Archives for posts with tag: Dark Matter

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.

 

1709 diazographo 1

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.

1709 The Forms
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

1709 CIMM exhibition 2

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.

1709 Elizabeth Murton

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.

1709 CIMM exhibition 3

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.

1709 Daniel Clark.jpg

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.

1709 CIMM EXH.

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.

1709 Luci Eldridge

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.

1709 Melanie King

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.

1709 Peter Glasgow

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…

1709 talks promo

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

 

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During the hiatus between the Laboratory of Dark Matters Guest Projects residency and installing at Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum was a chance to test out installation options and visit a few events.

1707 cloud chamber

Euan James-Richards created a great video for our residency at Guest Projects- view Laboratory Of Dark Matters video here.

There are a few alternative options for a dodecahedron net – this was my favourite.

1707 dodecahedron net

Connecting dark matter

1707 test The Forms

Testing in my studio which had turned into an unventilated sauna that day

1706 test The Forms 3

Heat is what makes it impossible to time travel backwards. I think. Though applying heat (200°C) to the plates again made the disperse colours that had vanished reappear………………temporarily

1707 heatpress colours reappear

Always the unexpected outcome.

1707 Minute Bodies

A real treat at the Barbican was a live accompaniment by Tindersticks to the exploratory science films made in the early 1900’s by F. Percy Smith, naturalist, inventor and documentarist. Link here- Soundtrack from documentary “Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F. Percy Smith” (2016) by Stuart A. Staples.

In his house in Southgate, the ex-goverment clerk Percy Smith films the life stories of hundreds of rare plants

As soon as I saw this documentation I knew I would like Oliver Beer.

1707 Oliver Beer 1

Is it bad to always think – oh this reminds me of… well this reminded me of Mark Leckey – The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things

1707 Oliver Beer 2

except these artefacts sang out, resonating with the air vibrating through their hollow forms

but it was still an interrogation of a collection of objects, squeezing out an essence/aura.

Then there was the building itself – Galerie Thaddeus Ropac – it’s space mapped through sound – the singers slamming their voices into the corners which threw them back, rising and echoing off the walls, harmonising to a crescendo until every inch of space vibrated

and there was no air left to breathe that wasn’t full of sound,  it was incredibly beautiful and absorbing. Also from the inside  out – an ear trumpet to the world beyond1707 Oliver Beer 5

street noises magnified

1707 Oliver Beer 6

Another sound experience was KlangHaus 800 Breaths at the South Bank Centre. More in earnest. More theatre.

1707 Klanghaus

Great to be escorted through the otherwise out of bounds roof spaces and enjoy the mash up of film projections and live music played LOUD amid the galvanised steel ducting and ventilation systems.

1707 breath box

Time for the Royal Society Summer Exhibition late night adults only serving poison cocktails.

1707 Royal Society Poison cocktail

Dr Kathryn Harkup gave us the low down on the most efficient murder tools.  Learnt that hemlock looks very like parsley; just 1 gram of nicotine (eaten) would kill you in 4 minutes – very quick for a poisoning; 100 cups of coffee in one day would kill you with caffeine  – but the water would get you first.

First stop –  Modelling the Invisible – Durham University – where I met David Cerdeno, a colleague of Cham Ghag who I had only emailed the week before about the LODM project- they had a device where you could set your dark matter detection experiment parameters, run the experiment  and warp forward in time to get your results – lots of lucky people were finding dark matter – shows optimism for their project which is going to be installed at Snowlab in Canada.

1707 Royal Society Summer Science DM

I was encouraged to track down and read a series of books by the physicist George Gamow explaining scientific theories through the character of Mr Tompkins who experiences dreams in which he enters alternative worlds where the physical constants have radically different values from those they have in the real world.

1707 Mr Tompkins

Had a chat about Large Hadron Collider computations that come from smashing particles together – 600 million collisions every second and the incredible number of particles that get produced and just how many types of particle there are  –  I was pointed in the direction of the particle physics bible. 

1707 Royal Society Summer Science Exh

Tried to ascertain what Gravitational Waves are made of but ended up no clearer,  they are bound up in spacetime and measuring them involves incredible accuracy but I couldn’t get to grips with what medium they use to travel across space – is it the as yet unobserved gravitons? Was informed that if I had a metre ruler and took it to Mars it would be shorter but so would I be, therefore I wouldn’t notice.

