Chris Woebken
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A History of Speculation, 2013
In collaboration with Sascha Pohflepp


Experiments are conducted inside a featureless virtual laboratory, a space that is as controlled as it is surreal. Simulations that range from events of the recent past to such that are predicted to happen at the end of the Universe, a time when the existence of a subjective observer will have long be impossible.

Shaped by our abstraction of nature and the synthetic randomness of the computer, the visual result of each run is unique. Employing mathematical modeling as a medium, A History of Speculation generates images which in their unworldliness beg to stake their own claim to reality.

Dollar bills scatter in the flow of simulated wind after being ejected from a black Volvo vehicle by an invisible bank robber in a reductionist re-enactment of a police chase through Los Angeles in September 2012. Scenes are chosen in regard to their relevance to our practices of predicting the future, our histories of speculation. In the case of the black Volvo it is the efforts to map the future course of the perpetrators throughout the city in ways that strikingly resemble the work of early theoretical physicists.

The inherent process asks questions about where our world sits on a gradient between determinism and randomness. Is it that we can not know the future because we are oversimplifying reality in our models or is the world indeed constantly emerging, ultimately giving rise to human agency itself, as Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine points out?


Commissioned by Goethe Institute Moscow, curated by Esther Ruelfs and Ekaterina Lazareva. Many thanks to our conversation partners in science: Prof. Janna Levin, Barnard College of Columbia University; Prof. Anthony Crofts, University of Illinois; Dr. Janet Anders, University College London