I wondered what the building blocks of the universe looked like and found myself on the Cern website reading about Quarks and Leptons. I discovered the language of particle physics to be quite like that of mythology – inhabited with mysterious characters like the charm quark and strange quark, the muon neutrino and the tau governed by fundamental forces that cannot be seen or explained other than by their attributes – like the mythical gods. I am intrigued by this mysterious world.

The name “quarks“ was chosen for the three fundamental particles of all matter from a nonsense word used by James Joyce in the novel Finnegan’s Wake:“Three quarks for Muster Mark!“ – the first sentence of Finnegans Wake completes the end of the last sentence – the book’s circular structure reflects the theories of the philosopher Giambattista Vico (1668–1744) a major source of inspiration for me this past year. Vico published his theories for a new approach to the study of human history in Scienza Nuova, he viewed human history as cyclical along with the natural cycles of the earth – night and day, life and death, rise and fall, civilization and breakdown.

Quarks are explained in the theory of the standard model – a mathematical formula which explains how the basic building blocks of matter interact – it provides the best explanation so far but does not explain everything. According to current theory the matter we know which is what makes up all stars and galaxies is only 4% of the content of the universe. Dark matter makes up about 26% of all matter and the remaining 70% is referred to as dark energy, it is even more mysterious than dark matter but it may be what is causing the expansion of the universe. I found these statistics extraordinary. This has led to a new piece of work I am beginning work on.

Every Day Matters 1

Susan Eyre Every Day Matters 1

I have been reading ‘Impossibility – the limits of science and the science of limits’ by John Barrow about how what we don’t understand has defined society as much as by what we do. That we can know what we cannot know is one of the most striking consequences of human consciousness.  All human experience is an edited account of full reality – our senses prune information – our eyes do not see the full spectrum – we summarize, compress and abbreviate the world around us. Religious and Mystical explanations do a similar thing, they make the world manageable.

Despite warnings in mythology that to possess all knowledge will lead to no good we still try to understand the unknowable.

According to current debate we may now be at an impasse where science can no longer offer us an answer. It might be that not everything in the world can be explained through materiality and there are some things we will never understand. The answers may be hidden deep in the subatomic world or the dark recesses of the universe, or we may never answer the big questions about the origin of matter and human consciousness.

Reading Robert Pogue-Harrison’s book Forests – the shadow of civilization, introduced me to Giambattista Vico and his speculation on the myth of forest dwelling bestial giants primordial fear of thunder which led me to reading about the Tasaday Tribe of the Philipines  – modern day forest dwellers who also feared thunder. The controversy over the authenticity of the tribe has raged since the first media revelation of their existence with implications that the corrupt Marcos regime were involved in the debunking of the story in order to plunder the Tasaday forest home for resources. I then find myself immersed in the midst of the most powerful musical rendition based on the remarkable life of Imelda Marcos  – Here Lies Love – at the National Theatre.

David Byrne and Fat Boy Slim - Here Lies Love

David Byrne and Fat Boy Slim – Here Lies Love

Also colourful and immersive, I loved A.S. Byatt’s Ragnarok – The End of The Gods  – a delicious imagining of Norse mythology full of lavish imagery. There are many ways for the world to end.

Nietzsche wrote ‘Every culture that has lost myth has lost, by the same token, its natural healthy creativity.’

I have just started A.S. Byatt’s novel Possession to find Vico popping up again as a main thread in the storyline. It seems he is everywhere I look at the moment.

Visited Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the ICA. There is a particular flavour here but I’m not sure I can articulate what it is.

So pleased for the talented Ben Zawalich and Alice Gauthier 2014 graduates who were among several RCA printmaking graduates in this show.

Alice Gauthier Tourne  video still

Alice Gauthier  video still

Ben Zawalich

Ben Zawalich

I did enjoy the video piece by Emely Neu though not sure if it was on any other level than how I enjoy the absurdity in Big Train.

