Archives for posts with tag: Allenheads Contemporary Arts

Midsummer weekend at Allenheads Contemporary Arts. As always it was fantastic to be back in the North Pennines surrounded by the unique landscape and equally unique participating artists. Thank you to Helen Ratcliffe, Alan Smith and co-curator Rob La Frenais for creating such a stimulating event and inviting me to be part of it. Continuum contemplated shared futures and journeys; explorations of the unknown on a cosmological and human scale.

I was privileged to be given access to use the local Blacksmith’s Shop heritage site for Aóratos a site specific installation with fire and film.

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It is not impossible that wormholes exist in our universe.

To traverse space by means of a wormhole would require vast amounts of negative energy.

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Visitors were invited to burn offerings of negative energy to power a ‘wormhole’.

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Using specially prepared tokens visitors could write or draw messages to clear their subconscious of any negative or unwelcome thoughts.

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The offerings were burnt giving out blue and green flames in the forge fire releasing the absorbed negative energy to open the wormhole portal above.

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This turned out to be quite a personal and sometimes emotional experience for visitors who thought carefully about what they would send into the flames before ascending the stairs to enter the portal to the vortex and take the journey through the wormhole exiting at a different point to where they entered.

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Beyond the threshold hidden landscapes and alternative perspectives were revealed.

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It is hoped visitors left the wormhole video installation feeling cleansed and positively charged.

There was a wonderful enthusiastic crowd from Newcastle’s refugee community travelling with artist Henna Asikainen – ” Understanding what it means to be displaced from ones cultural, social and ecological environment and then to establish a home in another, which is fundamentally different, has been the basis for the emergence of my recent projects.”

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Henna shared a practice from her own Finnish culture through her participatory work Omens  – a divining practice from ancient times involving melting metal over an open fire and pouring it into cold water and then interpreting the resulting form. The interaction of metal and water being symbolic of different cultures coming together, making new forms, interpreting the outcomes together, and by sharing these hopes & fears, generating a dialogue about our common futures.

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Annie Carpenter and Alan Smith collaborated on Salvaged Alignment a sculpture activated by the sun at the exact moment of the solstice.

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Annie was also showing Perpetual Apogee  a sculpture referencing Victorian kinetic models of the solar system embracing inaccuracies inherent in such scientific modeling.

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Alan Smith was screening his film 2052 looking at the everyday 33 years from now.

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In the gallery Robert Good presented A New Atlas of the Sublime, a series of panels dissecting the hierarchies and subtleties of language used when attempting to describe the power of a sublime experience.

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Nicola Ellis, referencing algorithms and scientific technologies used in social media, gave visitors an uncanny experience in Watch Yourself Watch Yourself

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Sarah Fortais performing Voyager in her DIY spacesuit arrived from afar, by public transport, to explore the local neighbourhood of Allenheads through the eyes of an alien with accompanying space dog Maddy.

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Great to meet up with Pippa Goldschmidt again and hear more readings from her short stories inspired by past roles as astronomer and civil servant on The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space.

 

Tracey Warr and Rob La Frenais Writing The Future workshop posted story portals around the village for visitors to discover.

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Much celebration at the launch of Lucien Anderson’s Humble Telescope on the cosmic pond. Come the dark skies of Allenheads, lay back and gaze up through the portal from a watery bed.

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As the solstice sun dipped John Bowers, Tim Shaw, Rob Blazey, Malcolm Conchie and Alan Smith began the annual Midsummer Night’s Drone that continued through to sunrise.

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Aóratos imagery took reference from theories of cosmic strings, space foam and the idea of a web of tiny wormholes connecting all points in space. Video was captured by putting an endoscope down rabbit holes looking for hidden root systems and a microscope was pushed into fibres and foam. The bare branches of trees reflect the branching decay of cosmic particles as they hit the atmosphere and break up.

Space travelers are subject to high levels of radiation from cosmic ray activity outside the protective magnetic field and atmosphere of Earth. As part of this project I worked with students Sena Harayama, Romain Clement De Givry and Medad Newman from Imperial College Space Society supervised by senior lecturer in spacecraft engineering Dr Aaron Knoll in an attempt to launch a cloud chamber in the payload of a high altitude balloon to view this activity.

