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Back in beautiful Northumberland for a Beyond gathering of artists at ACA who will be continuing in the open door residency as the project evolves into Continuum.

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Lots of particle trails were spotted during The Cloud Chamber Workshop. Thanks to the Institute of Physics for sponsoring this, Allenheads Contemporary Arts for hosting and the North Pennines Stargazing Festival for including it in their programme.

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A cloud chamber gives us a glimpse into the invisible world of particles produced in the radioactive decay of naturally occurring elements and those generated when cosmic rays strike the top of the Earth’s atmosphere.

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These particles pass though us continuously without our awareness. Witnessing this usually unseen activity can lead us to look beyond what our immediate senses tell us is there and consider the possibility of other intangible phenomena.

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The rather gorgeous original Cloud Chamber was invented by Scottish physicist Charles Wilson and he won the noble prize for it in 1927. It has been said that the cloud chamber might be the most important piece of experimental equipment in the history of particle physics. It was a chance discovery that made the study of particles possible.
Wilson was fascinated by clouds and was actually studying meteorology spending his time observing clouds at the top of Ben Nevis. He thought it might be easier to study them if he could build a device to create clouds in his laboratory. He also hoped to recreate the strange optical phenomena known as a Glory caused by light hitting clouds below the observer which he had experienced from his high vantage point on the mountain.

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It was Victor Hess who discovered cosmic rays and earnt the Nobel Prize for this in 1936. Scientists had been puzzled by the levels of ionizing radiation measured in the atmosphere using electroscopes. It was expected that radiation would decrease with distance from the earth but to test this Hess risked his life taking measurements at high altitudes in a balloon without oxygen tanks. He found that the radiation levels increased with altitude and concluded that there was radiation penetrating the atmosphere from outer space.

1810 Victor Hess balloon

Left over dry ice from the workshop gave us the opportunity to try freezing bubbles.

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The workshop was followed by The Dark Side of the Universe talk from Dr. Pete Edwards. Our universe is filled with mysterious dark matter, whose gravity provides the cosmic glue that holds it all together, and dark energy, which is slowly tearing the universe apart.

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The finale of the Stargazing Festival was the screening of Steven Spielberg’s 1977 sci-fi icon Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Good to revisit and think about how much more we know about the universe 41 years on.

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This was preceded by an appropriate dinner courtesy of Alan Smith.

1810 Close Encounters dinner

I was invited as a guest speaker at London LASER Labs Re- Thinking Space at Central Saint Martins.

The session remit was

We are in the midst of both an incredible and challenging space age. How can we harness the information, collected in silo, from the fields of cosmology and quantum physics to conceive of a more unified vision of how the universe (and us) are put together? Within science and culture – what new models of thought could we foster? How do creativity and consciousness fit into this emerging paradigm? How can we rethink our practices to swerve the impasse some are labelling a new ‘Dark Age’?…

I was glad to arrive early to see the collection of meteorites Dr Natasha Almeida, Curator of Meteorites at the Natural History Museum had brought along for the Playlab hands on session. This included a spectacular slice of iron meteorite. Due to a long cooling period inside the parent asteroids the nickel and iron alloys crystallise then when polished and acid etched the classic Widmanstätten patterns of intersecting lines of lamellar kamacite, are visible. Also a tear drop of earth rock created when a meteorite struck the earth and the heat melted the rock which flew into the air and cooled into tear drops as it fell.

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Other speakers at the event were Dr. Thomas Kitching a Cosmologist from Mullard Space Science Laboratory who is Science Co-Lead for the ESA’s Euclid Mission launching in 2021 to map the geometry of the Dark Universe by observing thousands of millions of galaxies.

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He told us how confidence in what the universe is made of has eroded over the centuries and perhaps dark matter and dark energy which make up what we call the dark universe should be renamed Materia Incognita.

Dr Ceri Brenner is a plasma physicist and innovator at STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory’s Central Laser Facility. She uses the most powerful lasers in the world to study what happens when extreme bursts of light come into contact with matter. She told us how firing these high energy lasers  through Tantalum a rare, blue-gray lustrous metal can produce high energy x-rays which can be used for imaging the container walls of  radioactive storage facilities to look for damage. The extreme physics she studies can also be applied to understanding supernova explosions in space or how we can ignite a star on earth for clean electricity generation.

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Apparently plasma accounts for 99% of the known matter in the Universe, it’s a soup of sub-atomic particles at temperatures way beyond what we usually experience on earth. This makes the stuff we interact with on a daily basis seem a really tiny portion if 99% of the 5% we know is also stuff beyond our realm of experience.

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Astrophysicist Dr Chamkaur Ghag was also there to talk about direct dark matter research and how extremely sensitive the detectors need to be. It was interesting to look at the progression of the different detectors from DRIFT to LUX increasing target capacity and homing in on areas of possibility where the illusive particles might be found.

Cham always gives insight into the importance of not just interrogating matter but putting scientific research into context. Asking why we are doing something, not just how. This fires his passion to address climate change and his involvement in the grassroots initiative from Particle Physicists European Strategy Update on Climate Change

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PARADISE burning — More than 30,000 people fled for their lives as a late-season wildfire swept across this town in the Sierra foothills

Laser Lab Talks Re-Thinking Space was compered by Nicola Triscott, founding Artistic Director/CEO of Arts Catalyst who asked the panel some reaching questions about the future of physics and how we make a difference to the debate placing ourselves in control of our destiny. Questions from the floor addressed the public interface of science. Speaking in front of an audience is not something I find comfortable so my input to the panel was slim but hopefully I had aired some relevant points during my talk looking at the opposing scales of cosmology and quantum physics and how we might relate to these two spheres of knowledge, both beyond human scale and comprehension.

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The idea of a new dark age approaching addresses a fear that we no longer understand the world around us. We are subjected to too much information that we can no longer process. There is too much complexity, we don’t know where to turn for verification.
The knowledge of the way the world behaves built up over generations may no longer apply. The fear that we are losing connection to the world around us is in many ways a long standing one – we have always looked back to a time when we believed we lived in harmony with the natural world.  That something central to our lives has been lost.

 

1810 Bruegel Two Monkeys

Pieter Bruegel The Elder Two Monkeys 1592

I have seen some interesting exhibitions tracing the human experience through alienation, projection and what happens when different worlds collide.

Nicky Coutts excellent examination of interspecies dissonance Man Stupid at Danielle Arnaud. Koko the gorilla was born and raised in captivity. She was taught to sign and ultimately deliver a message in the role of ambassador on behalf of nature to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.

In Nicky’s drawings Koko has slipped away leaving just her skin as shadow.

1810 Nicky Coutts

The images read as an indecipherable code. The frustration at the divide between human and non human communication is held in these traces of gesture. We can look hard, make suggestions but will never know what is in the great ape’s mind. Drawn in blackest charcoal, rich and intense with a primeval, totemic aura they could be the props of the shaman hinting at another world that requires some rite of passage involving the returning to a world of raw visceral nature.

Oceania at The Royal Academy.

In 1768 James Cook set sail from Plymouth in the HMS Endeavour funded by the Royal Society to track the transit of Venus in Tahiti and explore the islands of the Pacific Ocean.

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Lisa Reihana has created a large scale panaoramic video installation in Pursuit of Venus [infected] using the French scenic wallpaper Les Sauvages De La Mer Pacifique as a backdrop to the complexities of cultural identity and colonisation depicting scenes of encounter between Europeans and Polynesians.

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Much of the exhibition was uncomfortable viewing for although the catalogue emphasises that objects collected by Europeans were frequently given willingly I don’t feel confident there was equality in these ‘exchanges’.

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That the objects still resonate with spiritual significance for some is evident by fresh offerings left around the galleries.

I had just finished reading the riveting Modern Gods by Nick Laird before visiting which raises the subject of proselytism and relevant contemporary issues on religious belief and cultural contamination drawing on events in Ulster and Papua New Guinea to highlight the fragility of social cohesion when faith and tribe are on the line.

 

Sarah Christie’s Library shown at Southwark Cathedral is an ongoing attempt to give voice to the individuals that make up the 48% and the opposing 52% trying to make sense of the divided society they find themselves a part of in post Brexit referendum Britain.

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In Ancient Greece, people voted by writing on ‘ostraca’ a broken piece of pottery. The public have been invited to select an ostracon – sherds made by hand from a hundred and fifty cast bowls – and offer their own words that break boundaries.

I enjoyed Alex Prager’s Face in the Crowd series at The Photographers Gallery.

1810 Alex Prager Face in the Crowd

The individual is picked out in the crowd and elevated from anonymity, but look at the crowd – these are not the grey masses we blend in with on the streets, at airport lounges and theatres. Each of these characters is chosen, placed and choreographed. The unnatural vibrancy and controlled demeanours give the scene an unsettling automaton quality.

1810 Alex Prager

Entertained by an evening exploring the darker past of the gothic extravaganza Strawberry Hill House.

Spirits invoked for Ghost Tide exhibition at Thames-side Gallery curated by Sarah Sparkes and Monica Bobinska.

1810 Laura Marker Ghost Tide

Laura Marker

1810 Mary Yacoob Ghost Tide

Mary Yacoob

I took part in the Hollow Bone Ceremony led by shaman Kate Walters who uses repetitive drumming to alter the brain waves to ‘theta’ waves to allow travel to either the Upper world or the Lower world to convene with the cosmos, nature and animal spirits and ask for guidance on behalf of the participant.

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Was it coincidence that my mind focused on an unexpected encounter with a deer in Grizedale Forest the previous week that after the 10 minutes of rhythmic trance Kate came back with a strong image of a large Moose or Stag whose energy and ferocity I needed to tap into.

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Thanks to Jim Lloyd for highlighting this quote from Werner Heisenberg

“What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning. “

 

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New work pentacoronae installed at Grizedale Project Space for In Search of Darkness exhibition curated by art collective Lumen Studios.

1809 Pentacoronae

“Sky glow” is the yellow umbra leaching into the night sky from light polluting urban areas; obscuring our view of the constellations, shrinking our universe and severing our relationship to the stars.
Our ancestors mapped the stars and the shapes and patterns they drew across the darkness became familiar anchors for navigation; describing mythological characters; aligning celestial cycles with the fortunes of everyday life and revealing harbingers of portentous events. This rich history is being lost to a population bathed in the radiant intensity of artificial illumination.

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Light doesn’t always make things more visible. There are other ways to discover the mysteries of the universe and look beyond what our immediate senses tell us is there. Dark Matter is a significant component of the universe, yet we cannot see it. It doesn’t reflect or emit light and so scientists are finding other ways to detect it. In digital visualisations of Dark Matter, organic patterns emerge that could be the veins under our skin or the spreading branches of trees.

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As ever more powerful telescopes and data gathering equipment open new areas of the universe to our view, generating imagery we could never see with our naked eyes, we are drawn to experience space via mediated technologies. Dark sky areas such as Grizedale Forest are precious locations where we can still stargaze, wonder and map our own stories across the sky.

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Following on from the group residency earlier in the year we returned

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with new work responding to the naturally dark skies of the Grizedale area  Maria Luigia Gioffre  – a re-tracing of the astral map of 7 July 2018

1809 Maria Luigia Gioffre credit John Hooper

Maria Luigia Gioffre Genealogy of an Asemantic Night – photo John Hooper

Eunjung Kim the journey of unseen travellers across time, memory, the cosmos

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Julie Hill-‘intimate immensity’ the milky way as bodily encounter

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Julie F. Hill Dark River photo John Hooper

Anthony Carr– circadian rhythms disrupted

1809 Anthony Carr credit John Hooper

Anthony Carr The Moon, Is The Only Light We’ll See photo John Hooper

Melanie King– ancient light captured

1809 Melanie King credit John Hooper

Melanie King Ancient Light, Grizedale Forest  photo John Hooper

Louise Beer— sounds of the tides slowed; an echo from 420 million years ago

1809 Louise Beer credit John Hooper

Louise Beer Beneath the Moon’s Gaze photo John Hooper

Rebecca Huxley— twilight transitions, a manifesto to darkness

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Rebecca Huxley 18 degrees below the Horizon 

Diego Valente— “Forests aren’t simply collections of trees….”

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Diego Valente A Copy With No Original

and William Arnold – common lepidopteran misadventures in artificial light

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William Arnold Dark Spectacle

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I had the cloud chamber running at the opening event. Photo courtesy of Lumen

1809 Cloud Chamber demo

A cloud chamber gives us a glimpse into the invisible world of particles produced in the radioactive decay of naturally occurring elements and those generated when cosmic rays strike the top of the Earth’s atmosphere. It is a sealed environment containing a supersaturated vapour of pure alcohol sitting over dry ice. Charged particles passing through the chamber cause the vapour to condense resulting in tiny cascading trails. These particles pass though us continuously without our awareness. Witnessing this usually unseen activity can lead us to look beyond what our immediate senses tell us is there and consider the possibility of other intangible phenomena.

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Finale! (another great shot from John Hooper)

1809 dry ice credit John Hooper

At the studio I am moving just across the corridor – mostly so I will have a window but I also gain more space which was great timing to lay out and assemble the suspended sculpture for Grizedale in an empty room.

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1809 assembling

So glad I spent time on careful packing for transporting

1809 preparing for install– getting it up on the scaffolding and hanging was not easy when only one person present has ladder training and therefore allowed at height due to local council health and safety directives.  Thankfully Sean took it in his stride.

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Out of the Studio
Holly Graham Sweet Swollen at Jerwood Project Space. The seductive title is evocative of succulent ripened fruit but also the tenderness of a bruise. This poignant work draws on the history of sugar as a luxury brought to our shores in the 18th century with the taint of colonial violence and the demeaning of those forced to produce treats for European palates. A series of sugar lift etchings depict hands in isolation, the gestures originating from the stylised ‘blackamoor’ figurines that ornament receptacles of the bitter sweet cargo.

1809 Holly Graham

Charmaine Watkiss showing beautiful ephemeral work at the MA Drawing Final Show at Wimbledon College of Art. A collision of then and now, displacement of body and soul, reaching back for symbols of meaning.

Highlights at this years New Scientist Live were talks from Jon Butterworth – Journeys into Particle Physics, Roberto Trotta – What Has Einstein ever done for you? and Dean Burnett – What makes your brain happy?

