Archives for posts with tag: Cloud Chamber

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

1902 DIY mini cloud chamber

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

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

1902 Continuum Launch

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

1902 Continuum launch Minna Langstrom

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

1902 Continuum Launch Robert Good

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

1902 The Falling Sky - Pippa Goldschmidt

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

1902 Continuum Launch Chris Welch

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

1902 Continuum Launch mini rocket

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

1902 Continuum Launch Nahum assited by Minna Langstrom

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

1902 Continuum Launch John Bowers

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

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

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

1902 Pentacoronae photo John Hooper

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

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

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

1902 St Augustines Tower 1

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

1902 St Augustines Tower

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

1902 St Augustines Tower roof

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

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

1902 St Augustines Tower graveyard

 

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

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

1901 Cosmic ray decay

1902 disperse prep

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

 

 

 

 

Out of the Studio….

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

1902 Anna Chrystal Stephens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1902 Zach Blas metric mystics

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

1902 Mary Yacoob

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out of the Studio..

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

and of course I liked Helen Pashgian’s resin spheres

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

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

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

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

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

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Left unsure if this was archaeology or evolution.

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

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

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

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

1901 art fair john coney 1974

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

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

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

Where are those phrenology bumps developing on our contemporary skulls?

1901 larry achiampong and david blandy 3

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

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

1901 Julie F Hill (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– A half of the celestial sphere, the sky.

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

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

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

1812 VR balloon experience

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

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

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

1812 jessica ladley on cyr wheel

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

1710 screenprint on aluminium

1810 Printmaking Today

1806 Open Studios

Thames-side Open Studio

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

1811 sacred portal black hole

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

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

1811 FieldsONE exhibition

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

1812 Ultima Thule

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

Following the above brief – London Laser Lab talk

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

1811 laser lab panel

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

1810 cloud chamber workshop 2

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

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

1810 A glory

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

1810 Victor Hess balloon

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

1810 freezing bubble

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

1810 Pete Edwards Talk ACA

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

1810 Close Encounters

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

1810 Close Encounters dinner

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

The session remit was

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

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

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

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

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

1810 STFC laser lab

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

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

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

1810 Paradise burning

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

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

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

 

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Pieter Bruegel The Elder Two Monkeys 1592

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

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

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

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

Oceania at The Royal Academy.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

1810 Alex Prager Face in the Crowd

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

1810 Alex Prager

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

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

1810 Laura Marker Ghost Tide

Laura Marker

1810 Mary Yacoob Ghost Tide

Mary Yacoob

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

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

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Thanks to Jim Lloyd for highlighting this quote from Werner Heisenberg

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

 

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

1809 Pentacoronae

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

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

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

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

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

1809 Maria Luigia Gioffre credit John Hooper

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

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

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

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Julie F. Hill Dark River photo John Hooper

Anthony Carr– circadian rhythms disrupted

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

Melanie King– ancient light captured

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Melanie King Ancient Light, Grizedale Forest  photo John Hooper

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

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Louise Beer Beneath the Moon’s Gaze photo John Hooper

Rebecca Huxley— twilight transitions, a manifesto to darkness

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Rebecca Huxley 18 degrees below the Horizon 

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

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Diego Valente A Copy With No Original

and William Arnold – common lepidopteran misadventures in artificial light

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William Arnold Dark Spectacle

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

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

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Finale! (another great shot from John Hooper)

1809 dry ice credit John Hooper

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

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So glad I spent time on careful packing for transporting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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…situated between borders.

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

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

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

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

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Exoplanet exploration

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

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Earlier visit to Allenheads – circling ideas, segmenting, focusing

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

1806 Allendale Impenetrable forest

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

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

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

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

1806 Leith Hill Place Mary Branson

1806 Leith Hill Place Julie Hoyle

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

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

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

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

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

The viewer watches. We are gathered at the fire.

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To follow the tale

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

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

 

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

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

1806 Fiona Crisp Material Sight

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

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

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Today would have been a good day for a flight.

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.

1803 tear in the fabric of space

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.

