Big news is that Laboratory of Dark Matters has been awarded Arts Council England funding. I am still struggling to believe. We are also getting some support from the Institute of Physics for when we take the exhibition to the North East. This news is such a boost for our project and has unleashed a rush of activity, but also a torrent of admin. I had been making some progress with the sculpture.
Results of a day at Woodhall Barn Workshop under the steady supervision of wood wizard Christopher Hall and I am very chuffed with my dodecahedron frame. The angles have to be cut so very accurately using a table saw and digital level to achieve the precision needed for it to fit together. It’s basically 30 identical pieces ripped from 2 x 4 pine at 31.7° and mitred at 36° and glued together. We got these top tips ‘How to make a dodecahedron the easy way’ from YouTube. It was not easy.
Reading Plato’s Timaeus and Critias I was hoping to find some more information on the relationship drawn between the dodecahedron and the cosmos but have found no further explanations. Plato describes a primitive chaos where the four elements of fire, earth, water and air formed from a turbulent mix of ‘being’, ‘space’ and ‘becoming’ to be assigned by their solid or fluid characteristics to the tetrahedron, cube, icosahedron and octahedron respectively then adds .. ‘There still remained a fifth construction, which the god used for embroidering the constellations on the whole heaven’…it’s almost an afterthought or maybe just too illusive to elaborate on.
I have started the experiment with sugar lift and etching aluminium to see if I can bite right through the plate and keep the structure of the image. I screenprinted a sugar lift mixture onto the plate on both sides. The image was adapted from data visualisation of dark matter kindly supplied by Ralf Kaehler of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology.
I drenched the plate in stop-out and left it to dry before immersing in hot water which dissolves the sugar and reveals the image. It was surprising how much fine detail came through. Though one side of the plate was always better than the other – this could be due to lots of things that are hard to control accurately like concentration of sugar, thickness of stop-out, temperature of water. A primitive chaos.
I am etching in saline sulphate as it gives quite a deep etch into aluminium.
great colours and quite mesmerising to watch as thick red deposits appear
Chemistry at work, lot of bubbles and heat. Several hours later after lots of dips, touch up of stop-out and fresh saline sulphate baths, light begins to appear through the plate
Cleaned up to see the results and decide where to go from here
The cloud chamber is also coming along. With the help of next door cutting my wood I have assembled the box. Even the insulation for the dry ice is cosmic.
Had an interesting day listening to panel discussions and talks at Belief and Beyond Belief on the South Bank. Topics covered were Science versus Religion: Do We Need to Choose? ; Quantum Theology: When Faith Meets Science; The Big Bang and Beyond; God of the Gaps. Religion and science ask the same questions but have different mechanisms to answer those questions.
These were some of the points discussed – When we look to understand the human condition and question the meaning of life, what truth are we seeking? The scientists present seemed more content to live in doubt but appreciated aspects that religion offered such as community, emotional beliefs and quiet reflection. The difficulty for scientists was in accepting that religions think they are based on truth. This religious truth comes from faith and cannot be tested as the argument is that God is beyond definition and therefore transcends understanding. It may be that searching for answers to resolve uncertainty is a survival trigger that persists as a craving in the human condition. .
The methodology of science is devised to look at facts unbiased, it has no moral or ethical framework. A theory in science is not a hypothesis. The scientists said they get frustrated by people saying they don’t ‘believe’ in their theory when they are based on facts. A theory may begin with a lot of intuition and wondering and develop like an artistic process of discovery within parameters; but then there is lots of testing, running the ideas through a sieve to filter out possible truths. A theory may start in mathematics but then is brought into the realm of language and the visual to express what we don’t understand. Georges Lemaitre in 1931 chose to explain his theory of the origin of the universe as “the Cosmic Egg exploding at the moment of the creation”; this became known as the Big Bang Theory. Pervasive metaphors colour our perceptions.
Science is perfectly happy to interrogate contradictory theories at the same time unlike religious belief which involves accepting one truth. All religions can’t all be right but their own belief in one truth makes it hard for them to accept a non-exclusivity of truths. Science cannot offer us all the answers. There cannot be a theory of everything, there must always be a gap in our understanding because to understand everything we would have to be omniscient – to look in from the outside. Or step outside of our own subjectivity. Thinking about this I went back to look at Schrödinger’s Mind and Matter, particularly his chapter Science and Religion which asks if science can help answer the questions of a possible eternity. Plato was the first to frame the idea of a timeless existence, more real than our actual existence which he saw as a shadow from some realm of ideas. He looked at the patterns in mathematics and geometry embedded in the structures around him that were determined by reason and logic and concluded that mathematical truth is timeless; discovery of it does not bring it into existence, it never changes and goes on forever. Schrödinger opens up further ideas on the indestructibly of the mind using the theories of space/time from Einstein and world view from Kant. This moves into more mind bending ideas, that theoretically time can be reversed. Here I struggle. The theories when pulled from mathematics into language sound fantastical, yet I am asked to believe mathematics is a truth. Then we come to the quantum world where observation and measurement do not apply. And so on.