I came away thinking about what influences my perception of time and the chemicals that subtlety alter how I experience the world.

If you travel close to the speed of light, distances contract in your direction of motion, while time will dilate more and more the faster you move.  A muon lives: about 2.2 microseconds on average. The speed limit of the Universe = the speed of light. Something moving at the speed of light that only lives 2.2 microseconds, should make it only 0.66 kilometers before decaying. A muon has similar properties to an electron. However, it is 200 times heavier. Muons travel at approximately 98% of the speed of light. The closer you move to the speed of light, the slower your clock appears to run. Cosmic ray muons have such high energies that a journey which takes about 300 microseconds from our point-of-view only takes about 1 microsecond for the muon. Time dilation allows these particles to live.

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I am beginning research for the High Altitude Balloon project. I need so much help! The good people of the HAB community are thankfully giving me lots of advice. One big concern is that the Allenheads Contemporary Arts potential launch site is high up and in the centre of a very narrow bit of the UK.  Wind makes for a difficult launch and could just take it straight out to sea.

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One of my first jobs is to check with the Civil Aviation Authority that the launch site is safe from their perspective.

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I want to film particularly at the altitude where peak cosmic ray activity takes place – this is where the secondary particles that we see in the cloud chamber are smashed into existence.  As the particle activity will be invisible I want to film the aesthetics of the curve of the earth and blue haze of the atmosphere bleeding into the blackness of space. I think my target height will be 30km.

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Cosmic rays are mostly protons and atomic nuclei created in stars and super novae explosions or other unknown events.  Sometimes a rare one will arrive with unimaginably high energy. The first “Oh-My-God particle” was recorded in October 1991 and had an energy 40 million times greater than the Large Hadron Collider can generate with 100 quintillion the photon energy of visible light, it was travelling at 99.999 999 999 999 999 999 999 51% the speed of light. One of these could be passing through you right now.

 

I realised how much I have to learn about weather ballooning while attending the UK High Altitude Society Conference where I was kindly invited to give a short presentation about my hopes to launch my own balloon to film at the edge of the earth’s atmosphere. It was also Helium’s birthday and a cake had been prepared to launch into near space.

1808 UKHAS Balloon launch cake

I found much of the language of the day to be beyond my knowledge with many of the enthusiasts also keen coders and electronic wizards.

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Still my presentation received a warm response and I am hoping I now have some contacts to call upon as I begin to get to grips with the logistics and add to my list of what is required.

1808 UKHAS Balloon launch

There was a particular enthusiasm to actually launch a cloud chamber. This could be a first if we manage to achieve such a venture.

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It is all a delicate balance of weight, helium and wind direction.

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Wonderful to see the launch.

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The really tricky bit is the tracking and retrieval. I’m not sure yet if they did get it back as I haven’t yet mastered navigating the websites let alone the skies.

In the studio

– work in progress for In Search of Darkness exhibition at Grizedale Project Space began with some tiny maquettes.

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With valuable advice from John Purcell‘s team helping to choose suitable card I scaled up.

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Added hand thrown acquatint etched starry skies

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some screen printed dark matter visualisations and hand drawn star maps

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folded with light pollution images printed on metallic c-type (from the print space)

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and repeated 12 times to reflect the sides of a dodecahedron.

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Out of the studio

– excellent afternoon spent captivated by Guy Oliver’s performative Songs of Eternal Praise for And You Thought I Was Bad at Zabludowicz Collection. Delivered in sermon style with attendant angelic voiced choir and backing musician; politics and pop culture collide in excruciating discord.

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Enjoyed Lee Bul’s exuberant mix of materials from the organic to the industrial and all encompassing diatribe on power, politics and the decay under the gloss of idealism at Hayward Gallery.

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Lee Bul – Willing To Be Vulnerable

‘I’m fascinated by failures, as well as by the dreams that the dreamers knew could never materialize’  Lee Bul

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Lee Bul Thaw (Takaki Masao)

changing landscapes – brutalist concrete edifices – impact of an individual – held in ice – history returning – climate change

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Lee Bul Heaven and Earth

Dark depths of the psyche.

Came across this obelisk out in Wiltshire. It is rather stubby and further prevented from piercing the sky by the tree that has grown over the last 250 years to embrace it.

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William Eyres – we almost share a name and do share a birth day and month. Born at the time when the Herschel brother and sister astronomers were discovering Uranus and its moons; the moons of Saturn, infrared radiation and performing deep sky surveys. You died just before electric light spread its glow into the night.
Dark skies were yours.

 

 

Brilliant Finale Weekend for BEYOND Residency. Such a pleasure to be part of this project with such wonderful artists and hosts at Allenheads Contemporary Arts.

I was screening the video soft borders made with dance artist Paola Napolitano upstairs in the ACA gallery.

1807 Beyond Finale Weekend Susan Eyre

Sharing space with Alex Hughes photographic sculptures Fluid Planes which also looks at material bodies as permeable membranes.

1807 Beyond Finale Weekend Alex Hughes (1)

1807 Beyond Finale Weekend Alex Hughes (2)

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In soft borders phenomena beyond human scale are proportioned to that of the body, aiming to bring cosmic and quantum dimensions into an intimate sensory experience. Movement sequences performed by dance artist Paola Napolitano relate to Rudolf Laban’s dance notation system, choreutics, in turn influenced by Plato and the geometries of the platonic solids. Using the dodecahedron as motif, the boundaries of the universe are brought within reach; pliant and permeable as the body bathed in cosmic particles that do not recognise borders but pass unseen through spacetime and matter.

In the gallery downstairs there was work from Nicola Ellis, Tom Beesley, Alan Smith, Jim Lloyd, Manpreet Kambo, Katie Turnbull and Kit MacArthur, Annie Carpenter, Lucien Anderson, Daksha Patel, Phyllida Bluemel, Robert Good.

Outside was Lucien Andersons The Humble Space Telescope. No telescope, no computer, only the human eye and the night sky. This will be set sail on the ACA cosmic pond to drift on the water whilst a porthole arbitrarily frames the stars, constellations and planets.

1807 Beyond Finale weekend Lucien Anderson (1)

There was an intervention Fire, Fluorspar, Water and Ice at the Blacksmith’s Forge from Nicola Ellis in response to local historical mining in the North Pennines and the future mining of near-earth asteroids.

Relighting the fire with added peat from a local ancient.

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Nicola Ellis video projection mash up of three sources of propellants from the past present and future of mining practices.

1807 Beyond Finale Weekend Nicola Ellis

The local mineral Fluorspar under UV light photographed by Jim Lloyd.

1807 Beyond Finale Weekend Jim Lloyd

Up at ACA Old School house was an installation of work from the OUTSTATION #1 project in which Robbie Coleman and Jo Hodges imagine an alternative history of the Soviet Space Program. OUTSTATION #2 was a twilight road trip travelling blindfolded through collapsing time zones, alternate histories and possible futures. Out on the darkening windy moors Deep Navigation techniques were deployed to guided our unconscious minds inwards.1807 Beyond Finale weekend Outstation 2

At the North Pennines Observatory and Cosmic Pond Sarah Sparkes and Ian Thompson presented a chance to listen to the microcosmos of pond life whilst watching the celestial life above through the observatory telescope or relaxing in the listening pod. It was an extraordinary experience, so noisy, like being in the jungle with the same whoops, buzzes and calls that resound from unknown depths.

1807 Beyond Finale Sarah Sparkes and Ian Thompson

In Search of Darkness research residency with Lumen in Grizedale forest was an opportunity to experience dark skies and make plans for the upcoming exhibition at Grizedale Forest Project Space.

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We had a warm welcome from Grizedale Forest Art Works and The Forestry Commission. There was a guided tour of the many and varied forest areas following ranger John’s vehicle along scorched dry tracks that sent up dust clouds worthy of a desert landscape, blinding and coating us in fine particles but adding to the excitement of being inducted into the forest. We were then given the key to the forest access gates to allow us to explore independently and try out ideas for future work.

I had brought along some mirror pentagons.

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We waited for sundown.

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Then headed into the forest

1807 Grizedale nightime trek

To lay in the dark and gaze at the stars

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Allowing time for our eyes to adjust to the dark skies; the landscape becomes alien terrain

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Back in London a beautiful installation from Kate Fahey at Lewisham Art House repetitive strain gently leads the audience into the minds of those subjected to the physical and psychological trauma of conflict to consider bodily displacement, visual interference and its impact on the psyche as they lie under a billowing silver foil ceiling tinted with warm pinks reflected from a video that is always slightly beyond a point of focus.

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Liz Elton’s painting Fields (echoing the past local agricultural patchworked landscape) using degradable recycling bags creates a dramatic encounter when visiting the Florence Trust Summer Show.

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Dancer Sara Ruddock embodied the primordial in a performance presented  by Mayra Martin Ganzinotti drawing on fusions between life, fossils and rock in deep time geology.

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Patterns that appear familiar yet are from ancient ammonite fossils reach out from the past

1807 Mayra Ganzinotti

Kristina Chan works into her screen prints on birch plywood to give them a sense of aging and decay and reflect the history and natural entropy of the objects depicted.

1807 Kristina Chan

Visions Bleeding Edge Symposium on nonhuman vision, liquid and crystal intelligence and AI hosted by RCA research students. Esther Leslie, professor of Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck and Joanna Zylinska, professor of New Media and Communications at Goldsmiths gave fascinating talks.

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I was stunned by the image of a single atom of the metal strontium suspended in electric fields Single Atom In An Ion Trap, captured using an ordinary digital camera on a long exposure shot by David Nadlinger who said “The idea of being able to see a single atom with the naked eye had struck me as a wonderfully direct and visceral bridge between the minuscule quantum world and our macroscopic reality.” The atom is visible in this photograph because it absorbs and re-emits the bright light of the laser.

Further in awe at visuals of digital clay – matter that can be manipulated as easily as pixels in Photoshop. Discussions included turbidity; the cloudiness or haziness of a fluid caused by large numbers of individual particles that are generally invisible to the naked eye, similar to smoke in air. The measurement of turbidity is a key test of water quality.  Liquid Intelligence – nature holding memories, matter looking back at us (surveillance).  Imprint of matter – radial atoms in bones. Process – tactile scanning, post optical photography at the nano level.

AI = The Anthropocene Imperative.

When a computer watches, what can it deduce?

Over the last ten years or so, powerful algorithms and artificial intelligence networks have enabled computers to “see” autonomously. What does it mean that “seeing” no longer requires a human “seer” in the loop?

Tevor Paglen’s “Sight Machine” demonstrates to a live audience how machines “see” the world. ‘One of the most important reasons to create art is to make known the unknown’ –  Obscura worked with Paglen’s team to develop the computer and video systems to take a live video feed of the renowned Kronos Quartet’s performance, run it through actual off-the-shelf artificial intelligence surveillance algorithms and project what the AIs see and how they interpret it onto a screen above the musicians.

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With Paglen the framing becomes the work rather than what he shows. ( The parergon)

Artist Lauren McCarthy  offers to replace Alexa in your home. Bringing the human back. Lauren may not answer questions as quickly as Alexa but can respond with insight and emotion to your needs.

1807 Get Lauren

After Image at Victoria Miro. Which are the images that stay with you, burnt on your retina and loaded into memory, out of the thousands upon thousands of images consumed daily? Sarah Sze always nails it. 

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Sarah Sze Images in Debris

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The scrunched paper of the tree images – like dark matter has suddenly become visible.

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The split stones were a second reminder recently of a time when Karen and I (aged about 12) used to ride our bikes to the beach to collect flint stones in our anorak hoods – bringing them back to ‘over the field’ and smashing them apart to see the colours inside.

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Proliferation of pond weed  – vibrant matter in action

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Sarah Sze Hammock (for A. Martin)

Superb work from Michelle Stuart in The Nature of Time at Alison Jacques Gallery, ‘Addressing the metaphysical while remaining profoundly rooted in in its own materiality.’

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Michelle Stuart In the Beginning: Time and Dark Matter

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Michelle Stuart Sacred Solstice Alignment

Into the dark recesses of The Horse Hospital for The Art Of Magic an exhibition and performance based on missing artefacts once housed in the archive of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.

Coloured strings first soaked in Alum dried over a wood fire and plaited together to form ‘a string of hurting’ they are worn wound around the neck, their purpose being to reduce swollen glands and restore loss of voice.

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In the studio WIP testing ideas to relate the loss of knowledge of the night sky through urban light pollution to the unknown mysteries of the universe yet to be revealed.

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BEYOND – Midsummer Events at Allenheads Contemporary Arts kicked off with Far From Daylight -Outstation #1. This involved lying in candlelit rows, blindfolded, on inflatable beds subjected to a pulsating tone while a disembodied voice gave an account of cosmonaut training in the 1960’s and the interrogation of the minds of the cosmonauts. 1806 outstation 1

Fact and fiction overlapped or merged as documented experiences of cosmonauts were read from texts by group participants. Later small groups of participants plucked word cards from a bag, the words signified archetypes or directives to inspire images that would be used as thought cards for future floatation tank experiences.

1806 outstation 1 discussion

‘The Illuminated Woman’ became the all encompassing and much more open ‘The Illuminated’.

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The Pilgrimage; a non-linear spiral, borders were permeable or herbaceous, the map dissolved leaving no points of reference in space only the depths of the mind to navigate. This was preceded by skimming stones on the cosmic pond and followed by conversations around the fire with artists Jo Hodges and Robbie Coleman who had devised and led this affecting event.

The next night was a test run for the scheduled live streaming of the sunset and sunrise from the top of the fell…

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1806 BEYOND

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…situated between borders.

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The Midsummer’s Night droning began just as the sun dipped the horizon and continued until it appeared again on the other side of the earth. It seemed to get around very quickly.

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It never got dark. The earth orbits the sun in about 365.25 days. Up 31 octaves this is 69.05Hz, a slightly flat C sharp. This midsummer the earth will rotate on its own axis in 23 hours, 59 minutes, 59.9998932 seconds. Up 21 octaves this is 24.269Hz, a slightly flat G.

Open Weekend Events up at the school house included seeing comic particle trails in my cloud chamber.

