Tripolar, an interactive iPhone and iPad app by artist Scott Snibbe, is now officially released in conjunction with the Whitney Museum. It is one of the first artworks commissioned by a major museum to appear as an app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Tripolar was commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art for the CODeDOC Exhibition curated by Christiane Paul.
Tripolar animates the tangled, abstract, ever-changing forms a pendulum makes as it swings over a base of three magnets, tracing the path it follows when released from the point you touch. The drawing that results is a chaotic system in which minute changes to the start position produce large changes in the pendulum’s path. By invisibly moving the starting position in microscopic increments towards your finger’s position,Tripolar lets you explore the points between pixels, simulating a resolution thousands of times that of the screen.
Tripolar was commissioned for CODeDOC, an online exhibition curated by Christiane Paul in 2002 for the Whitney Museum’s Artport website that explored the relationship between a software artist’s code and the resulting work of art. The original Java source code demonstrates that changing any of the few parameters determining its operation radically alters the work: in most cases making it non-functional, hanging, exploding, imploding, or oscillating.
Tripolar’s name suggests the connection between mental states and chaotic phenomena: if even a simple physical system is so unpredictable and sensitive to initial conditions, what about our minds? Chaos and complexity reign at all scales.
To further explore the boundary between a software artist’s work and the interactive creations made with “users” of the work, the iPhone and iPad versions of Tripolar allows you to move, add, and remove magnets to create an infinite array of configurations besides the original Tripolar configuration. Once you make a change the the original artist’s configuration, the title of the work changes from Tripolar to Untitled, marking this boundary even more clearly.
Screenshots for iPad and iPhone, and app icons: