Live from TEDGlobal 2013

Whisky in a jar: TEDGlobal 2013 with Fabian Oefner

Posted by: Karen Eng
TG2013_040300_D41_3737

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Photographer Fabian Oefner wants to show us in still images what sound waves look like, the magic of a soap bubble at the moment of bursting, the forces of magnetism, how fire burns through alcohol. Oefner considers himself an artist, but he is also a scientist. To him, these disciplines should not be mutually exclusive.

“Science and art both look at the world around us, yet do it in very different ways,” he says. “Art appraoches the world in an emotional way; science apporaches in a rational way. I would like to do both at once, to speak to the viewer’s heart and brain.”

To Oefner, the process is as important as the product. After showing some of his still images — full of vibrant colors, abstract shapes, luminescent blobs, swirls and iridescent light — Oefner presents some of his techniques to the audience. In a video, he shows how he makes sound waves visible by placing colored crystals on top of a speaker covered by a plastic sheet, shooting their movements using a camera that takes 5,000 frames per second. The result: explosions of color in concentric circles and cascades.

Live, he demonstrates how ferrofluids on a magnet form spikes in the viscous black liquid, adding watercolors with a syringe to form otherworldly patterns as the fluids flow around each other. And in a nod to our Edinburgh hosts, he sets a small amount of its national drink alight in a large glass flask to show how he obtained stills of the flame traveling down through alcohol.

Why do this? “Most of the time we don’t pay much attention to the unseen and poetic,” he says. “I hope to make the viewer stop and think for a moment and consider the beauty that surrounds us every day.”

For more on how Fabian creates his extraordinary images, visit his blog on 500px.

TG2013_040309_D41_3746

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

TG2013_040317_D41_3754

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

TG2013_040343_D41_3780

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

TG2013_039938_DSC_3998

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

TG2013_039964_DSC_4024

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

TG2013_039975_DSC_4035

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Fabian Oefner’s talk is now available for viewing. Watch it on TED.com »