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Also a little hologram film I made of the trails set in a dodecahedron (motif for the universe)

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Exoplanet exploration

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The gallery in the village with work from other BEYOND residency artists

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Earlier visit to Allenheads – circling ideas, segmenting, focusing

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The density of the forest is overwhelming – no space to enter – yet imagine being able to pass unheeded through this entanglement

1806 Allendale Impenetrable forest

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Had a preview screening of edited soft borders (video with dance artist Paola Napolitano) and installation of Duodecimens (etched aluminium. screen print) in my studio space for the annual Open Weekend at Thames-side Studios.

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Using the dodecahedron as motif, the boundaries of the universe are brought within reach; pliant and permeable as the body bathed in cosmic particles that do not recognise borders but pass unseen through spacetime and matter. 1806 soft borders still.jpg

There was some interesting use of materials in New Relics sculpture show in Thames- side Gallery.

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The Echoing Space exhibition is a sensitive response to the history of Leith Hill Place from artists Julie Hoyle, Mary Branson and Penny Green. Combining traditional and contemporary materials and processes the past and present are drawn together reigniting the passions of past inhabitants for a new generation.

1806 Leith Hill Place Mary Branson

1806 Leith Hill Place Julie Hoyle

The austere façade and darkened windows can give an initial impression of a sinister past and ghosts best left to rest but inside reveals a palimpsest of family life steeped in the arts and scientific discovery.

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In 1847 it became the home of Josiah Wedgwood III who was married to Caroline Darwin. Her brother Charles Darwin often visited and the wormstone he used for research into how stones and ancient ruins become buried over time is still in the grounds. He studied the action of earthworms excavating soil from beneath the stone and depositing it above the surface. It has been estimated that a 25cm thick stone might take approximately 250 years to fall to the level of the ground. What was under becomes surface.

Vibrant Matter: a political ecology of things by Jane Bennett has an interesting chapter on the earthworm and Darwin’s studies which conclude that earthworms ‘make history’ and augment human culture through the accumulated effects of ‘small agencies’.

Darwin’s niece Margaret married Arthur Vaughan Williams and their youngest son, Ralph went on to become the composer best known for The Lark Ascending. He was also an avid collector of folk songs hoping to save them from being buried in time.

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I didn’t get to see any of the live performances but did go to the Joan Jonas ‘in conversation’ with Marina Warner.  Denying any pretentions of being a shaman herself Joan denotes how the shaman enters an unconscious state and makes clear her performances are highly structured, rehearsed conscious episodes though both performances may appear to invoke the use of objects in ritual the intention is quite different. She draws on influences such as the documentation of Aby Warburg who was captivated by the rituals, masks, architecture, art and culture of native Americans he met on his travels in 1895. She has been to experience remote cultures for herself drawing on both real events and mythologies to feed her performances, creating an alternative space to preside in.1806 Joan Jonas (1)

The viewer watches. We are gathered at the fire.

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To follow the tale

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saw this pattern recently in Valencia on a 15th century floor

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Flooring Consulat del Mar at La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia (The Silk Exchange)

 

Communication between trees came up during the talk as discussed in The Hidden Life of Trees a book by Peter Wohlleben who describes a forest as a superorganism of unique individuals. He is writing about processes going on unseen beneath the soil, chemical languages, networks and relationships. We fail to understand trees because “they live on a different time scale” from us.

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In Material Sight at Arts Catalyst Fiona Crisp presents a series of photographs and films within a structure of scaffolding and invasive noise echoing the utilitarian sites from which the images are taken. She has spent the last few years stalking spaces of scientific research deep underground and beyond public accessibility to pluck out small nuggets of suggestibility that bring a sense of these remote locations to an audience who will never physically experience these unique spaces. We are not invited to comprehend the activities and processes of the laboratories shown any more than we can grasp the mysteries of the universe that these sites are endeavouring to solve.  The images aim to engage through a visual intimacy to counteract the distances crossed in bringing the images to the surface.

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The programme of events continued with Kosmica Ethereal Things at Iklectik which turned out to be in ‘Old Paradise Yard’ (one I have missed on my paradise trail.) Chamkaur Ghag was speaking about dark matter, current research, what we don’t know, physics in culture and the need for a more holistic approach to scientific investigations. Annie Carpenter who is also participating in the BEYOND residency was there to demonstrate black hole accretion using dry ice and household items to create a spinning contraption with a hobbyist aesthetic bringing scientific endeavour into the everyday.

Coming up is the final weekend of events for BEYOND at ACA when I will be screening soft borders video. A research trip to Grizedale Forest as prelude to making new work for an exhibition there. Further research for the weather balloon project – in the meantime having fun running the tracking predictor to see how likely it might be to retrieve any video footage depending on where the camera might land.

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Today would have been a good day for a flight.

It has been refreshing to be able to work outside applying papier maché to steel bowls before painting and covering them with earth.

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This new incarnation of submīrārī has images of everyday locations called paradise floating in water. We must make paradise out of what we have, to dream of an ideal will not help us tackle the very real problems of climate change.

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In submīrārī(earthbound) reflections of a no longer certain world hover in pools revealing glimpses of familiar terrains fluctuating on the cusp of disappearance. The ethereal images float or submerge depending on the temperature of the water which refracts light across the surface prompting the viewer to shift perspective until clarity is gained.

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Donna Haraway, drawing from Latour, proposes the ‘Earthbound’ as those humans who are ready to rethink and create new narratives with Gaia at the centre, who recognise the entanglement of society and nature and aim to pursue a ‘nonarrogant collaboration with all those in the muddle’. The shift in perspective embraced by the ‘Earthbound’ embodies a grief shared with other species at loss of habitat and disappearing landscapes. It is not a nostalgia for paradise lost but a reappraisal of what paradise could be. The scenes depicted in this work, sourced from prosaic locations named Paradise, aim towards deconstructing a romanticised ideology and bringing us down to earth.

Cosmic Perspectives curated by Lumen at Ugly Duck was a thoughtful examination of  human centric relationships to the earth.

As part of Cosmic Perspectives weekend Marek Kukula, Public Astronomer at Royal Museums Greenwich, gave an informative talk with amazing images on The Intimate Universe

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Our familiar surroundings are full of astronomical connections: everything from the water in your taps, your holiday suntan to the vagaries of the British weather all have their origins far out in space. Even our own bodies are made from material forged in the hearts of long-dead stars.’ Marek Kukula explains that to properly understand our living planet we need to explore the wider universe of which it is an integral part.

He opened his talk with the view that despite huge technological leaps occurring every decade bringing us new perspectives we still know so little about our universe but hoped this exciting adventure into the unknown would continue.

Print
It was a question that Laboratory of Dark Matters touched upon later that day at Guest Projects. This was part of the 10 year anniversary celebrations of Yinka Shonibare’s generous project that gives artists free space to experiment and develop work.

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Looking at text extracts from Joyful Cruelty: Towards a Philosophy of the Real by Clément Rosset, In the Dark by Alexander B. Fry and How To Know The Starry Heavens by Edward Irving we struggled with subtleties of reality and perception and tried to answer such questions as:
Are there endless possibilities in science?
If dark matter is never more than a concept does that make it any less valid?

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I have also been lucky to spend a wonderful weekend in Valencia enjoying sculpted buildings, a riverbed turned 12km park, the first cathedral to commerce and lots of relics including the holy grail itself.

