“There are things that seem to be by chance or out of control, when actually they are not; and vice versa”. Pep Vidal

Pep Vidal, a mathematician who recently received a doctorate in physics, focuses his research on the infinitesimal changes that can happen at any time and in any place. In other words, on changes that are imperceptible to the human eye and, precisely because of this, enormously surprising. Another branch of his research focusses on the “false randomness” of certain natural phenomena that are erroneously perceived as chance occurrences because of a lack of information. What is the rule that defines the randomness? Surely it is too complex for us to decode because of our limitations, so we will therefore continue to perceive these phenomena as something that happens by chance.

The artist states that the incomplete information we have about systems (spaces where things can occur) remains somewhere between poetry and randomness, the latter of which opposes human ambition to have control over reality. The human being is the only living creature able to consciously transform the world: nature, society and thought.

Pep Vidal gives his voice about this awareness and control in the exhibition Trees, Treelines and Global Patterns at ADN Gallery, within the framework of ArtNou 2015. The project stems from a trip by train from Barcelona to Girona, where the artist noticed that the woods seen from the window which appeared to be wild had, in fact, been intentionally arranged in rows.

Vidal, confronting this epistemological evidence, investigates the phenomenon of so-called treelines, demonstrating that nature too orders its elements according to patterns, the means of systematising complex phenomena. Through a series of drawings, Vidal shows us what is involved in the concept of treelines—a global phenomenon that, contrary to his experience on the train, seems to involve manipulation by human beings when this is not the case. Thus, the sense of randomness and control is reversed here, as it is the treeline which marks the boundary of the habitat in which trees are able to grow, whether for environmental, ecological or climatic conditions. Although technological progress and accumulated knowledge means that patterns are increasingly better documented, the understanding of how and why they exist is still a great intellectual challenge. Taking up this challenge, Pep Vidal generates the project that revolves around a 19-metre tree: The starting point is the calculation of the total volume by cutting the tree into identical volumetric sections, thereby finding a parameter, a pattern. This is followed by the difficulty of calculating the tree’s volume, given the non-homogeneous geometry of roots, stem, trunk, branches and leaves. The accompanying video installation is a record of the whole process of using computer programing in order to reach the final result.

Pep Vidal’s work proposes a reflection on the controllable and the wild, randomness and rules, patterns and parameters. In a scientific and artistic context, and under a contingent and analytical gaze, the artist uses his projects to look for a formula to understand the realities of nature.

More information about the artist in www.pepvidal.com

Text by Olga Sureda