Emely Neu

Emely Neu

There appeared to be a serious interview going on, while three characters in golden robes and painted faces would from time to time make Tourette’s like interjections of nonsense or the sort of noises a bored toddler might make waiting for a parent to finish talking to a friend and divert their attention back to them.

Visited Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age at the Barbican Gallery. I liked the title, Constructing Worlds.

Some work was interesting as documentation of place and other work offered an interpretation or an opening to somewhere else.

The Becher’s water tower collection is a favourite piece. Similarities and differences unite us as individuals.

Bernd and Hilla Becher

Bernd and Hilla Becher

The sheer scale and drama of a Gursky image is always mindblowing. Its like we stand back and go wow, we made this, we have impressed ourselves, and he captures that awe.

Andreas Gursky

Andreas Gursky

Iwan Baan’s images of Torre David, an abandoned skyscraper in Caracas, home to thousands of squatters until last year,  had added interest because we had seen it on Homeland, also these were the only images in the show with no white borders.

Iwan Baan

Iwan Baan

While at the Barbican had a look at Walead Beshty’s impressively scaled visual diary in the Curve.

Walead Beshty

Walead Beshty

Over 12,000 cyanotype prints pasted to the wall. Surprising detail captured in some of the prints while others were simple silouhettes. It looked like a satisfying project to fill so much space through a process.

As part of a series of events surrounding the RA exhibition ‘Anselm Kiefer’, novelists A.S. Byatt and Lawrence Norfolk lead a discussion on the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales in this Podcast: – venture together into Germany’s dark woods.

The forest as dark, dangerous and profane, on the edges of civilization. It once surrounded the city, now it is removed. The dark inner space is inviting yet fearful. In history it is the separation between earth and sky. In Vico’s myth it is the heavy branches of the forest that hide the sky – the home of the gods, from the wild men of the forest. The deep recesses of the forest hide danger and wild beasts in their mazes. The laws are those of survival.

Grimm Tales staged at the Oxo Wharf were given the Philip Pullman treatment.

Grimm Tales

Grimm Tales

Led from one set to another in the theatrically dressed wharf building a series of Fairy Tales were acted out.

Grimm Tales

Grimm Tales

The setting was magical enough and the actors enthusiastic

Grimm Tales

Grimm Tales

but the pace was a bit too slow and disjointed to really carry the audience through

Grimm Tales

Grimm Tales

I heard Philip Pullman on the radio the other day talking about His Dark Materials. There seems a lot of ideas explored in his novels that I would find interesting in connection with my work at the moment.

The Golden Compass that God used to set a circular boundary around all creation mentioned in Milton’s Paradise Lost:

Then staid the fervid wheels, and in his hand
He took the golden compasses, prepared
In God’s eternal store, to circumscribe
This universe, and all created things:
One foot he centred, and the other turned
Round through the vast profundity obscure

I have been on another paradise location exploration. This was to Paradise Road in Richmond.

1501 road sign

I was delighted to find The Church of Christ Scientist at one end

1501 Church of Christ Scientist

and St Mary Magdalene Church of England at the other

1501 St Mary Magdelene's

– alternative routes to paradise?

A bit of print history in the road as well.

1501 Paradise Road Richmond

The Hogarth Press was started in 1917 by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, named after their house on Paradise Road. They began by hand-printing books of their own books and then stories from others in the Bloomsbury Group.I had a chance to make some simple books in a workshop at school.

simple bookbinding workshop at RCA

simple bookbinding workshop at RCA

When the intensity of the MA is over come July then I might have a go at this.

Thinking about portals to other dimensions I decided to try submerging an image in water. At first I wanted the fabric to stay on the bottom of the bowl but it refused to do so – so I left it floating, wondering if it would eventually sink, after a while bubbles appeared on the surface trapped by the fabric – I have found this evidence of unseen activity intriguing – like the activity in the matter of the universe going on around us unseen –  some unseen activity we can understand,  other intangible things like the aura of place and the dream of paradise cannot be pinned down or explained in terms of materiality.

1501 pool

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