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The latest ACA Project Continuum  is launched and I am looking forward to contributing to the programme with some new work exploring the activity of cosmic rays at the edge of the earths atmosphere. I have had two productive meetings with the Imperial College Space Society and the project to launch a high altitude balloon with a cloud chamber in the payload is underway. The first tasks are to make contact with the Civil Aviation Authority ahead of requesting flight permissions and researching how to safely transport helium to the prospective launch site.

1902 DIY mini cloud chamber

The team have been issued with their own mini cloud chamber kit to test and use as a basis for designing the prototype for launch which must be able to function in low air pressure and turbulence.

There was a fantastic turnout to Culture Lab. Newcastle University for the first Continuum event in an inspiring season of art, science and speculative fiction taking place at Allenheads, Hexham and Newcastle. So happy to be involved in this new project.

1902 Continuum Launch

We heard from Minna Långström about her latest film The Other Side of Mars and her installation Photons from Mars which explore how we see Mars through the mediated eyes of technology.

1902 Continuum launch Minna Langstrom

Robert Good analysed what happens at the intersection of art and science, concluding that insight comes from multiple perspectives working together.

1902 Continuum Launch Robert Good

Pippa Goldschmidt read from her texts The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space and Falling Sky highlighting the emotional and lived experience of the scientists who square up to the big questions in astronomy. She has fascinating first hand knowledge of the political sensitivities surrounding studying the stars when visiting observatories such as in the Chilean Atacama Desert when the nation is undergoing a military coup.

1902 The Falling Sky - Pippa Goldschmidt

Chris Welch professor of space engineering from The International Space University gave a lively account of Space Travel. Fact and Fiction; current technology, theoretical technology and science fiction technology. Sometimes it’s hard to tell one from the other.

1902 Continuum Launch Chris Welch

He also kindly allowed us to handle a mini rocket smuggled in from Strasbourg

1902 Continuum Launch mini rocket

The artist Nahum relayed a beautiful story of the moon landings from the moon’s perspective written by an 11 year old refugee girl and punctuated by real magic. This originated from his work giving refugee children a sense of belonging by imagining looking back at earth from space to see that we are all human on one tiny planet. In other work aiming to democratise space travel he hypnotised his audience in order to prompt false memories of visiting the moon into their minds.

1902 Continuum Launch Nahum assited by Minna Langstrom

John Bowers and Tim Shaw ended the evening with mesmeric visualisation and acoustics extrapolated from electromagnetic waves generated by meteors, minerals and mystical phenomenon.

1902 Continuum Launch John Bowers

It was a quick visit to Allenheads this time but Annie Carpenter, Nicola Ellis, Robert Good and myself can look forward to an upcoming week of research and stories around the fire as a prelude to making new work for the project.

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Delighted that my work Pentacoronae has been selected for the exhibition Insatiable Mind which is part of the Salisbury International Arts Festival 2019. The festival will highlight the anniversaries of the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Moon Landing of 1969. The exhibition seeks to convey the notion of leaving behind the comforts of the familiar in order to discover the unknown.

Pentacoronae encourages the viewer to seek darkness, stargaze, wonder and map their own stories across the sky.

1902 Pentacoronae photo John Hooper

Maybe I should take my cloud chamber with me to Salisbury just to make sure that clean up of radioactive material was as successful as they claim.

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More exciting news is that Carol Wyss, Anne Krinsky and myself have been awarded a two week takeover of Hackney’s oldest building, St. Augustine’s Tower.

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The tower is the last remains of the original church built in the late 13th century.

1902 St Augustines Tower 1

Our proposal is for an exhibition of site-specific new works made in response to St. Augustine’s Tower and the historic role of spires as a symbolic connection between earth, mortals and the heavens.

1902 St Augustines Tower

There are four floors connected by a narrow stone spiral staircase.

1902 St Augustines Tower roof

It has an amazing clock dating from about 1580; the pendulum case is on the first floor, the clock on the second and the bell on the third floor.

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Drawing on our individual interests in geology (Anne Krinsky), anatomy (Carol Wyss) and cosmology (Susan Eyre) we will curate the exhibition with the intent of sparking a dialogue between works installed to convey a cohesive exploration of materiality, the passage of time and wider philosophical issues evoked by these relationships.

1902 St Augustines Tower graveyard

 

The New Materialisms Reading group I attend have been reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. It is extraordinary to discover how trees communicate and consider the slow time at which they operate and the age and extent of the largest known living organism, the fungi web. I also have a whole new raft of guilt to contend with.

