Last time we checked in on Thomas Jackson’s “Emergent Behavior” series, the artist was using digital methods, like cloning and stamping, to create the object swarms in his photographs. These post-production manipulations gave him ideas for how to set up the shots manually, which has the benefit of reducing the artificiality of the photos.
“If I can do it in camera, I should try to do it in camera,” said the artist. “Doing them digitally was sort of figuring out what’s possible, even though I’m doing them in an analog way now.” Although he doesn’t believe the digital tweaks make his photos any less authentic, Jackson has found he prefers to construct the installations in the field, even though this has it’s own complications; the slightest breeze can render his delicate contraptions chaotic and blurry.
The newest editions to “Emergent Behavior” have also been influenced by science. The Couzin Lab at Princeton University researches swarm behaviors in insects, animals, and adults. By constructing his installations to mimic these models, Jackson is better able to stay true to his original artistic concept: to disassociate the artificial objects from their ordinary roles via a reversal of the natural and the manufactured. In his works, the constructed objects are free and have lives of their own, an existence independent of their intended use.