The students had put a lot of effort into building a cloud chamber suitable to launch over 30km high into subzero temperatures with little air pressure.

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The final launch date pre-booked with the Civil Aviation Authority was upon us and so with just three days notice the team decided it must go ahead ready or not. Unfortunately the chamber had not been tested to see if it functioned on earth and during final assembly on the evening before the launch the chamber shattered.  Disappointed, the students worked into the night to make a substitute chamber.

I had been charged with making a connector out of garden hose, plumbers waste pipe, foam and sealant to pass helium from narrow cylinder pipe to wide mouth of balloon.

The launch took place on disused Oakley airfield kindly permitted by landowner Tom Baxter.

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The balloon reached an altitude of over 37 km and the payload was successfully recovered from a field of horses near Silverstone after an exciting car chase.

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During the violent launch the camera inside the payload to capture activity in the cloud chamber was knocked aside.

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All we have is a short clip before darkness descends and the experiment becomes part of that which is unseen.
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Risograph leaflet for visitors to the wormhole installation, expertly printed by Elliott Denny.

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In the Studio

Put The Forms (aluminium etched with dark matter visualisations) up for Open Studios at Thames-side Studios annual event which was buzzing this year with lots of workshops and activities and a festival feel flurry of food stalls.

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Meanwhile I was creating vibrant chemical landscapes ready to be encapsulated in screen printed tokens for the burning ritual to power the wormhole.

 

Out of the Studio

Carol Wyss hoping for rain to activate her enigmatic steel plates and reveal the codes within the bones in Coming Good: Come Hell or High Water an exhibition in St Johns Churchyard as part of Transforming Being Waterloo Festival.

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Insatiable Mind exhibition opened at Salisbury Arts Centre with space inspired food and a heartfelt speech from visual arts and exhibitions manager Mirka Golden-Hann who writes in the accompanying catalogue;

“I was driven by the overarching urge which is innate to humanity. The urge to break away, the urge to explore, the urge which would force a human to construct a spaceship and the urge of another human to step into it in order to walk on the Moon: the same compulsion behind the collective force to bring down the Berlin Wall and with it the Iron Curtain. It was the power of human curiosity and the dissatisfaction with the familiar that provided the basis for this exhibition.”

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The installation of my suspended sculpture Pentacoronae was surprisingly smooth considering the height of the supporting beams.

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There was a great team to help and although one or two anxious moments when hooks came away from loops it went up very well.

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This work was made to highlight the importance and need to preserve dark sky areas. As powerful technology opens 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. Our ancestors mapped the stars and drew shapes across the darkness which became familiar anchors for navigation, described mythological characters and foretold fortunes. Through this work the viewer is encouraged to seek darkness, stargaze, wonder, and map their own stories across the sky.

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I also had two concertina books installed in the gallery cabinet.

Making these books turned out to be quite a fiddly process.

For the book Unbound I used images from my cloud chamber printed on transparencies cut into pentagons. Cosmic Rays know no boundaries as they pass through us all the time. The twelve pentagons form a dodecahedron, the solid described by Plato as ‘the fifth construction, which the god used for embroidering the constellations on the whole heaven.’

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In/Out expresses the energy and randomness of quantum fluctuation as particles pop in-and-out of existence in empty space. At this tiny scale the universe is mysterious and unpredictable.

I has thought I would draw the energy fields in white china-graph pencil but it turned out graphite looked much better

The bright spheres are four colour separation screen prints and act as a series of portals to alternative perspectives.

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It was great to meet some of the other artists in the show whose work was really interesting and beautiful.

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Eunmi Mimi Kim Me Time video installation which uses her own sensitivity to sensory overload to explore sensory deprivation and isolation.

 

 

Katayoun Dowlatshahi  presented work form her series Orbit looking at the former cold war secret rocket testing site West High Down on the Isle of Wight.

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Oksana Chepelyk Collider immersive film screening in the theatre. Throwing significant moments in history into the collider to see what future particles get thrown out.