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1805 Valencia dark matter relicdark and even darker matters

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Jacinta Gil Piojo de la cabra 1968

Some great geometrical investigations and cosmic meanderings at The Birth of Abstraction at The Institut Valencià d’Art Modern.

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Gerhard Richter 9 Objects 1969

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Manolo Gil Scrapbook of regular figures III (Decomposition of the pentagon and hexagon) 1957

1805 José María Yturralde Impossible Figure

José María Yturralde Impossible Figure (Squares Series) 1974

1805 Manuel Rivera Composition

Manuel Rivera Composition 1956

1805 Isabel Oliver

Isabel Oliver De la serie La mercantillizacion del arte 1975

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Manuel Millares Picture 97 1960

1805 Robert Bartlett Richenburg Night Cascade

Robert Bartlett Richenburg Night Cascade 1961

1805 Pierre Soulages

Pierre Soulages 222 x 411 12 Nov 1984

During Marek Kukula’s talk one image in particular resonated. It was a picture taken at the edge of the earth’s atmosphere using a weather balloon. It shows the curve of the earth and the brilliant blue halo fading out to the blackness of space. Out here is where the violent collisions of cosmic rays hitting our ‘earthbound’ gases happens.

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I really want to send up my own weather balloon into this realm of activity and have begun researching how this might be possible.

 

 

 

I have put together a short video documentation of Scales of Intangibility an interactive installation set in a black velvet lined room made during my Studio4 residency at Chisenhale Art Place. Immersive projections of particle trails, filmed from my cloud chamber experiments, make visible the activity of cosmic rays and background radiation that pass through us continuously without our awareness.

1804 documentation scales 4.jpgThrough experiencing this usually unseen activity of particles that shower down on us when cosmic rays strike the edge of the earth’s atmosphere we can begin to think about other possibilities of what might be present in our universe that we are currently unable to interact with such as dark matter.

Excited to hear that in 2019 Science Gallery London will be exploring dark matter with a scientific and philosophical investigation into the fundamental nature of reality, taking  the theory of dark matter as a starting point for conceptual investigations and experimental forms of inquiry.

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Original dark matter detector Boulby Underground Laboratory

The text In the Dark by Alexander B. Fry will be one of the texts discussed during the upcoming Laboratory of Dark Matters event being hosted by Guest Projects as part of their 10 Year Anniversary celebration weekend.

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Short texts which have a relationship to the exploration of dark matter as a scientific or philosophical concept will be presented to stimulate questions and encourage shared knowledge across disciplines and perspectives. These will also include excerpts from Joyful Cruelty: Towards a Philosophy of the Real by Clément Rosset – translated by David F. Bell, 1993 and Edward Irving’s 1905 How To Know The Starry Heavens.

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The New Materialisms Reading Group I attend has been persevering with Donna Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. It has had an influence on the work I am making for the upcoming exhibition at Ugly Duck Lumen: Cosmic PerspectivesThe exhibition aims to inspire a change of thinking through highlighting the precarious nature of life, and the extraordinary set of circumstances that allow us to exist, in an otherwise, possibly, lifeless universe.

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I have been out taking new photographs in local paradise locations to use for submīrārī (earthbound). Printed on organza, the ethereal images will float in water in earthclad bowls, landscapes fluctuating on the cusp of disappearance. Donna Haraway, drawing from Latour, proposes the ‘Earthbound’ as those humans who are ready to rethink and create new narratives with Gaia at the centre, who recognise the entanglement of society and nature and aim to pursue a ‘nonarrogant collaboration with all those in the muddle’. The shift in perspective embraced by the ‘Earthbound’ embodies a grief shared with other species at loss of habitat and disappearing landscapes. It is not a nostalgia for paradise lost but a reappraisal of what paradise could be. The scenes depicted in this work, sourced from prosaic locations named Paradise, aim towards deconstructing a romanticised ideology and bringing us down to earth.

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We must stay with the trouble. It is important to care. ‘We are all responsible to and for shaping conditions for multispecies flourishing…’.

So glad I got to see Marcus Coates exhibition at Workplace Gallery. He shares a similar sensibility to Haraway regarding response-ability and interconnection to other species. He engages in new ways of thinking through humour and pathos. In The Last of Its Kind  a video where he faces the ocean naked, desperately shouting a list of human achievements at an indifferent landscape he brings home the insignificance of the human in the history of Gaia while in Apology to the Great Auk the extinction of this once numerous flightless bird is placed firmly on our collective shoulders.

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Extinct Animals is a collection of Plaster of Paris casts of the artists hands taken whilst performing the extinct animal’s shadow. His work is absurd, painful and joyful.

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Lorna Simpson’s beautiful show Unanswerable at Hauser & Wirth London questions the archive, how we hold onto the past through artefact or memory, ultimately all of this will dissolve away despite out best efforts.1804 Lorna Simpson

Looking through the prism of media presentation of women and the African American experience as portrayed in magazines that reflect a different era.1804 Lorna Simpson 2

There is an appeal in the aesthetic of old magazines, a nostalgia could be evoked. Or it could just be a painful reminder of issues that are still to be fully resolved.

 

1804 1953 Cosmetic RaysThe Tate screening of Jean Painlevé’s documentary films Silver, Photons and Liquid Crystals was a rare chance to see his abstract films made between the early 1930s and the late 1970s on liquid crystals, photons, diatoms and silver nitrate. It was an odd mix of science and psychedelia. Painlevé used the microscope and modern optics to reveal the natural world in intricate detail. I particularly wanted to see the early films of photons and silver nitrate but it was quite hard to decipher and at times the bizarre commentary was distracting. The programme’s finale was rewarding with some stunning footage of liquid crystals.

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Jean Painlevé Phase Transition in Liquid Crystals

Micro to wide angle but with a shared curiosity to re-present the world beyond our natural senses. Andreas Gursky at Hayward. ‘Driven by an interest and insight into ‘the way that the world is constituted’, as well as what he describes as ‘the pure joy of seeing’, Gursky makes photographs that are not just depictions of places or situations, but reflections on the nature of image-making and the limits of human perception. Often taken from a high vantage point, these images make use of a ‘democratic’ perspective that gives equal importance to all elements of his highly detailed scenes.’

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I still have to finish editing the video filmed in the velvet chamber in collaboration with dance artist Paola Napolitano exploring theories from Laban and Plato. The process can be maddening and slow when you are new to the software. I am trying to get to grips with After Effects to clone out some unwanted light reflections but keep finding myself in a black hole and having to start again.

1804 video stillOn the horizon is new work for In Search of Darkness an exhibition curated by Lumen in Grizedale Forest to highlight the importance of preserving dark sky areas and raise awareness of the ecological problems caused by light pollution. My proposal is to create a suspended sculptural print that demonstrates, through the choice of materials, that adding light doesn’t always make things more visible. To relate the loss of knowledge of the night sky through urban light pollution to the unknown mysteries of the universe yet to be revealed.

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Blinded by the light. Great sun spangled woodland scene in an inspiring show from Christiane Baumgartner Liquid Light at Alan Cristea.

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Enjoyed a visit to see Sam Hodge in Surface Tension with Andy D’Cruz and Marcia Teusink at The Stone Space. The works explore the idea of surface tension as a force and a potency between objects and materials.