1803 Laura McMorrow

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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New year fresh start. Laboratory of Dark Matters evaluation reports submitted. Now to build on my research from the last year. Time to put up the dark tent again and get the cloud chamber running to take some more controlled footage for use in an immersive installation. Excited to be experimenting with video projections, lenses and different media to project onto to ‘capture’ the particles.

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Sun Factor jostling for space at a busy Atom Gallery private view of Tomorrow’s World where most visions of the future appear dystopian or apocalyptic.

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The backstory to this work begins with a holiday to Sardinia and the day trip salesman’s  insistence the island bay he proposes taking us to – it’s paradise, it’s paradise … well how could we refuse. It turned out we were to be cast ashore for hours on a tiny strip of sand with no shade, no escape and a sea swarming with tiny stinging jellyfish. A concrete obelisk stood over the blistering bodies; once ancient sun worshippers built these capped with gold to shine like beacons celebrating the power of Ra the sun god. Modern sun worshippers have their own rituals, laying under a hot ball of gas so massive and so hot it has been active for 4.5 billion years yet it will be another 4.5 billion years before it will expand into a red giant, vaporize the earth and explode.

On a rather grander scale was ( my past RCA tutor) David Blandy’s The End of the World at Seventeen Gallery.

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Designed for solo viewing, a single seat faces the enormity of space. You become the lonely astronaut gazing down on a faraway world, at once familiar and distant. The voiceover poignantly recounts what is being lost; spanning perspectives, the micro and macrocosm of life, imagined, virtual and real. When the end is in sight senses are heightened.

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Touched to hear that David thought of me when making the High Definition series splicing microchips, crystals, nebulae and rock formations into stars which appear 3D until you approach more closely and then they flatten. Heptagrams (seven point stars)share Christian and pagan symbolism, they can represent the seven days of creation, the perfection of god and the seven planets which were known to ancient alchemists.

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The installation HD LIfestyle also plays with the illusion of surface and the material cost of being able to pass through the screen to an ever more real and immersive experience on the other side. The wares are on display. The images sweep us forward. It would be hard to stop.

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Thomas Ruff at Whitechapel Gallery. He is big on scale, control and appropriation.  I was struck by the regularity and precision of the white dot of light reflection in each of the portrait models eyes.1712 Thomas RuffThe Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter launched 2005 recorded topography, water related minerals and climate using an imaging spectrometer, context camera and mars colour imager transmitted as radio signals to be translated into images.

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Thomas Ruff ma.r.s. 

SPACE/London Creative Network Showcase – showing works in progress as part of an ongoing exploration of new technologies employed within art practice.

Catriona Leahy uses laser-cutting technology to etch delicate capillaries onto marble to articulate a sense of fragmentation and the scarring of  manmade intervention in the form of land drainage found in Dutch and Belgian post industrial landscapes.

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Catriona Leahy Percolation Test

Always drawn to the perpendicular – the standing stones. I enjoyed Ben Branagan’s legacy of the built environment captured in totems made from building site aggregates.

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Ben Branagan Hardcore Colonnade

Next door was the satisfyingly ritual space of BearMotherhouse a collaboration of Fourthland, an artist collective, with Xenia a group that brings geographically displaced women together with local communities for friendship and integration through creativity. A quote from the accompanying essay by Alberto Duman addressing the cosmological connections and mythologies of the objects that ‘ speak of the degrees of interconnectedness beyond human knowing and the evocation of powerful figures such as the Bear and the Mother that oversee and mesmerise this house’s proceedings

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Cryptic exhibition at The Crypt Gallery, St Pancras Church examines the relationship between art, science and technology. Lisa Pettibone explores matter and form through the manipulation of one template and the forces applied to alter its appearance.

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Lisa Pettibone Apeiron 01_02_03

Pentagon envy.

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Bekk Wells Elements

Imagining CERN event at CSM presented the results of creative collisions between interdisciplinary art and particle physics.  MA Art and Science students got to visit CERN, collaborate with scientists and make work in response.