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I have been meeting up with students Sena Harayama, Romain Clement De Givry and Medad Newman from Imperial College Space Society.

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Supervised by senior lecturer in spacecraft engineering Dr Aaron Knoll they are building a cloud chamber to withstand a journey to the edge of the atmosphere in the payload of a high-altitude balloon. The chamber must be able to withstand the low pressure at high altitude which might make it break apart.

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There needs to be a heat pad controlled by an Arduino processor to keep the batteries running to power the tracking device and cameras and maintain a suitable environment in the chamber to allow alcohol vapour to fall and create a cloud.

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A cloud chamber enables us to see ionising trails made by radioactive and charged particles. Cosmic particles continuously collide violently with the Earth’s atmosphere then break up and shower down upon us.

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Keeping the weight of components down is vital. The payload must not be over 2kg.

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We are hoping to capture cosmic ray activity on video as well as a view of Earth’s atmosphere as it blends from blue into the darkness of space. This footage will become part of the video installation I am creating for Continuum midsummer weekend at Allenheads Contemporary Arts.

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This new work Aóratos will be installed at Allenheads Blacksmith’s Forge.

Black holes were once thought to be pure science fiction but in recent decades scientists have discovered that these extraordinary objects exist throughout our universe in all shapes and sizes and this year astoundingly have even produced an image of one.

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Einstein’s theory of general relativity written in 1915 predicted the existence of black holes and is also consistent with the possibility of gravitational tunnels known as wormholes. It could be that there is a hidden web of planck scale wormholes linking all points in space. Theoretically, threaded through these tiny holes would be filaments of cosmic strings created in the primitive goo of early matter and flung across space when the universe burst into existence.

However, to traverse space by means of a wormhole would require vast amounts of negative energy, not something usually found on Earth yet in the current political climate in no short supply.

Making use of the Blacksmith’s hearth visitors will be invited to burn offerings of negative energy to power a ‘wormhole’.

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Special paper will be provided for people to write, draw or furiously scribble their own symbols of negative energy. These offerings will be burnt in the forge hearth releasing any pent-up negative energy to power the wormhole portal above.

I have been experimenting with chemicals to make the paper.

Really pleased with the results.

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It’s fine. I am sealing the chemicals inside two sheets of paper so no skin contact for visitors.

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In my search to discover how to make coloured fire I did make a visit to Davenports magic shop in a very unprepossessing but not uninhabited pedestrian subway. A dismal setting for a dismal shop where I got no help at all. Felt an absolute muggle.

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The risks and obstacles of entering a wormhole include creating enough negative energy to open the wormhole mouth wide enough to weaken the gravitational tidal forces which would rip travellers apart; keeping it from collapsing so travellers are not indefinitely trapped inside; exceeding the speed of light and avoiding incineration from deadly high radiation.

On Earth we are protected from radioactive particles by the atmosphere and the magnetic field.

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Aóratos translates as ‘unseen’. The videos in the installation will look at hidden landscapes and usually unseen perspectives. For research I have been exploring rabbit holes, bee holes, mice holes and abandoned tunnels with my endoscope camera.
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A fascinating dark world of root webs and filaments interconnecting tunnels.

 

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The reading group is persevering with Geoffrey West’s Scale despite the woolly editing and rambling digressions it does hold some interesting facts. I liked the section about turbulence. Fluid motion is chaotic and objects moving through water or air are subject to very different outcomes at different scales. Froude introduced a scaling methodology used in industry that has become increasingly sophisticated. Lord Raleigh emphasized the primary role of the ‘dimensionless’ number in scaling. This is a pure number such as pi which does not change depending on which unit of measurement is used, the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter is always the same. “Pi embodies the universal quality of ‘circleness'”

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Visited the impressive sphere Gaia by Luke Jerram in Salisbury Cathedral as part of Salisbury International Arts Festival. Stunning architecture.

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Extraordinary that this majestic building piercing the sky has the most shallow of foundations and unless they keep a regular check on the water level through a little door in the floor the weight of the spire would not only bend the supporting columns but might tumble down.

I was excited to find a dodecahedron at the pinnacle amongst platonic solids topping an elaborate tomb.

