The Butterfly Effect


Soundtrack by Iain Coughtrie aka Degenre.

There are between 15,000 and 20,000 species of butterflies worldwide. Some well-known species from around the world include: Simba, Lays, Willards, Doritos to name a few. Through the process of transformation this "rubbish" can be re-born into a second life, inspiring the flight of our soul in the mind's eye.

Through my work, creating as I go, I always try to cause a catalytic trigger in my immediate environment. Weather it is positive or negative, beautiful or ugly is subjective, the objective however, is to bring the viewer into the wonder of this present moment. The full appreciation and understanding of this, will always lead to transformation. We must constantly break free of the expected, the monotony and dullness of order. The idea is that no action is too small, no thought unimportant, as it all has a cumulative effect on the collective perception of our world. There are still many unexplored places in our mind’s eye. And as the stagnant institutions of yesterday crumble under their very own incapacity to keep up with the dynamic, symbiotic and emergent nature of our world today, an alternative perception must constantly be re-born.

The term Butterfly effect is often misunderstood and clarity can be found by the all powerful free online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


In some old cultures, butterflies symbolize rebirth into a new life after being inside a cocoon for a period of time.

The Ancient Greek word for "butterfly" is ψυχή (psȳchē), which primarily means "soul", "mind".[43]

According to the “Butterflies” chapter in Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things, by Lafcadio Hearn, a butterfly is seen as the personification of a person's soul; whether they be living, dying, or already dead.

In the Chinese culture two butterflies flying together are a symbol of love.

The Taoist philosopher Zhuangzi once had a dream of being a butterfly flying without care about humanity, however when he woke up and realized it was just a dream, he thought to himself "Was I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?"


"Recurrence, the approximate return of a system towards its initial conditions, together with sensitive dependence on initial conditions are the two main ingredients for chaotic motion"

Origin of the concept and the term

"The term "butterfly effect" itself is related to the work of Edward Lorenz, and is based in chaos theory and sensitive dependence on initial conditions, first described in the literature by Jacques Hadamard in 1890 and popularized by Pierre Duhem's 1906 book. The idea that one butterfly could eventually have a far-reaching ripple effect on subsequent historic events seems first to have appeared in a 1952 short story by Ray Bradbury about time travel although Lorenz made the term popular. In 1961, Lorenz was using a numerical computer model to rerun a weather prediction, when, as a shortcut on a number in the sequence, he entered the decimal .506 instead of entering the full .506127 the computer would hold. The result was a completely different weather scenario. Lorenz published his findings in a 1963 paper for the New York Academy of Sciences noting that "One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a seagull's wings could change the course of weather forever." Later speeches and papers by Lorenz used the more poetic butterfly. According to Lorenz, upon failing to provide a title for a talk he was to present at the 139th meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1972, Philip Merilees concocted Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas as a title."

"Although a butterfly flapping its wings has remained constant in the expression of this concept, the location of the butterfly, the consequences, and the location of the consequences have varied widely."

"The phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in a certain location. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events. Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different. While the butterfly does not cause the tornado, the flap of its wings is an essential part of the initial conditions resulting in a tornado."


The use of specifically Aluminium foil from the chip packets has three reasons:

1. Agriculture is destroying the butterflies natural habitat - butterflies are critical in the pollination of plants and the fruiting is dependent on fertilisation, there is therefore a paradox in using this food source "cacoon" to create new life for butterflies. Butterflies play a crucial role in pollination and therefore a critical role in the ecosystem. in destroying them we destroy ourselves. everything is connected.

2. The reflective quality and lightness of the foil will fly well in wind, swirling and darting around with flashes of colour, perfectly mimmicing the flight pattern and appearance of the real thing.

3. Waste has hidden potential energy, a camouflaged treasure waiting to be found. Giving rubbish new meaning and purpose has parallels with reincarnation, recurrence and of course recycling. Energy is always changing into something else.

The Process

All materials were collected from the Grahamstown landfill and after use placed into the hands of the local recycling depot.

The landfill itself is an incredible site, one is filled with mixed emotion seeing this "graveyard" of modern culture artifacts all mixed together.

When I first visited the site the wind had blown hundreds of plastic bags from the site against the bordering fence। I wondered how ironic it was that these bags were being blown back to the town from where they came.

Taking the chip packets from the landfill and street gutters, I used used "grey" water to clean them. The packets were then cut into triangles, emulating the shape of the butterfly using scissors I used nylon to "fly" them in the wind and tied them to every street corner and every dustbin I could find in Grahamstown.

I set up a "flying line" across the Drosty Arch to film a sequence and left it there as an installation for the afternoon.

I also placed packets under parked festival goers car wipers, initially they appear to be flyers for another event- but actually they are bring attention to the issue of littering...

In the middle of a traffic island I placed a dead wattle tree and tied to it, over a hundred disgarded Jungle oat bars packets collected by my friends Ryan and Rob from the streets and gutters. These sparkled like flowers or butterflies for the duration of the festival with the addition of more and more wrappers every day.

On this note I would like to appeal to the manufacturers of all produce to start moving to biodegradable or second use packaging as the law is coming along to bite you! Please see here for the laws surrounding EPR

The amount they charge for additional plastic bags at the shops is not enough to encourage re-using old ones. They should have a value on their return to the shop too! This is a serious issue that has been turned into a fashion conscious "green" fad, with an array of flashy "reusable" linen bags being put on the shelfs to fool the customer into buying them only generating more waste.

I projected my animation during the festival evenings at random locations- and received very positive feedback. I also gave workshops to school children at St. Andrews Prep- these kids were aged between 10 and 13. Introducing and re-affirming the recycling process, I then moved onto waste art and its relevancy in modern society. I explained to them the thinking behind the butterfly effect and introduced them to animation techniques. They were all very interested and eager to be involved. Handing out pre-washed chip packets we set about making butterflies, which was easy and enjoyable for them. We then all went outside to the school courtyard and used them in an animation sequence- which I have added to the short film coming soon. After the sequencing we pinned them to cardboard like a collector would. I then selected the best of to make this poster here...