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I am also out collecting images of bare branches that resonate with the idea of particle decay.

1901 Cosmic ray decay

1902 disperse prep

In the studio painting ‘entanglement’ in disperse inks to heat press for the semaphore flags ready for the Lizard Point Residency. Semaphore = information at a distance, entanglement = spooky action at a distance (according to Einstein)

 

 

 

 

Out of the Studio….

Called at SPACE to see Anna Chrystal Stephens’ show Anorak. A derogatory term for an obsessive but maybe it’s a necessary trait if you are to survive in alternative social possibilities. Either that or develop superpowers.

1902 Anna Chrystal Stephens

I joined Robert Good at the opening of Word Bank of Lost Dialects at The Word National Centre for the Written Word, South Tyneside. Word Bank of Lost Dialects created by Jane Glennie and Robert Good is a fascinating documentation of the thousands of North East dialect words donated by visitors to The Word’s original Lost Dialects exhibition.

Also opening at The Word was Cracked! Secret Codes and Communication, with a very useful semaphore flag chart – just what I needed for the work I am planning for the upcoming Lizard Point Residency. In 2019 the Lizard is celebrating the 400 year anniversary of Sir John Killigrew’s building of the first lighthouse on Lizard Point in 1619. The subsequent lighthouse also has important links to the search for reliable Longitude measurement, with an assistant to the astronomer royal visiting the lighthouse at the time of the first Transit of Venus to record an accurate location for the Lizard Rocks. The world famous Goonhilly also celebrates the 50 year anniversary of their transmission of the first lunar landings. We will also be visiting wireless and semaphore stations along the Lizard coastal path, considering the Scilly Isles 30 miles out to sea and the important prehistoric menhirs offering ‘beacons’ for travel & procession across the land.

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Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms at The British Library was full of ancient treasures from the Library’s own collection, including the Lindisfarne Gospels, Beowulf and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, the Domesday Book and Codex Amiatinus, a giant Northumbrian Bible taken to Italy in 716, returning to England for the first time in 1300 years. A surprising number of books in flourishing scripts, illuminated, illustrated and bound in sculpted covers. However I found it very frustrating to be presented with so many undecipherable pages and envied those muttering in Latin or Old English who could gain some insight. More translations please. Possibly you had to buy the catalogue to learn more.

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Inspired by the legend of How Raven Stole the Sun and brought light to the world Joana Escoval’s  The Sun Lovers at Tenderpixel dazzled with an overload of fluorescent tubes.

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Especially blinding when visiting at the twilight hour. The story and further daydreams  were reduced to minimalist gestures in gold wire, feathers and blasted rock.

To celebrate Chinese New Year of the pig the mass underground car park takeover Four legs good, two legs bad (a quote from George Orwell’s prescient 1945 book Animal Farm)was heavily porcine in theme with a weirdly anarchic yet delineated curation. Pick of the show was Carol Wyss and Anne Leigniel.

Some interesting work in Critical Matter at the reduced RCA Dyson Gallery from Rosanna Dean, Victoria Mihatovic, Susie Olczak and Samuel Padfield. Looking at the very current theme of entanglement of materials in the web of life in reference to the philosophy of  Henri Bergson who wrote Matter and Memory in 1896 which argued against memory as a purely physical embodiment.

Flux Social presenters this month were Adam John Williams // a.k.a Chemical Adam, Adeline Rozario from Tinderdust, and Sofi Lee-Henson. Another interesting evening and good to talk to Adam about his use of the cloud chamber to translate the randomness of radioactive decay into music.

I joined Walking as Material led by Lily German who took us through the city down to the shores of the Thames and up onto the walkways and bridges, stopping to look at the fabric of London and consider its past and the changing materials that make up its surfaces. Also the amount of sewage that must be dealt with.

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We ended the walk at Matter(ing), an exhibition investigating ides of materiality and the outcome of enabling materials to drive the creation of work at Platform Southwark from artists Abigail Brothers, Lily German and Sebastian Sochan.

Enjoyed the connections made by Zach Blas in his performance lecture Metric Mysticism at Edel Assanti. Tracing the use of the crystal ball from John Dee via Derek Jarman, David Bowie’s Labyrinth, Lord of the Rings, Saudi Arabia’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology to Palantir Technologies, a private American software company that specializes in big data analytics. Prophecies of a society controlled by the media and the police appear fulfilled.

1902 Zach Blas metric mystics

Treated to a personal private view of Draft at The Hospital Club by Mary Yacoob. Strong work held it’s own amongst the plush velvet sofas and hand embellished wallpaper.