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Tense with anticipation. Totally enthralling story telling from mythologist Martin Shaw. A woman arises from a mare’s tale plant with red beads falling from her mouth as she speaks, and a king’s son tied to the top of the tallest pine tree, is slowly becoming a crow.

Down below the forest path splits into two. One path is that of the sable. The other path is that of the bear. One is good. One is very bad.

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A second visit to experience the powerful performance of Simon McBurney in The Encounter. Inspired by the book Amazon Beaming by Petru Popescu he tells the extraordinary story of Loren McIntyre, a National Geographic photographer, who in 1969 found himself lost among the people of the remote Javari Valley in Brazil. It was an encounter that took him to the limits of human consciousness and questioned his idea of reality. The evening ended with Marcus de Soutey joining Simon McBurney for an open discussion on what consciousness might be, how it can be experienced collectively, how we determine reality, non-linear time and what happens when we die.

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The dead live on through our memories. Retrieving memories is a dynamic process – every time you recall a memory you have to repeat a pattern of signals – this is how memories change as the pattern changes or becomes incomplete. It’s interesting that there are alternate pathways in the brain to the same or a similar outcome.

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National Geographic reporter Loren McIntyre had his world illuminated to other ways of thinking I wonder if Martin Pomerantz Trailing Cosmic Rays in Canada’s North in 1953 ever had a similar experience, maybe he encountered some women with interests other than cosmetics.

 

I had a very productive time during my Studio4 residency at Chisenhale Art Place. It was great to have so much space. I got started by putting up the hydroponic tent to run the cloud chamber to get some more film footage.

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I also ran a Cloud Chamber Workshop where lots of particle trails were spotted. The cloud chamber gives us a glimpse into the invisible world of particles produced in the radioactive decay of naturally occurring elements and those generated when cosmic rays strike the top of the Earth’s atmosphere.

My call out through Chisenhale Dance Place for a dance collaborator was successful and I met up with dance artist Paola Napolitano She has brought lots of brilliant ideas to the project with her knowledge of Rudolf Laban’s choreutics theory and her own interpretation of the dodecahedron as a Kinesphere, ascribing sequences of movement to the peripheral lines and planes within the shape. She shared some of Laban’s wonderful drawings with me

and pointed out his quote; ‘Space is a hidden feature of movement and movement is a visible aspect of space’ 

I then began building the velvet chamber.

Next I needed to make the small screens that the audience would use to ‘capture’ the filmed particle trails which would be projected in the chamber lined with thick black velvet.

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This took some working out to fix the joints but in the end a combination of glue, V nails, double sided tape and veneer pins seemed to be strong enough. I used tracing paper, projector screen fabric, white cotton, polyester, organza, styrene, acrylic and wood as different substrates to give different effects and emphasize the porous/solid nature of matter.

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The particle trail footage was edited together and the projections in the chamber tested.

1803 velvet chamber projections 2Some unexpected effects appeared.1803 velvet chamber projections 1

 

I spent quite a while looking at different projector options. When it was time to film Paola I used a pico DLP for darker shots where just her body was visible and a more powerful HD projector for other shots.

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There was a lot of footage to go through and only a week to the opening event. This was my first video work and I was learning Premiere Pro on the hoof.

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Movement choreographed and performed by Paola Napolitano was filmed in the velvet chamber.

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This work builds on recent research that began with wondering what fundamental elements make up the landscapes around us leading to the discovery that less than 5% of the universe is visible.

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Within the unimaginable vastness of the universe we trace our paths continuously permeated at a quantum scale by cosmic rays fired into our world by high energy collisions in space.

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Plato described the dodecahedron as the fifth construction that ‘the god used for embroidering the constellations on the whole heavens’.

There is also a contemporary theory that the universe may be the shape of a dodecahedron, not infinite but with no boundaries this is known as the 3-sphere universe theory. If you left the dodecahedron at one point you would immediately re-enter at another point

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Rudolf Laban was influenced by Plato and the geometries of the platonic solids. His choreutics theories open up new languages to describe interactions between matter and space.

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‘What we cannot perceive with our senses, especially our fundamental sense of touch, remains unreal and its very existence is denied, until intuition or research discovers the unique and universal role of movement as a visible aspect of space’ Laban

 

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Laban Archive – Dodecahedron without six of its pentagonal sides, demonstrating a diagonal orientational axis with a circular void around it representing a circular movement. Model made with metal, painted wood, wool and shoelace.

 

The simple sound edit was a slow transition through the chromatic scale which is a scale with twelve pitches to echo the 12 sided dodecahedron and some added Geiger counter signals converted to an original chromatic scale composition. The video was screened at the open event Scales of Intangibility and it was a relief that Paola was pleased.

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Interesting  interactions happened in the velvet chamber.

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The polyhedral screens worked well to view the projections and ‘capture’ trails, ( a white shirt worked well too ) and I really appreciated all the good feedback from visitors.

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Now the concept has been tested I am keen to take the idea to new places. Hopefully it can be developed into work for my open door residency Beyond at Allenheads Contemporary Arts.

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While at Chisenhale I had the privilege of experiencing Lydia Ouramane’s The You In Us exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery alone on the floor, letting the reverberations from the underfloor transducer speakers course through my body while reading about the extraordinary tale of her grandfather pulling out all his teeth to escape military service and the night her dogs were kidnapped from her roof terrace. The sound piece is called Paradis it is about waiting for something better to come.

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It is a subtle interaction that makes the seemingly empty space personal. My body is here, I can feel the effects and I will leave traces of my visit as I enter and leave pushing against the heavy silver oxidised doors, as with every visitor’s touch, slowly revealing the silver beneath.

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Enjoyed an afternoon screening at LUX with Catalyst Arts presenting Looking Aside. Laura McMorrow’s The Lost Acre had a fragile materiality, creating unstable ground of the sort that might give way and open passages to other realms.

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I knew we were in for a treat as Peter Glasgow was involved in the selection of films to compliment Seamus Harahan’s BL CK B X exhibition: shiny wet stones.

Fred Butler Harmonics in Space was not quite the zen experience I had been expecting. There was certainly a lot of energy going on at the private view.

 

And as Laban states ‘Matter itself is a compound of vibrations’ 

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More excellent news is that I have been accepted as one of the Open Door Residency Artists for the BEYOND project run by Allenheads Contemporary Arts to take advantage of its new on-site astronomical observatory and to consider the word BEYOND as an open ended starting point for discussion.

The timing is perfect as I am about to begin my Chisenhale Studio4 Residency where I will have a large space to develop ideas from this experience that build on my current research looking at cosmic particles, the shape of the universe and the philosophies and mythologies that first attempted to understand the cosmos and relate its vastness to the human experience.

1802 frozen galaxyI spent a wonderful weekend with 12 artists enjoying perfect moon gazing weather in the dark skies of Northumberland, seeing galaxies in frozen puddles, plunging into the darkness of the forest or the inflatable planetarium and discussing ideas generated as we shared our own interests and observations.

 

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I am thinking about what stories might be told if our ancient eyes had reached beyond those points marked out on the first star charts. Maybe Atlas would have had more daughters. Hopefully with the help of the brilliant open source planetarium Stellarium that we were introduced to I can add another layer of narrative.

