same outcomes.

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[03]    Scientific Investigations – Technical Project Understanding

Wave Analysis: Processing

I am currently developing the code and design to be used as an application on both android and apple devices. The application encourages the understanding of sin and cosine waves and how they respond to changing certain parameters. By using processing and open source material I have been able to start constructing an accurate wave understanding.


I also intend to be able to develop the code further to consolidate the link between the waves and dna, which is the essence of my Burning Man project.There could even be the possibility of using this at the burning man festival itself as a way in which people control parameters of the waves or lights via an interactive screen. The video below is a demonstration of the code working.

Wave analysis 2 looks at investigating different types of waves, adjusting sin and cosine functions in processing.
Wave Analysis 3 – Parametric Investigation [Grasshopper; Kangaroo]

I developed a computational parametric script using grasshopper and the Kangaroo component inside to produce waves. Kangaroos properties mean that I can alter parameters like tension to give more accurate results. The waves run of an initial rpm and distance. 

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Elysian – Burning Man 2017

By Matthew Chamberlain,

Master of Architecture ( University of Westminster)

Thank you!