Mechanics of Tranquillity
16mm transferred to 2k / Stereo / 2 channel / 53'Expanded Cinema2023

This two-channel film installation immerses the viewer in a series of memories of Canadian archer TRAVIS (33). Wandering through the Canadian rockies he fires volleys of arrows into dead treestumps, one stump after the other. The repetition continues from hill to hill, valley to slope, and field to field, revealing a deeper rhythm.

Mechanics of Tranquillity premiered on Nederlands Film Festival 2023 in it’s NFF×030 program. It was also shown in EKKO in Utrecht and programmed for ETMAAL festival in TivoliVredenburg.

Theories behind tranquillity - Implementing Predictive Processing
For a couple of years now I have been enthralled by ideas surrounding predictive processing regarding the nature of experience. Predictive processing, according to philosophers and neuroscientists like Andy Clark and Anil Seth, is a brain's mechanism for perceiving and understanding the world by constantly generating and updating predictions about incoming sensory information, shaping our conscious experience and interactions with the environment. For example:  The brain, encased in a bony lightless dome, is not like a sensor or a filmstrip where  light is projected onto. The eyes receive lightwaves, and codify them into neural signals up to the brain. The brain does some combining of alot of factors, and there is your picture! But, light itself never enters the brain, it remains dark. The picture we see, with ‘light’ and all, is a subjective experience.
The important step of this theory is that the brain doesn't passively perceive the world through sensory inputs but rather actively predicts what it expects to experience based on its internal models and past experiences. It learns to see, comparing the translated input of the eyes to see whether it’s picture is correct. Experience of reality, Clark says, happens at the interaction of the expectation of the brain and the ‘check’ by the senses.

One intriguing aspect of predictive processing is the requirement for a recurring event to occur and an agent to perceive it, allowing the agent to train itself based on that event. Learning doesn't occur from a single instance; it necessitates more data, more input, and a sustained period of repeated occurrences. Over time, the perceiver accumulates enough data to construct a model of what precisely is unfolding, drawing from past experiences to enhance its understanding.
So to put it rather formulaic: Expectation > Check > Correct > Good! > Repeat

The foundation of all experience for living beings, regardless of its form, lies in repeated occurrences, enabling them to navigate and interact with their perceived world. This observation suggests that our biological makeup is inherently inclined towards patterns and repetitions, likely because they are more graspable and understandable to us. Is this why we feel at home in familiar, safe surroundings? Why an musical rhythm resonates? Or the drumming of a ruffed grouse? Why an arrow, landing in it’s exact expected spot over and over again, is so satisfying?

In arts
Predictive processing is also active in the arts. For instance, when we listen to music, our brains engage in the dance of anticipation and fulfillment. The melodies and rhythms set up expectations, and our minds eagerly predict the next note or beat. As the music unfolds, our brains compare these predictions with the actual sensory input, whether it's the next note in a melody or the rhythm of a drumbeat. The moment our predictions align with the actual sound, a surge of satisfaction follows.

In Physics
Let‘s go a little further, into a world I know little about; physics. Luckily there is a physicist who also a good writer that can enlighten us. There is a wonderfull poetry in what Carlo Rovelli writes in his book Reality Is Not What It Seems, that perhaps could also apply to the abovementioned writings on rhythm:

  “In the world described by quantum mechanics there is no reality except in the relations between physical systems. It isn’t things that enter into relations but, rather, relations that ground the notion of ‘thing’. The world of quantum mechanics is not a world of objects: it is a world of events. Things are built by the happening of elementary events: as the philosopher Nelson Goodman wrote in the 1950s, in a beautiful phrase, ‘An object is a monotonous process.’ A stone is a vibration of quanta that maintains its structure for a while, just as a marine wave maintains its identity for a while before melting again into the sea.”
Perhaps, rhythm is not just a base for experience to occur. According to this line of thinking, matter itself and how we understand it, is perhaps also based on rhythm.

Supported by
Gemeente Utrecht,
Gerbrandy Cultuurfonds
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