1902 Mary Yacoob

 

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Work in progress experimenting with ideas for some new video pieces that will develop from my collaboration with the high altitude balloon student society at Imperial College London and participation in the Continuum residency at Allenheads Contemporary Arts.

We will be attempting to launch a cloud chamber into space and film the outcome. 1803 filming cloud chamber (1)

 

It will be interesting to see how much cosmic ray activity we can record at high altitude. This is where protons emitted from the sun or distant galaxies crash into the Earth’s atmosphere and break apart.

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There may be other methods of recording we can try such as stacked layers of very thin plastic sheet which are ionised as the particle passes through and can later be etched to show the resulting track.

On Earth we are also protected from cosmic rays (which are high energy radiation) by the Earth’s magnetic field which is caused by the spinning molten iron core setting up convection currents in a geodynamo process.

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I am exploring magnetism and its powers. To be drawn to some powerful source. To fall into a black hole. I am trying ideas of a portal that offers transformation. This is also about returning to Allenheads, being drawn back. A black hole transforms matter, a wormhole deals with exotic matter.

 

Theoretically, to pass through a wormhole you need negative energy.

‘Negative energy is a concept used in physics to explain the nature of certain fields, including the gravitational field and various quantum field effects. In more speculative theories, negative energy is involved in wormholes which may allow for time travel and warp drives for faster-than-light space travel.’

So a portal that transports or transforms you (matter) could channel any ‘negative energy’ present and this could be dissipated by using black tourmaline which is supposed to clear negative energy. This could be the fuel to ignite the process.

I have a obtained a small two way mirror to test for the portal interface so the viewer can witness their own transformation.

1901 two way mirror

This could involve the vital fluids of Animal Magnetism or suggestion therapy of Mesmerism/ Hypnotism.

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Magnetoreception is the detection of a magnetic field by an organism. We have a protein (a crytochrome) in the human eye which could serve this function of navigation.

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How can we be equipped for physical or subconscious navigation/transformation?

I will be looking at tracking the electromagnetic field, sending messages and reading codes for new work to be made responding to this years incredible communications double anniversary, for Lizard Lighthouse (400 years) and Goonhilly Earth Station (50 years: transmission of the first lunar landings). I am excited to have been offered a place on the Lizard Point Residency run in partnership with Mayes Creative, Lumen London and the National Trust.  We will be visiting wireless and semaphore stations along the Lizard coastal path, considering the Scilly Isles 30 miles out to sea and the important prehistoric menhirs offering ‘beacons’ for travel & procession across the land.

I have a lovely frosted glass Fresnel lens (as used in lighthouses) to experiment with.

1901 fresnel lens

 

With the prospect of using more technology in my work I spent an intense weekend with Aphra Shemza and Jamie Howard at Ugly Duck learning a quick guide to interactive light art. Had a chance to program an Arduino, solder it to a PCB and connect up individually programmable LED’s to respond to sound with variable colour and brightness. Also first time soldering which was very satisfying.

Not sure how I will cope when I start my own project but at least I know what an Arduino looks like now and some of its possibilities. Also it’s good to know Aphra and Jamie do offer support consultation.

I followed this up joining a Flux event hosted by Maria Almena, Oliver Gingrich and Aphra Shemza at The Library where a diverse mix of artists, musicians and various tech geeks from the creative media arts community come together monthly to network and share crits.  Was fun and welcoming.

Out of the Studio..

The Alicja Kwade installation in Space Shifters at Hayward Gallery was clever

and of course I liked Helen Pashgian’s resin spheres

I do like shiny things and reflective surfaces but this show was overload and works became just that – light entertainment.

Pierre Huyghe Uumwelt at The Serpentine Gallery was not so light and felt a bit like being stranded under medication in some apocalyptic lost outpost trying to make sense of incoherent images morphing into something almost but not quite recognisable.

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The walls were sanded to reveal layers like the dissections of the brain that was scanned to produce the data used to try and build an image from the electrical impulses.

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The dust filled the air, purposefully bred flies swarmed in vain to escape leaving little corpses on the floor.

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Francis Upritchard Wetwang Slack at the Barbican Curve. Gorgeous glazes and uncanny mystics.

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Left unsure if this was archaeology or evolution.

Attended the talks accompanying In the Dark curated by Genetic Moo, a London Group event at The Cello Factory.

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Talks by Nick Lambert and Sean Clark from the Computer Arts Society who are celebrating their 50th year anniversary this year, and Jack Addis from the Lumen Prize. Artists discussed their practices and Tim Pickup and Nicola Schauerman from Genetic Moo talked about the challenges of working in the dark when overspill of light from other peoples work reduces the impact of all works.

