Entanglement : an investigation into the effective union of contemporary art and science communication : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Fine Arts at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
Virtual reality (VR) technology is increasingly providing opportunities for new contemporary art
experiences. This creative practice research has been developed to provide one such
contribution. It offers innovative employment of the immersive capabilities of VR to engage
with and convey complex scientific theories, and to stimulate changes in mental processes to
unlock these concepts. The research highlights empirical similarities between art and science
to propose that creative aspects of art can be considered proximate to the creative qualities
required to understand quantum theories.
In order to reveal this, the body of research engaged specifically with quantum entanglement,
because of its well documented existence¹ combined with the more challenging considerations
of how ‘communication’ can occur at a quantum level. By providing metaphoric immersive
experiences of quantum entanglement, a contribution of ‘scientific communication’ is made as
defined by the evocation of awareness, enjoyment, and interest, questioning of opinions and
providing new perspectives of understanding.² This research posits that there is a fertile,
effective terrain to explore in the union of the fields of contemporary art and science
Considerations of constructivist theories of knowledge and the concept of paradigm shifts³ are
used whereby new insights into knowledge processes can be experienced through VR art.
Here, simulacra, cognitive dissonance and the technological sublime afford a framework to
create experiences of conflicting realities. It is due to the immersive strengths of VR which are
exploited and subverted through my designs that these experiences can be facilitated for the
The culmination of this research is Entangled, a VR art installation which provides interplays
between virtual and physical spaces while also offering entry-points to contemplate and
understand quantum theories. Critical analysis of this project is supported by focus group and
questionnaire responses. These findings prove how viewers perceived the project as an
aesthetic art work and that by recognising scientific underpinnings, an effective engagement
and participation in elements of scientific communication occurred at varying levels.
The work provided new perspectives on the properties of quantum entanglement. This
facilitated cognitive and experiential awareness providing opportunities for viewers to
encounter conflicting knowledge systems. The challenge in this creative practice research was
to create aesthetic experiences that contravene common sense reasoning and provide insights
into the type of thought processes and experiential perception that is required to deepen and
expand our understanding of our physical reality. In the present era of an evolution of super-
technologies, now past its nascent stage, Entangled offers exposure to the types of interfaces
that this thesis asserts will increasingly be encountered when comprehending our reality in the
21st century and beyond.⁴
¹ References to the proven existence of quantum entanglement are provided in section 1.6.
² This definition of scientific communication is expanded in section 1.1.
³ Paradigm shifts are times when the familiar framework has to be profoundly changed. This is discussed
in detail in section 1.3.
⁴ Quantum entanglement is only one possible area that will cause our experience of reality to change
radically. For example biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and human/AI
interfaces to name some.