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Quantum Enigma>
Stage 1. Superposition of states>
Stage 2. Randomness>
STAGE 3. Cryptographic supplement >
Context of the artwork>
Applications of Randomness>
Cryptograph and Free Society>

Quantum Enigma Machine

QEM consists of installation, action and program, whose goal is to extend the notion of art by dealing with randomness. I reveal the process of radioactive decay as the best and strongest manifestation of the idea of randomness. Thorium is a medium of my idea: I have chosen Thorium as radioactive material, which is the source of fundamental random processes and is not associated with art. Thorium is a source of dispersion and real disorder. The use of Thorium is the use of raw material which is not subject to power of will. The real performative element contained in the action reveals pure process of decay and energy emission.


STAGE 1. Superposition of states

In the first stage I present radioactive material sealed within leaden container. The observer has no access to processes occurring within the container. Superposition of states in which the particles remain within the container occurs without the observer. A potential space emerges, consisting of particles that remain in a superposition of numerous states. If we interpret the formulas of quantum mechanics we can say, that the particles in the container do not exist in any particular place. Particles exist in many places simultaneously with a certain probability of occurrence. Without the observer it is a pure example of superposition of states and therefore a pure potential, which encompasses many different setups, including many past and future works of art and music compositions.

geiger counter

STAGE 2. Randomness

The second stage of the action consists in opening of the container and applying the probe of Geiger counter to it. Gamma radiation is detected, which has completely random character. In the decay of radioactive particle it is impossible to predict when and which particles will be 'shot'. Geiger counter produces successive clicks, signaling shooting of particles by the radioactive source. The moment, in which a click occurs is completely unpredictable. The time between successive clicks is always different. This unpredictability indicates primal randomness existing in reality on a quantum level, which means there is no deterministic explanation of what is happening. The use of Geiger counter allows for printing sequence of random numbers, which are subsequently concentrated by sounds or light impulses and presented in the form of an installation. In the moment of applying the probe of Geiger counter, there is a transition from the phase of superposition to the phase of recognizing randomness. Potential space consisting of superposition of numerous states is collapsed to a precise sequence of light-sound impulses, which can be perceived by the senses. The speed of clicks has a significant importance and can be controlled by bringing the probe closer to the radioactive source or scaling the metro (sampling frequency) in computer program, which I wrote. Original program is used for reading clicks frequency, amplifying the signal and presenting it in the form of light- sound impulses. Source code of the program can be found in Annex 2.1

ROBERT B. LISEK - QUANTUM RANDOM GENERATOR (QRG) w Centrum Amarant from Strange Loop on Vimeo.

STAGE 3. Cryptographic supplement

The above quantum experiment delivers random sequence of numbers, which can serve as a perfect cryptographic key. Part of my practical work consists in ciphering a message with the use of such key. The ciphered message will be send to the headquarters of three intelligence agencies: M5, GRU and CIA. Since the key is really random, deciphering the message is impossible no matter how strong resources and computational power the agency has at its disposal.


Context of the artwork

My artistic practice has been manifested in interventions, actions and performances. All my previous projects are an effect of working with the idea of dispersal and spreading (Kapital, GGGRU, Crash etc.). QUANTUM RANDOM GENERATOR is a logical consequence of previous works. The work proposes wider and more general understanding of the idea of art. My approach is an attempt of overcoming limitations of traditional understanding of art, redefining and extending the notion of art. These works urge the viewer to undertake cognitive effort and point to radically different cognitive methods that emerge in the domain of art and science.



Nowadays, many procedures based on simulation of random processes lie at the basis of practical applications in banking, stock market, games, in enciphering passwords etc. In economy, random walk is often used concerning shifts in prices and it plays an important role in conceptualization of financial markets. In biology, randomness in disguise of mutation is a driving force of natural selection and a principal characteristic of the theory of evolution.
In the domain of art, randomness has always played an important role, yet it became a subject of research not until the XX century: eg.: concept of the READY MADE formulated by Marcel Duchamp, its elaboration in Conceptual Art through the employment of metalanguage tools, and the use of self-reference has opened art for abstract problems. Simultaneously, similar phenomena have been occurring in music, eg.: new formal ways of composing music, from Arnold Schonberg, through the use of different probability distributions by Iannis Xenakis (GENDY, UPIC etc), to noise music.


Quantum Enigma at Harvestworks Arts Center New York - Robert B. Lisek from Robert B. Lisek on Vimeo.

Cryptography and FREE SOCIETY

The significance of randomness for socio-political processes. Internet, after delusions concerning openness and decentralization, is being understood more in terms of control exercised by government agencies (e.g. NSA) and advertising agencies. We live in a new era, in which mathematics has become a powerful weapon. Random numbers are crucial for cryptography: for encryption keys, random authentication, key-agreement schemes, generating prime numbers and so on. Breaking of the random-number generator means breaking the entire security system. Understanding of the use of random numbers plays a very important role in times of mass surveillance, e.g.: NSA manipulates us by installing secret "backdoor" in encryption systems, which should protect our data. It concerns cryptographic standards, which are based on mathematical objects called "elliptic curves". It turns out, that there are certain elliptic curves, which appear to be random, but are in fact easy to decipher. It enables the agency to break into our emails and personal data. The governments and intelligence agencies exploit our ignorance, and manipulate us more when we are less aware of mathematics. Cryptography is the ultimate form of non-violent direct action! There are math problems that you can create that even the strongest state cannot break. Cryptography allows to create regions free from the coercive force of the outer state. Free from mass interception. Free from state control. Be Random. Don't Let Politicians and Economists Hack Your Brain and Activity!

RANDOM BLAST - Robert B. Lisek from Robert B. Lisek on Vimeo.


development: Robert B. Lisek
coding: Robert B. Lisek
contact: lisek at fundamental dot art dot pl


produced by Robert B. Lisek & Fundamental Research Lab