Q&A with Drawing on Complexity: Experiment 9 Artist Briony Barr


Written By
Kailey Reinhart

Briony Barr is a Brisbane-based visual-conceptual artist who draws on scientific enquiry, collaboration and participation as vital parts of her practice. Drawing on Complexity is a 10-year collaboration with physicist Professor Andrew Melatos (University of Melbourne). The series has enabled Briony to experiment with principles of complex adaptive systems through the design of many drawing experiments and workshops, engaging a diverse range of audiences at galleries and museums, science institutions, festivals and schools around Australia as well as internationally. Interdisciplinary research is fundamental to Briony’s practice, and she regularly collaborates with writers, musicians, dancers, educators and fellow artists, as well as different scientists and groups of people to create art, books, workshops, and performances.




Image Credit: Mick Richards

What can audiences expect from your artwork? How will they be able to engage with it?

Imagine a human-size board game crossed with an enormous piece of paper and everyone gets to doodle on it with lines of tape … but like a game, there are rules! I think of it as an ‘art-experiment’.

Anyone who decides to join the experiment as a participant is called an ‘agent’. They will be instructed on the drawing rules (or ‘algorithm’) and everyone will get 7 metres of tape to draw with.

If you’re a bit too young to be an ‘autonomous agent’ then you can work with an adult and share a roll of tape and follow the rules together.


What inspired you to create this work for WSFB? Could you share the story or concept behind it?

This art-experiment is part of a project that I have been working on for many years called Drawing on Complexity. I collaborate with a physicist (Andrew Melatos) to design rules for big collaborative drawings that are made by groups of people using colourful tape. They are about exploring complex systems which, like the weather, can be very unpredictable and involve interactions and feedback from lots of factors.

I love to draw and I am really interested how limitations (like rules) shape a creative process. Even when I am working on my own drawings, I’ll give myself rules and parameters and see how that affects the outcome. I see rules as being generative although many would just think of them as a great way to squash creativity. It depends on how you use them! I like the term ‘generative limits’.


How does art and science intersect with your artwork?

In Drawing on Complexity experiments, art and science come together through using collaborative drawing to model and reflect features of complex adaptive systems. The participant contributes to the artwork and becomes part of the experiment. The aim of the experiment is to show the process of patterns emerging through all the decisions and interactions of the many agents in the drawing system.


Where do you usually draw inspiration from when crafting your art? Are there specific sources or experiences that influence your creative process?

I am fascinated and inspired by structures and forms that move, grow and change over time. This could be the way a tree grows and forks into many branches, or it could be the trajectory of a waiter in a restaurant travelling between the kitchen and the tables. To me, it all feels like a drawing in time and space!


Are there any unusual techniques or mediums you used to create your work? What challenges did you encounter during the creation process?

Line is something that is always a feature of my work and when I was an undergraduate art student, I discovered tape! In Experiment 9, agents will be drawing using colourful ‘washi’ tape which is a kind of paper tape. Tape is a wonderful way to draw and is a great way to make lines. You don’t need to be an expert in drawing to have fun with it.

One of the challenges when developing this work for World Science Festival was choosing the right kind of tape and finding enough of it to last for 8 days!


What is your favourite part about the arts community in Brisbane?

Brisbane has a big enough arts scene that there is a lot going on, but it’s small enough to feel like a community.


As a Brisbane local, what are some of your favourite places to visit? e.g. coffee shop, best chill out spot, gallery or museum?

I regularly go to see art and music events at The Powerhouse in New Farm and to the Cave Inn in Woolloongabba for pizza and experimental music. The Burrow in West End is fun place to hang out and have a drink with friends. There are some great galleries in Brisbane and a few I have been to recently are Side Gallery, Outerspace, Wreckers Artspace, Milani Gallery, One Space Gallery, Griffith University Art Museum and UQ Art Museum


View and interact with Drawing on Complexity: Experiment 9 during WSFB 2024. Read more about the artwork.

Visit Briony’s Website & Instagram

Written By
Kailey Reinhart


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