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Also the oldest working clock was fascinating to see

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“How can the past and future be, when the past no longer is, and the future is not yet? As for the present, if it were always present and never moved on to become the past, it would not be time, but eternity.”

― St. Augustine of Hippo

A happy return to Allenheads Contemporary Arts for Continuum research.

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It is a place which pulls you in like gravity or a magnetic field. It would be no surprise to find a wormhole portal here.

Joined by Annie Carpenter, Nicola Ellis and Robert Good we spent the time reading, walking, thinking and sharing ideas.

“The miners did not find the riches they hoped for and the tunnel never reached its destination…”

Theoretically it is possible that wormholes exist. Every point in spacetime could be connected by a hidden web of tiny wormholes left over from the beginning when the universe was turbulent and unformed. Should they be discovered, to open them and pass through would require a colossal amount of negative energy which we are unable to create with current technology. However, there is a lot of metaphysical negative energy around at the moment so maybe this could be used to power a wormhole.

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The Allenheads Blacksmith’s Forge seems a good place to open a wormhole portal. It is a place of high energy collisions and hot fusion.

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It is also home to a collection of local rocks and crystals which must surely offer some negative energy cleansing properties. For research imagery my glass sphere encapsulates and condenses its surroundings. If the image is made to spin fractals begin to appear.

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I also captured the landscape at speed as travel through the wormhole would exceed the speed of light.

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I probed the depths of rabbit holes with an endoscope camera and discovered alien landscapes and the hidden web of the interconnected root system.

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We made a site visit to Newcastle University to view the space that Allenheads Contemporary Arts will performatively occupy during The Late Shows

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As the project Continuum focuses on ideas around speculative fiction the newly installed Museum of Classic Sci-Fi in Allendale made an interesting day out with an impressive collection of artefacts and information.

Plasmaton:”ramdomly formed blobs of protein, wrought into being ‘psychokinetically’ …”

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The Cosmic Sublime exhibition presented by Lumen Studios opened at The Pie Factory in Margate. The concept of the sublime has long been associated to both fields of astronomy. Derived from the Latin “sublimis”, the sublime is translated as “set or raised aloft, high up”- etymologically the word “sublime” is very much linked to the space above our planet and to what may inhabit it.

I was pleased to show the video Soft Borders made with dance artist Paola Napolitano.

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The video speculates on the idea of a universe that is a finite shape but has no borders. If we were able to exit at one point we would immediately re-enter at another point. It also considers our body in a similar way with open borders for the unseen passage of cosmic rays and other particles.

Thanks to artist Rosie Reed Gold for some great photos of the show.

My wonderful optician John Rose spent some time scanning my iris for me.

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This is for work I am planning looking at the possibility that we retain some residual magnetoreceptor in our eyes that once enabled us to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. And other ideas.

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 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.

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Following on from the Lizard Point Residency I have made a mock up to test the Fresnel lens projection work. A film exploring entanglement and communication across distances will be back projected onto the lens.

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Joined by Anne Krinsky and Carol Wyss, we made another site visit to St. Augustine’s Tower in Hackney and made some decisions about who would install where for our upcoming group show which will be titled Reading Stones.

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Reading Stones were the original tool for magnifying text, first made from polished glass or crystal in the 13th Century – the same era the tower was built.

I will be installing in the room that houses the clock mechanism. It is a wonderful animated machine. On the way home reading Carlo Ravelli’s book The Order of Time I came to the passages quoting from St. Augustine.

“It is within my mind then, that I measure time. I must not allow my mind to insist that time is something objective. When I measure time, I am measuring something in the present of my mind. Either this is time, or I have no idea what time is.”

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The British Library have released some excellent scans from their archives for free use.

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While in Suffolk visiting family I made a detour to Dunwich and found the tide clock has become redundant.

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Time and Tide wait for no man. The earliest known record is from St. Marher,  1225: “And te tide and te time þat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet.”

In my present, the ruins of Greyfriars Monastery at Dunwich where large chunks of the coastline have fallen into the sea.