From my vantage point on earth, the moon slides quietly, the stars twinkle through the atmosphere, satellites pass serenely by, but I know that just 15km above my head is a very violent place of high energy collisions as protons slam into our atmosphere, break apart and rain down, on and through me.

1802 Cloud chamber lightningThe opening paragraphs of The Power by Naomi Alderman prickle with the power they describe

“The shape of power is always the same; it is the shape of a tree…branching and re-branching…the outline of a living thing …the shape of rivers leading to the ocean…the shape that lightning forms…the shape that electricity wants to take is that of a living thing .. this same shape grows within us …power travels in the same manner between people..”

A brilliant novel. Shifts perspective to reflect the world back at us to shine the light on some uncomfortable truths.

A fascinating book to help understand the activity of matter is The Particle Zoo: The Search for the Fundamental Nature of Reality by Gavin Hesketh. I got this book to learn about the characters of the 12 fundamental particles and the forces that they interact with. It presents an unseen world of spinning, colour changing oppositely charged partners, repelling, attracting, sticking together, passing messages or passing straight through each other; releasing and absorbing energy in constant activity. Out of this melee which appears, once you get to the smallest scale, to be made of nothing but points of energy all things are formed.

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I have been reading this in tandem with Stephen Fry’s reworking of the Greek Myths – Mythos. Just as improbable.

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Captivating performance storyteller Ben Haggarty brought to exquisite and gory life three retextured Greek Myths under the banner The Fate We Bring Ourselves – decisions have consequences at the Crick Crack Club event Myths Retold at the British Museum. He spoke afterwards about the intimate space of the darkened circle that forms around the storyteller where each audience member feels personally addressed.

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Mythological thinking looks at the whole – the micro and the macro and sees commonality.

The New Materialisms reading group that I have been a mostly absent member of is currently reading Donna Haraway Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene

 

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Donna Haraway: Story Telling for Earthly Survival

 

Fabrizio Terranova’s film, screened at the LCC, brought the text to life with her infectious mix of enthusiasm, joy and bewilderment at the world and her passion for new ways of thinking. The director spent a few weeks with her and her aging dog Cayenne in their Southern California home, exploring their personal universe as well as the longer development of her views on kinship and planetary welfare. Animated by green screen projections, archival materials and fabulation he has created an enchanting insight into the mind of Donna Haraway.

 

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Bjorn Hatleskog Perpetual Jellyfish in Liminality at Gallery 46

 

“The tentacular are not disembodied figures; they are cnidarians, spiders, fingery beings like humans and raccoons, squid, jellyfish, neural extravaganzas, fibrous entities, flagellated beings, myofibril braids, matted and felted microbial and fungal tangles, probing creepers, swelling roots, reaching and climbing tendrilled ones. The tentacular are also nets and networks, it critters, in and out of clouds. Tentacularity is about life lived along lines — and such a wealth of lines — not at points, not in spheres.” Donna Haraway

Also ‘Staying with the Trouble’ and hoping for a positive collective future are London duo patten at Tenderpixel asking ‘how do we make it to 3049?’

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I had the pleasure of hearing Mark Dion talk about his work, love of systematics and the usefulness of taxonomies as tools of communication at Whitechapel Gallery on the opening day of his show Theatre of the Natural World.  Like Donna Haraway, he is concerned with extinctions, environmental exploitation and catastrophic interaction with other species and expressed a pessimistic resignation that our future is unlikely to be a positive one unless there are some radical changes.

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Archaeology came with the Anthropocene.

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His recreation of a Wunderkammer is another step in the journey for a collection of objects that were removed from their original environment, placed on display in a cabinet of wonders, then captured as drawings that were turned into engravings and then published in print.

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Manually sculpting the objects using the limited information gleaned from the prints as a guide they are returned to 3D. Ghosts of the past losing clarity with each transformation.

1802 Mark Dion 4Looking at the aura of objects Secular Icons in an Age of Moral Uncertainty at Parafin questions the idea of art as a system of belief based around looking and valuing objects beyond their intrinsic materiality. Lower floor was closed when I visited so didn’t see everything. Though just contemplating the horrors associated with Indrė Šerpytytė’s giant lightbox totem constructed using the first blocks of colour that appear from the google search ‘Isis beheading’ was enough.

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Indrė Šerpytytė 2 Seconds of Colour

Hell on earth continues. Glenn Brown Come To Dust at Gagosian had some genuinely creepy offerings and an obsessive repetitiveness.

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I did find Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above compelling despite its bleak vision. Hung at an angle to appear that the sky is indeed falling and it is not the heaven we wished for that is descending upon us.

 

1605 Mercator World Map 1569When paradise could not be mapped on the known land it was believed it must be on an island over the ocean. Dare to dream.

 

 

on my island none of this would be true  – a dynamic group show at the new Arebyte Gallery space on City Island curated by Chris Rawcliffe took its title from the last line of a poem called Security, written by Tom Chivers for his book Dark Islands (Test Centre, 2015).

1802 Tom Chivers Dark Islands

It was another chance to see Verity Birt’s Venus Anodyomene a spoken text and video work with Holly Graham and Richard Forbes-Hamilton.

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The rhythmic narrative evoking a slippy oozing layered earth world of geology, archaeology, lost time or excavated memories was enhanced by the boardwalk approach to the gallery in torrential rain alongside the exposed mudbed of the River Lea.

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Hannah Regal What Transpires in the Field of a Body That is the Base of Her

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Gery Georgieva Europa Airlines Stand

 

“Again and again
we’re
expelled
from a garden
that never
existed” Ludwig Steinherr from Before the Invention of Paradise

What goes on in nature under our radar beautifully captured in Sam Laughlin’s series A Certain Movement as part of the Jerwood Photoworks Awards. Intimate moments and hidden processes lifted from nature with a quiet sensitivity.

 

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Sam Laughlin from the series A Certain Movement

 

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Visited Mayra Ganzinotti in the chilled and vaulted splendour of Florence Trust Winter Open Studios. Her beautiful work mixes crystal forms in geology with the body; rhythm and structure.

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Mayra Martin Ganzinotti

Other exciting work and use of materials going on was from Amanda Baum and Rose Leahy

Unexpected juxtapositions offer new paths to tread.

A group of artists and writers, selected by Payne Shurvell, were each asked to respond to the same image either with a text or intervention directly over the image. 256 possible diptychs were created. New pairings are hung daily in random combinations pulled out of a hat. The Arca Project lets fate or coincidence decide the outcome the audience will experience depending on when they visit. The concept to present multiple readings of one event draws on the ethos of W. G. Sebald who revelled in mixing things up.

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I only had time for a brief visit to Liminality [The Unknown] at Gallery 46 which was a shame as I think I missed some good things. But I did see the delicate and fluid interpretations of sound technology diagrams by Mary Yacoob

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Mary Yacoob Draft Drawings

also her meticulous ‘Seraphim for Sanctus’ inspired by a choral score for ‘Sanctus’ and the prophet Isaiah’s visionary six-winged angels.

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Mary Yacoob ‘Seraphim for Sanctus’ detail

I have been contemplating the circling angels of the Empyrean that dazzled Dante when he reached the final sphere of heaven. It might be the first time I have really thought about an angel as an other being/species not just a good human with wings.

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Gustave Doré The Divine Comedy’s Empyrean