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Chaos Theory & the Art of Antique Fairing

AAADA Events Sydney

Apologies to Wikipedia & a free science class!

I was watching TV absently last night whilst planning for the upcoming AAADA Sydney fair and The Chaos Theory came up in conversation between the characters and I scoffed; chaos! Oh so relatable right now. Which got me thinking (and procrastinating) how relatable?

So Wikipedia goes on to explain chaos theory as: Chaos theory is a branch of mathematics focusing on the behaviour of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions. Chaos theory is an interdisciplinary theory stating that within the apparent randomness of chaotic complex systems, there are underlying patterns, constant feedback loops, repetition, self-similarity, fractals, and self-organization. The butterfly effect describes how a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state, meaning there is sensitive dependence on initial conditions. A metaphor for this behaviour is that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can cause a hurricane in Texas.

So for us, the antiques and art dealers, exhibiting at the AAADA Sydney fair it’s the mathematics of determination added with the logistics of moving stock (and ourselves), a dash of insanity and a van full of eccentricity and I am sure what looks like from the outside; a whole lot of chaos!                                                     

The dynamical systems they talk about? Well let me tell you, there are no more dynamical entrepreneurs than a dealer preparing for this fair! Unless of course the knees are playing up, and the back needs a rub. And ours are just as highly sensitive to initial conditions, actually not just initial conditions, but it is my thesis that if we all weren’t highly sensitive  about pretty much everything nothing so amazing as this and other fairs would happen and we would all be dealing in Tupperware and taps

And really, I could all go on for ever about the complex systems of sourcing of stock, preparations, restorations, conservations, research and consultations that we endure, ahem, enjoy! This to make it all happen and when those doors open at the start of the fair, it all look seamless and perfect. Making sure to have pleased those “feedback loops” in our own minds that forever know better. May be we need to take a page out of the Buddha’s philosophy and find some peace, but then she who is suffering has a cause, so the show must go on!

I’m not so sure about that “self-organising” part, we are all like mad professors. Our desks are like the result of a hurricane blew through, our restoration areas have more unfinished projects than your local scrap booker and all of our wonderful restorers are all about two months behind our schedule (Yeah John! I needed that secretaire yesterday! Just kidding… I meant last week)

As for the metaphorical butterfly, I’m not sure it quite correlates at this point but give me some time and a few days into the fair and I’m sure it will flap its magical wings of mystery.

Overall I think the most resounding interpretation of the theory was the way Edward Lorenz put it:

“Chaos: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”

All in all it would be just “wheeling & dealing” without the chaos and its part of what most of us love about antiques and art dealing. The chance and uncertainty leads to excitement and adventure. If we could predict outcomes, like the AAADA Sydney fair I could just buy a lotto ticket and be done with it all, but where is the fun in that?

No, Maxwell Smart can keep his Chaos wrangling efforts to himself, give me the “apparent randomness of chaotic complex systems” any day, just at the end of that day make sure there is wine handy.

On that note I shall return to my chaotic attempt to organise myself and see you all at the upcoming AAADA Sydney Arts & Antiques Fair.

And remember…

Don’t just be a treasure hunter, be an adventurer!

~ Elizabeth Syber

With kind editing by Emma Marie Hepburn


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