Alistair McClymont, The Limitations of Logic and the Absence of Absolute Certainty, 2011

Created from fans, humidifier, scaffolding, lights, water

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Tornado Drawings

Made by the tornado: The Limitations of Logic and the Absence of Absolute Certainty

Alistair McClymont Tornado drawing in action

Alistair McClymont sets up a tornado drawing 

The Limitations of Logic and the Absence of Absolute Certainty is a man made tornado, mimicking the processes that create the real thing, the way in which the work is installed reveals the science behind it. At the same time, the work acknowledges that there is something inherently unknowable and uncontrollable about the way in which naturally or artificially induced tornados move and behave.

McClymont documents this fact by using the work to produce a series of drawings on paper that track the movement and path of the tornado. The drawings are influenced by hurricane tracking charts that use grids to map storm paths. Each drawing starts as a grid of ink drops, placed beneath the installation. The fans are turned on for a set period of time in order to trace the path of the tornado. As the tornado is completely unenclosed, it gets buffeted by the random, chaotic forces of turbulence within the room. These make the vortex snake around the floor, giving the tornado its own anthropomorphic character.


This series of drawings capture that character, each telling a unique narrative of a few minutes of the tornado’s progress across the paper, capturing the movement over time. The drawings are either made with Parker Quink Ink or with indian inks. The coloured drawings are made using the colours of the Beaufort Wind Force Scale reproduced in indian ink. This scale is used to measure wind speed from 0 (blue, calm) to 12 (red, hurricane force). The grid is divided into a rainbow of stripes of each colour. As the ink drops are of different colours you can see where they have sprayed ink as the tornado moves across the paper, more accurately tracking the progress. The colours of the Beaufort scale give a different kind of beauty to the drawings, whilst tying them into the language of weather charts, and experimentation. Visitors can view the framed drawings upstairs in the main gallery.

The title of this work is derived from mathematician Kurt Gödel’s “incompleteness theorem”, a simultaneously complicated and simple theory that states that within systems, there are things that are true but not provable. Gödel’s theorem applies not just to math, but to everything that is subject to the laws of logic. Read more about the incompleteness theorem here

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