Scale Free Network


A Hierarchy of Eddies


Big whorls have little whorls
Which feed on their velocity,
And little whorls have lesser whorls
And so on to viscosity.
Lewis Fry Richardson, 1881 – 1953.
English mathematician, physicist, meteorologist, psychologist and poet.

Part scientific-model, part black-box theatre, A Hierarchy of Eddies is an art-science experiment in staging the phenomenon of turbulence. Comprising two axial fans and ten litres of polystyrene balls enclosed in a chamber, this kinetic work enacts a constantly changing system, analogous to fluid flows everywhere: from inside our bloodstream, to rivers, tornadoes, rising smoke from a cigarette or cyclones on the surface of Jupiter. Framed by a proscenium, the moving balls act like pixels, drawing the currents of air as they circulate the chamber. Their actions reveal how higher levels of energy within the large-scale swirling structures, cascade into smaller and smaller scale structures. This dissipation of energy creates what is known as ‘a hierarchy of eddies’. A hallmark of turbulence, eddies (also known as vortices or whorls) can form in unpredictable ways, so much so that turbulence is considered one of the greatest mysteries of science. A Hierarchy of Eddies invites audiences to keep pace with these mesmerising patterns as they form, collapse and reform.


Scientific consultants: Professor Andrew Melatos, Professor Andrew Ooi, Tony Zahtila.
Fabricators & Technicians: Simone Tops, Brian Scales, Hue Smith, Pierre Proske (Sensory Empire) and Kathy Holowko.

An Experimenta Commission. This project is supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program

Custom-built welded steel frame and form-ply chamber, steel fan base, pre-fabricated pedestal fan and light fixtures, polystyrene balls, electrical components

250 x 240 x 360 cm

duration variable

Scale Free Network is a Melbourne-based, art-science collaborative founded by conceptual artist Briony Barr and microbial ecologist Dr Gregory Crocetti. Since 2007, SFN have developed their interdisciplinary methodology through workshops, participatory installations, exhibitions and publishing projects, created in collaboration with artists, scientists, writers and educators. SFN projects aim to visualise and imaginatively engage with the invisible majority (microbial communities, physical systems and forces beyond human perception), to question the human-scale lens through which we relate to the world.

SFN have presented their work in a diverse range of contexts nationally and internationally, including art galleries, museums, science institutions, festivals, conferences and schools. The list includes the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute; the National Gallery of Victoria; the Royal Institution of Australia; Gertrude Contemporary; A Centre for Everything; ArtPlay; Counihan Gallery; Ipswich Art Gallery; World Science Festival, Brisbane; OtherFilm Festival; the Environmental Health Clinic; and the International Symbiosis Society Congress.

Top - photo by Zaylee Saint James Turner © Experimenta Media Arts. Bottom - photo by Briony Barr © the artist