Briony Barr
with Andrew Melatos


Drawing on Complexity (The Experimenta Series)


Drawing on Complexity (Experimenta Series) takes the form of a series of collaborative, rule-based artworks, enacted over the course of the Triennial. Part of a larger investigation into pattern formation, the works compare what emerges when different groups of people make a drawing together within a similar set of parameters. These parameters include using electrical tape as a medium, using the same sized area of floor as a drawing surface, running the session for the same number of hours, and working with the same set of compositional rules for individual and collaborative mark-making. The groups are sourced by participating galleries for each exhibition.

Inspired by complex adaptive systems and designed in collaboration with physicist, Andrew Melatos, this body of work uses expanded collaborative drawing to enact a process that evolves from the bottom up, in real time. Like the weather, stock market and crowds, complex systems exhibit ‘emergence’ – meaning that larger patterns in the system evolve through interactions between the parts (rather than from a predetermined plan or hierarchy of leadership). This is often described as ‘the whole being more than the sum of the parts’.

The rule-based drawing process is equal parts collaborative artwork, board game, team sport, science experiment and social experiment in which participants drive the outcome. Analogous to the design or programming of a game, the rules and boundaries set up by the artist determine conditions for an artwork to emerge, but not which artwork.


Click here to view the Drawing on Complexity (The Experimenta Series) archive as it is presented on the National Tour.

electrical tape, ply materials & rule station, participating agents

dimensions variable

Artwork Archive

Briony Barr is a conceptual artist whose work explores pattern-formation and emergence. Comprising rule-based drawing, participatory installation and scientific experimentation, Barr regularly collaborates with fellow artists, scientists (typically microbiologists and physicists), and large groups of people.

She has staged collaborative drawing experiments at galleries, schools, universities, science institutions, art museums, civic art studios and conferences, involving the public, artists, primary and secondary students, physicists and astronomers. Through the application of different rules and boundaries (often designed in collaboration with physicist, Andrew Melatos), these artworks have explored scientific ideas such as complex adaptive systems and self-organisation, sociological themes such as group dynamics and cooperation, and artistic themes such as playfulness, risk-taking and innovation. Sometimes, all at the same time.

Barr earned her BA (English) from The University of Queensland, BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and MFA from the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne. She has exhibited in solo and group shows in Australia, Mexico, America and South Korea, and is an honorary fellow of The University of Melbourne’s School of Physics. Barr is also co-founder of art-science collaborative Scale Free Network.

Top - photo by Theresa Harrison © the artist. Bottom - photo courtesy of the artist © the artist