Audra Wolowiec: Complex Systems

January 24, 2015 to March 01, 2015

Audra Wolowiec is an interdisciplinary artist whose conceptually-driven work explores the material qualities of language and sound. Complex Systems is the result of Wolowiec’s residency with the lab of Professor Eric Corwin in the Department of Physics at the University of Oregon. For one month, Wolowiec became a working member of the lab, keeping office hours and attending meetings with undergraduate and graduate research students. She became particularly interested in the ways in which scientists deal with failure and in the ways in which humans communicate complex ideas to each other.

Wolowiec’s experiences in the lab resulted in a participatory postcard series, Complex Systems, in which she considers what it means to be “complex.” Each postcard features a graph and descriptive sentence taken from a textbook, Multivariable Feedback Control, by engineering professors Ian Postlethwaite and Sigurd Skogestad. Created using a laser cutter in the Corwin Lab, the artist mailed them to fifty artists and writers across the country in the hope of gaining feedback into a language whose terrain was difficult to navigate for a non-native speaker. Values were removed from each sentence of the postcard, providing an empty space for the participant to fill in the blanks. Through this act of generosity, the participants created new meaning out of misinterpretation.

Complex Systems is the first project to result from a pioneering Visiting Artist Program in the Corwin Lab. This program is funded by a 2012 National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the foundation’s most prestigious award in support of early career faculty. For more information on Complex Systems, please visit