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Gavin Hesketh was here to talk about his work at CERN searching for new particles

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He had brought his cloud chamber along. First time I had seen someone else’s cloud chamber other than online. No dark tent here.

1712 CSM imagining CERN cloud chamber

In particle physics the closer you look the more similar things become,

when you get right down to the elementary particles there is no colour at this scale

 

 

1709 CIMM exhibition 1Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum exhibition brought work created for Guest Projects residency into a very different space, reinventing and presenting it in new ways.

1709 diazographoDiazôgraphô – (Wood, acrylic, digital print) has been reworked since Guest Projects. You can still see through it, but it is more reflecting; you and your surroundings are echoed in it and so it appears you are both surrounded by and surrounding the same space.

 

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Using the dodecahedron as a motif for the universe I like this quality that draws on Dante’s description of the universe as concentric circles; that the very outer circles also appear to be enclosed by the inner circles and the relationship that this enfolding space has to a 3-sphere and Poincaré dodecahedral space. Plato described the dodecahedron as ‘a fifth construction, which the god used for embroidering the constellations on the whole heaven ’  so it works as a metaphor for dark matter too – a phenomena that binds the galaxies together.

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The Forms – (Etched aluminium) Installed in a new configuration here as a net that together would build a dodecahedron. In scientific visualisations of dark matter we see familiar organic patterns emerge; the fronds of dark matter spanning galaxies could be the spreading branches of trees or the veins under our skin. The realm of abstract thought Plato called The Forms is where ideals reside, outside the limitations of the physical world and where, if anywhere, paradise might be found.

Some work by the other Laboratory of Dark Matter artists was new, some reworked or given new context

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Amy Gear Nudge – (Painting on unstretched canvas)  Reflecting on video footage from a Women’s Self Defence and Green Screen Workshop run in collaboration with martial arts expert Jiff Higman, the work employs the body as a tool to help describe the incomprehensible notion that only 5% of the universe is visible to us; the bodily contact through self-defence actions related to the contact scientists are hoping for when a dark matter particle ‘nudges’ the nucleus of the target element (Xenon) and causes a recoil that can be recorded.

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Elizabeth Murton Connective Matter #3 – (Porcelain paper clay, LED lights, wire, yarn), a new site specific iteration in a series creating a connective web of black yarn and illuminated ceramic objects made by spinning clay, like the spinning which forms planets, stars and galaxies from the matter of the universe. We cannot see dark matter directly, only infer it indirectly from observations such as the spin of the galaxies and gravitational lensing and so must speculate its structure and role in the universe.

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KATE FAHEY Optimistic – (Copper and resin); Dark Adaptation – (Digital video with two channel audio) calling on lost lore and old forms of knowledge to negotiate technology and scientific advancement, the work seeks to establish a speculative relationship between dark matter, dark adaptation, the lectures of Rudolf Steiner on the practice of divining and John Carpenter’s film They Live, where the main character discovers sunglasses that reveal an alternative reality.  Dark adaptation refers to the ability of the eye to adjust to various levels of darkness and light.

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Daniel Clark Projected Chamber – (Giclée print) describes a potential space, a chamber that exists only through a distortion of light captured at the moment of creation.

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Veil – (Pigment on archival polyester) examines ways of visualising or mapping the invisible and the transference of imagery from intriguing and unexplained sources. A vinyl cutting machine was programmed to draw with a marker pen instead of to cut, reimagining the single line engraving of the Face of Christ, known as the Sudarium of Saint Veronica, by Claude Mellan from 1649.

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Luci Eldridge Untitled (Dark Matter, Reconstructed) – (3D print with silver leaf, privacy screen filter) In 2007, a group of NASA and ESA scientists led by Richard Massey constructed a three-dimensional map offering the first look at the web-like distribution of dark matter in the universe. This 3D model reassembles this data to present the invisible as a cluster of abstract forms. The intangible is objectified as a collection of shiny entities reminiscent of early sci-fi aesthetics.
Germanium Fragments I-VI – (Duotone photo-lithographs) Germanium is one of the elements often used in the detection of dark matter. The lithographs depict tiny fragments of this lustrous grey metalloid, the surfaces reflecting the dazzling lights of the scanner bed on which they were imaged. Combined, the prints and 3D model play with limits of visibility, the boundaries between surface and depth and the loss of any kind of sense of scale.