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The last gravestone standing as the land crumbles

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In the studio –  Sugar lift for work looking at cycles and forces

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Copper sulphate etching

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Four colour separation screen-print

I made two pieces – one delicate etch, one fierce

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This is an amalgamation of images from the ruined Waverley Abbey and St. James Church Weybridge – not ruined in my present. Sanctified spaces drawing people to them who seek transformation. All matter becomes regenerated.

Out of  the studio…

Another Land at Kingston Museum, a showcase of experimental visualisations of place to draw links between creative practice and anthropology, archaeology, architecture and geography.

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Victoria Ahrens Lleva y Trae (2019) Exploring notions of the politics of place, resistance and ruin looking at the spaces between what we know and what we think we know about the world

 

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Matthew Flintham Nuclear Airspace  – The radial danger areas surrounding active nuclear power plants in the UK.

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I liked the collection of remote controls –  accidental installation

 

 

 

Anamorphic Waves at Ugly Duck.

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An exhibition exploring how digital interfaces and technological tools are reshaping our personal, professional and ecological relationships, and how they have modified our view of love, sexuality and gender.

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I liked this work looking at big data. I was intrigued how the multiple projections were installed, baffling as only two projectors in the room and neither seemed to be pointing in the right direction.

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Mesmerising images from Stuart Faromarz Batchelor who explained some of his methods working with oil paint and coding algorithms which respond to the brush strokes via a camera link at the latest Flux Social Event.

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Visceral and beautiful work at the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle, the exhibition presents a dialogue between oil paintings by Francis Bacon and Morphia, a series of works on paper by Ellen Gallagher.

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Great installation looking at the moon from an earthbound perspective from Shaney Barton. Anomalous Mass is showing at Allenheads Contemporary Arts Gallery as part of the Continuum series of events. Multiple screens show footage captured of the moon over a ten-month period with found dialogues on recent moon histories and projected near futures of the moon race and plans for human colonisation.

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Wonderful poetic visons, some realised some imaginary from Katie Paterson at Turner Contemporary with A place that exists only in moonlight.

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Like Paterson, JMW Turner was fascinated by the sublime wonder of nature, capturing the changing and atmospheric qualities of light, air and weather in his paintings, while also being deeply curious about science and the physical world. Paterson has selected a group of over 20 Turner watercolours and paintings to be interspersed with her works.

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Also on display were some of Caroline Herschel’s notebooks describing her extraordinary astronomical discoveries of comets made by patient observation.

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Great to be able to see the screening of Sarah Sparkes film Time You Need and her GHost Tunnel installation in The GHost Parlour at New Art Projects. The GHost Tunnel references portals, black holes and equates time travel with death as another dimension that we may enter.

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The film gently leads the viewer on a journey beyond the physical and explores the potential for consciousness to time-travel within the material limits of the human body.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

1902 mattering walk bridge pillars1902 mattering walk steps down1902 mattering walk chains1902 mattering walk wall1902 mattering walk london stone

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

 

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.

1901 Cosmic ray decay.jpg

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.

1901 gyroscope

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.

1901 iron filing tests (3)

 

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.

1604 vision

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.

1901 pierre huyghe (2)

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.

19010 pierre huyghe (3)

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

1901 pierre huyghe (1)

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

1901 francis upritchard 3

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.

1901 Into The Dark.jpg

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.

1810 ACA.jpg

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.

1810 cloud chamber workshop 1

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.

1810 Wilson's cloud chamber

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.

1810 meteorite collection.jpg

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.

1810 terra incognita.jpg

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.

1810 plasma.jpg

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.

 

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.

1810 Oceania RA Lisa Reihana 3.jpg

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.

1810 Oceania RA 3

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’.

1810 Oceania RA 5

1810 Oceania RA 7

1810 Oceania RA 1

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.

1810 hollow bone ceremony

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.

1815 Grizedale Deer.jpg

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. “

 

 

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.

1807 Grizedale banner.jpg

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.

1807 Grizedale forest WIP.jpg

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

1807 alien darkness.jpg

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.

1807 Kate Fahey.jpg

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.

1807 Mayra Ganzinotti 2

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

1807 Sarah Sze 1

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

1807 Sarah Sze 3

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

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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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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).

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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