Tim was wishing for a bulb that emits darkness. I remember Cham telling us about the photomultiplier tubes in the dark matter detector at Boulby Underground Laboratory which he said were in effect reverse lightbulbs, in that they absorb photons rather than emit them.

Made use of a free ticket to London Art Fair, Brockett Gallery had managed to shake of the fair vibe in their installation and I was glad to discover the 1974 film Space Is The Place in the Art Projects Screening Room.

1901 art fair john coney 1974

Presumed lost in space Sun Ra returns to do battle, outwit the white NASA scientists and transport the black race to a new planet in outer space.

Also good to see Thom Bridge’s intriguing self portrait of himself and his twin Theo One Ear Both Eyes which was a requirement of their visa application photograph. Shown so you can’t see both portraits at the same time unlike below. Which is Thom?

Thoughtful and prescient video based work looking at natural selection/personal choice from David Blandy and Larry Achiampong in Genetic Automata at Arts Catalyst. What colour skin would you choose? How far back do we reach for our identity? What can I claim as my own? Net migration google map was fascinating to watch.

Where are those phrenology bumps developing on our contemporary skulls?

1901 larry achiampong and david blandy 3

Falling Stars/Stelle Cadenti exhibition at The Crypt Gallery was a display of work created in response to last years Lumen Atina Residency where the group experiences local astronomical sights and dark skies.

Of Stars & Chasms at ArtHouse1 showing stellar work from Julie F. Hill bringing the astronomical sublime to a bodily encounter.

1901 Julie F Hill (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– A half of the celestial sphere, the sky.

1811 Cape Foulwind

Exciting news for the New Year. Allenheads Contemporary Arts has been awarded Arts Council funding for the next phase of Beyond, launching as Continuum, ACA will be working with curator Rob Le Frenais.1812 observatoryI am delighted to be part of this new interdisciplinary programme of contemporary art which aims to connect the arts and sciences via the conduit of speculative literature and science fiction.
1812 Cloud Chamber

Also, thanks to the support of Senior Lecturer in Spacecraft Engineering, Aaron Knoll, at Imperial College London I have been offered the opportunity to work with a small team of students to realise the launch of a high altitude balloon with an aim to film a cloud chamber at the edge of the atmosphere where protons crash and decay. If successful, it could be the first time cosmic particles have been filmed in a cloud chamber at 30km altitude.

Aaron has previously launched a high altitude balloon with 12 GoPro cameras to capture 360 footage for a virtual reality experience VR2Space flight to the edge of the atmosphere.

1812 VR balloon experience

Video and data from this experiment undertaken with Imperial College will then feed into the work I will be making as part of Continuum.

I have been thinking about Vitruvian Man as a reference point for making video work with an aerialist and developing some sort of sequence based on this image which Leonardo da Vinci said was cosmography of the microcosm. He saw the workings of the human body as an analogy for the workings of the universe based on symmetry and proportion.

I was thinking of the aerial hoop but the Cyr wheel may work better as this is proportioned to the body of the user. It’s a starting point and I can look at the idea of scale and proportion in relation to the body and space. I came across all female Alula Cyr which have some inspiring work online.

1812 jessica ladley on cyr wheel

Thank you to Wuon-Gean Ho for a short article about my work Duodecimēns in the 2018 Autumn edition of Printmaking Today.

1710 screenprint on aluminium

1810 Printmaking Today

1806 Open Studios

Thames-side Open Studio

Other new work I am developing continues with the idea of the portal. Looking at sacred space as a portal into a spiritual realm promising some sort of transformation and relating this to the power of a black hole and its potential to transform or transport matter.

1811 sacred portal black hole

Popped in to Lumen Studios at St John’s Church Bethnal Green to see Cosmic Debris a durational choreographic installation created with things found on the streets. Aleksandra Borys and Marcio Kerber Canabarro were performing a gentle alignment of matter using incense, bells and ritualistic sequences incorporating balance as a key focus.

Went to Field/s One panel discussion and exhibition at SluiceHQ moderated by Thom Bridge who set up and coordinated this dynamic peer network group of 12 artists engaging in conversations about photography and its wider contexts presenting new works grounded in photography but also extending to video, performance and installation.