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Melanie King Cosmic Ray Oscillograph – (Phosphorescent spinning disc, solenoid, laser, data from LUX video credit: Euan James-Richards) A laser light is sporadically jolted across a rotating disc coated in phosphorescence by a solenoid translating wave form data captured from the Large Underground Xenon Dark Matter detector. The data is transformed to an audio signal using computer coding techniques and represents cosmic rays which have been detected along the way towards finding elusive dark matter. Cosmic Ray Oscillograph, Cameraless Photograph uses direct laser light onto Ilford Multigrade Resin Coated Paper Pearl.

1709 Sarah Gillett

Sarah Gillett The Case of the Gold Ring (research mapping wall) plots the discoveries made while tracing the history of her Mother’s gold ring; it’s unique personal journey as well as it’s cosmic origins. The ring becomes much more than a circle of gold as connections are made across space and time, from the boxing ring to the financial bullring and the asteroid belt.

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Peter Glasgow The Indicators of Illusive Ideas – (Audio and text) frames itself as an attempted commentary, and plays with the notion of producing a commentary on something in the world. It’s about language, and format, and ways of stringing ideas together. It finds a narrative about art practice within another narrative from popular culture, speculating on making in terms of loyalty and legitimacy. It is a contemplation on the commentaries that run alongside a process; the attempts to get close to something but failing.

1709 Robert Good

Robert Good How To Know The Starry Heavens – (Text fragments) Selected text snippets from Edward Irving’s book of the same name are set on a vast dark backdrop to appear from a distance like a sparkling galaxy of stars but close up to spark our imagination with language full of wonder.1709 Cimm diazographo light

I was invited by the Institute of Physics to write a blog about Laboratory of Dark Matters  read it here –  IOP BLOG   …. The visit to Boulby Mine was a catalyst for us to develop new artworks reflecting our personal responses to dark matter research and the broader issues it touches upon…

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As a satellite event to the exhibition at Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum we had additional sponsorship from the Institute of Physics to host an afternoon of talks at Whitby Museum as part of their summer sessions initiative to bring the arts and science together in a public forum. Emma Meehan from Boulby Underground Laboratory introduced a video tour of the facility led by Chris Toth who gave an entertaining and informative account of life 1100m below ground and the experiments that take place there.

Sara Gillett delivered her performative lecture ‘The Case of the Gold Ring’ that animates and coalesces her research presented in the exhibition and Dr Cham Ghag gave another of his incredible accessible lectures on what dark matter is not, what it might be and how it might be detected.

We were also joined by Dr Sarah Casey, artist collaborator in the brilliant project Dark Matters – Interrogating thresholds of (Im)perceptibility through Theoretical Cosmology, Fine Art & Anthropology of science,  an exciting study into radical imperceptibility or more specifically, the provocations and challenges presented to theoretical cosmology, fine art and anthropology of science, by entities, forces and dimensions that currently (or perhaps will always) exceed human and technological modes of sensing and comprehension.

1709 dark matters video

Encounters at the thresholds of human understanding, sensing, knowing, or the possibilities of relationship with the nonhuman – and the vulnerability and exhilaration that these cause – are intrinsic to the project’s methodology. On the one hand, claims from cosmology that 95% of the universe is made up of invisible dark matter and dark energy, or that it is possible to mathematically predict the existence of many more dimensions than we are aware of in our known and knowable universe, presents immediate challenges for all three disciplines as they play at the limits of sensibility and relationality with regards to human to nonhuman encounter. How to think and practice with these provocations? On the other hand a different set of challenges are inevitably posed by the complexities and endless possibilities for (mis)understandings by interdisciplinary conversation.

