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Ken Salter: The Garden of Strange Loops feat. the music of Mazzy Star

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Gallery 30 South

30 South Wilson Avenue

Pasadena, CA 91106

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An Immersive, Experiential Event Series

Pasadena artist Ken Salter explores emergence in his evolving body of work called The Garden of Strange Loops. Emergence is a mathematical property where simple rules, applied repeatedly, lead to self-organizing systems whose complexity far exceed that of the underlying rules. From snowflakes to climate change, and flocks of birds to battalions of soldiers, emergence is the engine of creation and calamity — a secular explanation for, so-called, “acts of God.”

The focus of this work is emergence as it pertains to consciousness. This is the subject of cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter’s book, I Am a Strange Loop, which inspired the name for the work. The work is intended to provoke conversation, reflection and meditation on how the mind emerges from the brain.

This show features Reflecting Pool, the second device developed for The Garden of Strange Loops. Reflecting Pool is an interactive device that generates mesmerizing, neo-psychedelic, fractal images and sounds that captivate and hypnotize. The device responds to Tai-Chi style movements of the viewer’s hands; immersing the viewer’s senses, mind and body into a holistic experience.

For the first time, the device will be accompanied by music for guided meditation. Reminiscent of a 60’s liquid light show, images pulsate to the timeless and sublime music of Mazzy Star. Though pre-programmed, the process that generates the images uses light. Hence each playback is as unique and ephemeral as a campfire.

The choice of music is deliberate. Mazzy Star’s second album and title track, So Tonight That I Might See, is to the ears what Reflecting Pool is to the eyes. The song’s title is a cry for transformation and enlightenment. The audio-visual experience is intended to inch the viewer closer to that elusive state. This song and a handful of others, including Look on Down from the Bridge and Bells Ring, are part of the experience.

*We request visitors to maintain low volume within the exhibition to preserve the optimal experience for other viewers.

*This exhibition is recommended for persons 12 years of age and older. Minors will not be admitted without a parent or guardian, and all attendees are responsible for their own personal safety and for any damage to the equipment caused by their actions or by the actions of minors in their charge.


Tickets cost $15. 15 people are allowed inside per time slot. Each time slot is 15 minutes.

You must show up at the time of your ticket. Please show up early as you will NOT be able to view the exhibition at a different time slot.

Tickets must be purchased online and will be available to purchase until 5:00 pm of the date selected.

How to Purchase

  1. Click "Select A Date"
  2. Click "Tickets"
  3. Select time slot

Date & Location

December 1st - January 27th, 2018*

30 S. Wilson Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91106

This exhibition will be open during gallery hours Thursday - Sunday from 12:00 - 6:00 pm.

*Tickets will NOT be available for purchase and the gallery will be closed to the public on December 9th, 2018 due to a private event.

About the Artist

Pasadena artist Ken Salter has been at the frontier of entertainment technology and art for over 25 years. With engineering degrees from UC Berkeley and UCLA, Ken worked for Walt Disney Imagineering developing new technologies for theme park rides. He has numerous patents on ride and entertainment technology. He co-owns a company which manufactures large sculptures, using digital techniques, for some of the world’s most recognized artists. His interest in fractals and emergence originated in 2000 after reading several books on chaos and complexity science.

Ken was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008 at the age of 46. One of the benefits of this disease is that changes in brain chemistry enhance creativity and awaken artistic abilities. Accordingly, Ken showed his first piece, Chaotic Fractal Generator, at San Francisco’s Exploratorium in 2013. He also composed and recorded an unreleased album of psychedelic surf music that year.

In 2017 he built Reflecting Pool which has shown at a number of group shows and in a dedicated gallery at the Exploratorium along with several prints. He works from his studio in Old Town Pasadena.
Ken views reality from a systems perspective and is skeptical of faith. The concept of emergence reinforces his worldview that intricate systems that appear to be designed need no creator.

How it Works

Reflecting Pool consists of a downward facing camera looking at an upward facing video screen. The image from the video camera is replicated into several windows and arranged as a mosaic on the screen. The camera then takes a picture of this mosaic leading to a mosaic of mosaics. The cycle repeats, thirty times per second, with surprising results: fluid organic patterns with amazingly complex structure. Soothing tones are generated that represent the blend of colors on the screen. Visitors interact with the work by moving their hands gracefully, much like a Tai Chi practitioner, causing the hypnotic visuals to respond in a way that represent the movements and foster a meditative state.

What it Means

Understanding emergent phenomena is of vital importance. From the structure of snowflakes to galaxies, complex patterns and behaviors arising from simple rules is universal. Tipping points, such as catastrophic climate change and populist political revolutions, are also examples of emergent behavior. Consciousness and artificial intelligence are, perhaps, the most profound examples.

However Reflecting Pool can be appreciated from a purely aesthetic standpoint, without any concern for the underlying mathematics. Its hypnotic effect needs no explanation.

Where it is Going

Future additions to the Garden of Strange Loops include:

● Use of formal mosaic patterns, such as those by M.C. Escher and two cameras per Reflecting Pool, to provide a whole new class of patterns.
● Multiple Reflecting Pools, arranged in a grid, with one-way mirror “greenhouses” over the video screen. These cause an infinity effect where the patterns extend into the horizon in all directions. The mosaic on each Reflecting Pool will consist of cameras from all Reflecting Pools, creating a system of interconnected systems with unpredictable results.
● Projection on 3D shapes and moving surfaces, such as large scale articulated origami forms, to energize sculpture.
● Further synchronization to music, including live performance.\

The Garden of Strange Loops is an ever changing, almost organic, collection of work with a unified message: creation is an algorithm.

For more info, contact:

Matt Kennedy
Gallery Director
323 547 3227

Be Advised:

The exhibition is interactive, but visitors are not allowed to touch the Reflecting Pool equipment. Touching the equipment can damage it. Any damage to the equipment will be assessed at $120,000.

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Gallery 30 South

30 South Wilson Avenue

Pasadena, CA 91106

View Map

Refund Policy

No Refunds

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