Conclusions were: Our consciousness is the intrinsic unknown. We have to seek paradise even if it is unachievable and live our lives in a precarious state of doubt.
Analogies can be made, replacing religion with art. Making in Transit hosted an evening at Cube exploring art and science in collaborative situations to discuss the strengths and challenges in bringing them together. ‘Both physics and art thrive on the premise that there is structure as well as genuine ambiguity and mystery in the universe and although very different in terms of practice, they both depend on an ability to visualise or conceptualise abstract notions and patterns.‘
There was an introduction to the world of Jiggling Atoms, a collaboration of scientists and artists who bring fun to workshops and experiments in arts and physics. Named after the visual interpretations of maths formula from Richard Feynman they display the same constant energy.
Dr Daniel Glaser the director of the new Science Gallery London made the point that a successful collaboration is not so much about sharing knowledge but about tolerating each others ignorance, in this way a gap can be opened up for those who know nothing about either field to enter. The role of each party isn’t always clear or equal. He suggested the platonic ideal of ‘the essence’ was something artists could extract and Dr Chiara Ambrosio suggested art should question the boundaries of science. Her interests are in the use of images to produce knowledge such as when high speed photography or microscopes revealed the secrets of the natural world. It was not as symmetrical as we supposed.
I returned the next day for an evening Imaging the Invisible to explore how we observe what we can’t see. Scientists and artists gave their perspectives on the invisible and how it operates in their own spheres. Bernard Siow and Yolanda Ohene from the Centre for Biomedical Imaging at UCL were passionate about the body imaging technologies they are developing, enabling extraordinary visualisations such as the muscle fibres of the heart.
Artist Dave Farnham has created sculptures through 3D print technologies that replicated internal structures from his friends who were going through medical scanning procedures due to illness.
Particle physicist Dr Ben Still introduced us to the world’s largest cosmic particle observation device The Super Kamiokande, set 1,000m underground in Japan.
Using 50,000 tons of ultra-pure water as a target to detect neutrinos. The quantity is to increase the chances of a collision. A neutrino interaction with the electrons or nuclei of water can produce a charged particle that moves faster than the speed of light in water. This creates a cone of light known as Cherenkov radiation, which is the optical equivalent to a sonic boom. The neutrino is a subatomic particle able to travel through matter without interacting, they have no electric charge and almost zero mass.
Lead is what we think of as most impenetrable. A lead lined coffin for Alexander Litvinenko. However it would take a light-year of lead, to stop just half of the neutrinos flying through it.
Anselm Kiefer Walhalla at White Cube Bermondsey weights the air with lead. We are in the lead coffin.
Alternative materiality at Chain by 15 an artist led exhibition in Peckham presented an Itchy and Scratchy world brought together by the Pokémon generation.
The Head Must Go cross stitch on linen by the uncompromising talent Hadas Auerbach was a delicate and poignant highlight.
Enjoyed the beautifully staged performance –Venus Anadyomene -a collaborative 3 channel video and performance by Verity Birt, Holly Graham and Richard Forbes Hamilton; part of ongoing research around de-colonising histories, feminist narrative and collective voice.
The layering of voices, looping narrative and rhythmic pulse hooked into lost voices of history transporting the audience into a dreamlike territory.
I was invited by Lumen:School of Light to show everydaymatters at Ugly Duck for a weekend showcase of artists who explore the relationship between astronomy and light.
everydaymatters dissects landscapes to discover the hidden structures of the universe.
Images taken from everyday prosaic paradises such as Paradise Road, Stockwell and Paradise Row Bethnal Green, are divided into constituent proportions of dark energy, dark matter and the visible world opening the spaces between what is seen and unseen.
Anna Gray’s water filled glass sculpture gave endless pleasure
the mini planetarium experience from Sylvana Lautier, Rose Leahy and Kim Yip Tong was blissful immersion
Spaceheads & Rucksack Cinema multi media performance was funky
Was quite energising to set up and take down over one weekend with lots going on