1709 Sarah Casey 1

Sarah Casey

For the theoretical cosmologist, when faced with the imperceptible, the imperative is to produce and contest evidence – to ultimately reveal the imperceptible or negotiate the status of the role of speculation. For the artist, the interest lies in interrogating thresholds between the seen and unseen, known, unknown and unknowable, through art practice to enable critical and poetic reflection. For the anthropologist, the category of the imperceptible provokes a questioning and further pushing of the limits of human subjectivity, experience and sensibility in relation to the inhumanly (un)manifest.

The excellent accompanying Dark Matters  video is deservedly shortlisted for the AHRC research film of the year.

A sensual treat while back in London was Wayne McGregor and Random International’s collaboration +/- Human at the Roundhouse. Extraordinary dancers and extraordinary machines. Uplifting. Disquieting.

1709 plus minus human

Laboratory of Dark Matters final event at Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum was the dark matters themed open day with dark matter life drawing in invisible ink…

1709 CIMM Open Day dark matter life drawing

…make a dark matter particle plane and fly it to hit the xenon nucleus target……

1709 xenon nucleus target

…tours of the exhibition…..

1709 CIMM Open Day gallery tour (2)

…Robert Good reading from Edward Irving’s 1905 book How To Know the Starry Heavens. He was also encouraging visitors on the day to write their own snippets for a group collage in reply to – What do you think about when you look up at the sky at night?

1709 Robert Good 2

Lots of other activities like Hunt the WIMPS where small shapes denoting particles that were not WIMPS were hidden around the museum site  –  these could be found because they were not WIMPS…

1709 CIMM Open Day Activitiy tent

….Chris Toth and Emma Meehan from Boulby Underground Laboratory were on hand to answer the science questions and help out with a dark matter quiz…

and a final chance to see cosmic particle trails in the cloud chamber.

1709 cloud chamber1709 cosmic trail

I met Jessie Sheffield and Lauren Ilsley during a cloud chamber workshop at Guest Projects. We subsequently found we shared interests in how we perceive the world around us and I was invited to join [ALLOY] in presenting new work for the exhibition Supposedly Predictable Phenomenon at no format Gallery as part of Deptford X.

Planning new work my first thoughts were naturally Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and thinking about natural phenomena. The shape of a raindrop, bacteria, magnets, wind, water, electricity, bending light, bouncing photons, dark photons, optic boom, special relativity. I get fixated on the 12 sides of the universe and start mapping out a sequence of 12.

1708 studio test

My studio is too small. I think about decisions, prisms, scattered light. If I use steel I could use magnets. I don’t have time to etch plates and print them. I think about quantum leaps, band widths and atoms. Electrons appearing and disappearing. Moving between possible multiverses. Transforming in new configurations. Circling the nucleus. A portal. A panorama. A dopler shift. How to be random?  I throw ink soaked kitchen roll and mark the spot on twelve targets.

1709 random start points

I decide to use softground on aluminium – an unpredictable process

1709 applying softground

Charbonnel softground smells of woodsmoke. It feels right for autumn. I draw concentric circles into the wax

A satisfying peel

Nature echoing art again.

The etching process is full of rich colours and smells. Softground on aluminium in copper sulphate is a violent etch. The heat is palpable before I reach in to pull out the plate, the wax bubbles and the blue solution darkens and smokes; I pull the plate out when it feels that any longer, it might ignite

1709 etch process

it already feels cosmic

1709 removing stopout

Each plate takes a long day to prepare; sanding and degreasing, painstakingly rolling on the softground for an even coating , fixing the paper taught and drawing with enough pressure to imprint into the wax, peeling away the image with the paper and finally etching.

1709 peel and etch (1)

Aluminium has a grain that grabs any direct light and powers it into a bright band.  It seems to absorb and glow with any colour in the room. I really like this metal.

1709 test light on etch.jpg

 

1708 Boulby Mine

Time to return to the North East.