1811 FieldsONE exhibition

First images are arriving from the New Horizon flyby of Ultima Thule 6.5 billion km from Earth

1812 Ultima Thule

“We are in the midst of both an incredible and challenging space age. How can we harness the information, collected in silos, 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’?…”

Following the above brief – London Laser Lab talk

Talks on the intersection of art, science and technology – LASER is a project of Leonardo® /ISAST (the International Society for Art, Science and Technology). London LASER is organised by Heather Barnett and students on the MA Art & Science at Central Saint Martins.

1811 laser lab panel

Re:Thinking Space panel discussion chaired by Nicola Triscott with Dr. Chamkaur Ghag, Dr. Ceri Brenner, Susan Eyre and Dr. Thomas Kitching

I have recently had the opportunity to visit the southern hemisphere. New Zealand is an incredibly beautiful country. I am sure the dramatic geology and awe inspiring landscapes will have an impact on my practice. I finally caught a glimpse of the milky way when the clouds briefly parted during a 2am visit to Mt John Observatory. Underground rafting to see the glow worm caves at Charleston was a beautiful and surreal experience and the spectacular Lord of the Rings tour with Pete from Queenstown OFFROAD tours was an exciting adrenalin rush crashing wildly upstream or precariously navigating the winding and precipitous Skippers Canyon. I was even able to add another Paradise to my documentation archive.

1811 Charleston caverafting1811 Charleston glow worm caves1811 Franz Joseph Glacier1811 Punakaiki Pancake Rocks1812 Lake Mathesan forest1812 Lake Tekapo Mt John Observatory1812 Milford Sound1812 Paradise

 

 

 

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.

1810 cloud chamber workshop 2

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.

1810 A glory

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.

1810 freezing bubble

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.

1810 Pete Edwards Talk ACA

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.

1810 Close Encounters

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.

1810 STFC laser lab

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

1810 Paradise burning

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.

1802 frozen galaxy
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.

 

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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.

1810 Sarah Christie

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. “

 

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.

1809 Pentacoronae 1
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.

1809 Grizedale Forest

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

1809 Forest WIP

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

1809 Julie Hill credit John Hooper

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….”

1809 Diego Valente

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.

1809 laying out

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.

1809 install angst

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.

1802 muon

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.

1809 cosmic trails.jpg

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.

1808 UKHAS Balloon launch 1

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.

1808 Guy Oliver

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.

1808 Melksham obelisk

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)

1807 Beyond Finale Weekend Susan Eyre 2

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.

1807 Beyond Finale blacksmiths fire.JPG

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.

1807 Grizedale sundown

Then headed into the forest

1807 Grizedale nightime trek

To lay in the dark and gaze at the stars

1807 Grizedale stargazing

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.

1807 Liz Elton

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.

1807 Visions Bleeding Edge

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.

1807 Trevor Paglen Sight Machine 2

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.

1807 Sarah Sze 4

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.

1807 Sarah Sze 6

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.’

1807 Michelle Stuart 1

Michelle Stuart In the Beginning: Time and Dark Matter

1807 Michelle Stuart 2

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.

1807 Art of Magic 1

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.

1807 Grizedale forest WIP 2

 

 

 

 

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’.

1806 fire

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…

1806 ACA BEYOND

1806 BEYOND

1806 live streaming sunset

…situated between borders.

1806 BORDER

1806 BORDER 2

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.

1806 BEYOND forest

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.

1806 cosmic trail

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

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Exoplanet exploration

1806 ACA exoplanet explorers

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

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1806 peripheral training chair

Earlier visit to Allenheads – circling ideas, segmenting, focusing

1806 Allendale walkabout

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.

1806 Open Studios.jpg

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.

1806 New Relics.jpg

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.

1806 Leith Hill Place

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.

1806 Joan Jonas (3)

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.

1806 Joan Jonas (2)

To follow the tale

1806 Joan Jonas (5)

1806 Joan Jonas (6)

1806 Joan Jonas (4)

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.

1806 Fiona Crisp Material Sight

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.

1806 weather balloon tracking

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.

1805 Papier mache

1805 earth clad bowls

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.

1805 submirari(eathbound)

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.

1805 Cosmic Perspectives

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

1805 Marek Kukula talk

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.

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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.

1805 LODM Guest Projects anniversary.jpg

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?

1805 Valencia palm

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 tree

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1805 Valencia post office

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1805 Valencia cathedral

1805 Valencia copper door

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1805 Valencia dark matter relicdark and even darker matters

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1805 Jacinta Gil

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.

1805 Gerhard Richter 9 objects

Gerhard Richter 9 Objects 1969

1805 Manolo Gil

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

1805 Manuel Millares Picture 97

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.

1805 weather balloon

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.