Amidst the preparations to take Laboratory of Dark Matters to Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum was the honour of being invited to sit on the judging panel for the Guest Projects residency proposals for next year. It was a big responsibility and involved quite a lot of hours reading through proposals but was also incredibly useful in understanding how to put together a successful proposal. In the end there just isn’t time to follow every link and read every nuance – it has to be clear and succinct. Was a real treat to have dinner with Yinka Shonibare and chat about why he decided to set up the residency program (- to give back and remain engaged, remembering why he became an artist in the first place) and to hear how he can cut through any nonsense in the proposals, he is looking for commitment, effort and originality and he has no truck with ‘men’s issues’. Was great fun and dinner was delicious.

1708 Yinka Shonibare

Another pleasure was receipt of the commissioned essay responding to the ideas that surfaced during Laboratory of Dark Matters from Chantal Faust. It is a text that can be read over and over and keep giving. It will be published to coincide with international Dark Matter Day on 31st October in an original layout by Daniel Clark.

1708 publication

Having secured funding from the IOP and STFC we were able to install the exhibition at Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum in July just in time for the tourists visiting over the summer holidays. This is where the funding we received really helped,  covering our transport and accommodation costs, artwork materials, printing and general installation. It was also good to be able to pay artist fees, enabling artists who work freelance and do not have regular salaried income or research grants to be able to participate.

Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum were excited by the prospect of hosting an exhibition on dark matter and the local connections to Boulby Mine just 8 miles up the road.

1708 CIMM

We were met by real warmth and a can do attitude from everyone at the museum. This was the first time they had hosted an exhibition of contemporary art and we were away from our usual networks of support and infrastructure so it was a learning curve for us all.

One of the main challenges for us working in a remote location was travelling and forward planning to have everything we needed when we got there. We had to rely heavily on the museum for marketing and preparations for our visit. We were very lucky to be hosted by a venue that offered us so much support – they totally transformed this room ready for us to install our artworks

1708 CIMM before

We rented a cottage in the local village of Hinderwell, which coincided with their scarecrow festival, while we were spending time at the museum installing work.

1708 Hinderwell Scarecrow

Artist Robert Good joined us at the mining museum to present an ambitious installation – How To Know The Starry Heavens  – a billboard sized collage of text snippets selected from Edward Irving’s book of the same name written in 1905.1708 Robert Good Installing

Elizabeth Murton installed a new site specific iteration of Connective Matter #3, a web of black yarn and illuminated ceramic objects made by spinning clay, like the spinning which forms planets, stars and galaxies from the matter of the universe.

1708 Elizabeth Murton installing

I tried a new configuration of The Forms in a dodecahedron net formation over the stairwell.

1708 CIMM install The Forms plan

Mapping out the universe/

1708 CIMM install The Forms

/mapping out the exhibition space

1708 CIMM installation in progress

1708 CIMM installation in progress 2

We made a visit to meet the excellent team at Whitby Museum in preparation for the afternoon of talks we were planning as part of the Institute of Physics Summer Sessions initiative.

1708 Whitby Museum

Our Private View was very well attended by people local to the mining museum, the Board of  Trustees including Vice-Chair Fr. Adam Gaunt and even Mr Barry Dodd CBE Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire who gave a speech commending the museum on their enterprise and promising to mention his visit in his report to the Queen.

1708 Private View

Boulby Underground Laboratory was well represented by scientists Chris Toth and Emma Meehan. The last time we met was over a year ago and 1100m underground.

1708 CIMM PV

We ran a series of workshops developed from those at Guest Projects. We wanted our workshops to be grounded in science and to also have a creative element. Thinking about different ways of making the invisible visible, the cloud chamber workshop was a good way of showing the activity of particles around us that we are unaware of until we see the trails they leave as they pass through and around us as they hurtle across our world.

1708 CIMM Cloud Chamber

I don’t think we experienced the same level of  particle activity as we did in London and I’m not sure why that was. 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.

1708 cosmic trail

Melanie King ran more of her illuminating workshops expanding on her Cosmic Ray Oscillograph ideas explored in the exhibition, allowing participants to experiment with phosphorescent powder and laser lights.

Events were underway….

1708 dry ice