1707 gravitational waves

Quantum gravity is the sought after theory. It may turn out that the distinction between spacetime and matter is invalid at the Planck scale.
Every body gravitates because it bends the space surrounding it, changing the flow of time in the process – at the same time how a body moves in a gravitational field is determined by how it fits into warped spacetime.

I think these are phenomena I am too big or too small to notice.

Bit of a public engagement thing and free apps going on at www.laserlabs.org

Should I want to make a mini supernova I need a hydrogen based product about a mm across – hit it with a very powerful laser (the Orion Laser would do) until it reaches impossible temperatures – it will explode into a supernova that would fit in the palm of my hand. Ouch.

1507 Sun Factor

Susan Eyre Sun Factor

Apparently around 10 supernovas happen every second, bringing home the vastness of the universe. Some comfort is that our sun is too small to explode in this way. Plasma makes up a lot of the universe but on earth the temperature is too cool – plasma occurs when something gets so hot the constituent parts of the atom separate. Plasma is considered the fourth state of matter. The three other states are solid, liquid, and gas.

1707 plasma 1.jpg

There is a new type of laser called maser – masers amplify microwave signals from space, it doesn’t add any noise as the photons are fired into a crystal which absorbs them, then releases them all at the same time in coherence so they have less interference – all nicely lined up and much more intense – they used to need to be cryogenically cooled to work but now they have made it possible using a crystal to make all electrons move in the same way. This is good for receiving weak signals from space like communications from the Mars Rover.

1707 Luci Eldrige Mars reconstructed

Luci Eldridge Mars reconstructed

Having been on the peripheries of Melanie King’s Phosphorescence workshops as part of Dark Matters Lab. it was interesting to try to understand how fluorescence works.

1707 Phoshorescence workshop

Southampton University were on hand explaining how fluorescence works in coral but I think the principle is always the same –  the fluorescent substance takes in blue light and emits light in a different colour at a lower energy, the electrons drop down in their orbits of the nucleus to base level and then move back up. The substance atom would usually have a coiled shape and the electrons get lost in the coils. Coral is a shell structure containing symbiotic algae and the fluorescence helps protect the algae from too much sunlight in shallow waters.

I enjoyed the ritual based symmetry of Benedict Drew’s The Trickle Down Syndrome installation at Whitechapel gallery. Ready to worship. Fearful of outcomes.

1707 Benedict Drew

A full day at the Science Museum assessing Robot Futures: Vision and Touch in Robotics a symposium hosted by Luci Eldridge and Nina Trivedi bringing together engineers, scientists, cultural theorists and artists to explore notions of embodiment and telepresence in the field of robotics and in virtual and augmented realities. It began with a tour of the current Robots exhibition followed by a demonstration of ROBOT DE NIRO by Dr Petar Kormushev of Imperial College Robotics Lab.

1707 Robot De Niro

This is when we learnt that although huge progress has been made robots are still pretty limited in what they can do physically. Great programme of speakers including  Gregory Minnissale: Nonlinear Vision and Touch in Art, Science and Technology; Joey Holder: Ophiux; Nea Ehrlich: Envisioning 21st Century Techno-Vision: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Machine Witnessing in Non-Fiction; Bianca Westermann: Robotic Presences: Encounters with the Artificial between Social Companionship and Embodied Representation; Ruairi Glynn: Animacy Aesthetics; Maya Oppenheimer: The Robotics Division of the Dramaco Instrument Company Introduces the Ensocellorator Reliance Pro II; Stephen Ellis (via Skype): On the character, scope, and meaning of the spatial user interface to Virtual Environments: its recent and deep history; Simon Julier; Nicola Plant and Jeremiah Ambrose: Systems of Seeing: Virtual Gaze Interaction.

Next stop the North East.

1707 CIMM install.jpg

 

 

 

Hito Steryl’s essay In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective talks of groundlessness, the loss of a stable horizon  as we enter an age of remote viewing and constructed visualisations that can invoke disorientation and require acclimatisation to new perspectives. Gravity is explained by Einstein as the curvature of space time; we are constantly falling through space. A black hole occurs when a massive star runs out of fuel and collapses in upon itself, compacting its mass to be so dense it causes a deep pocket in space time so that anything falling into that hole beyond the event horizon has no chance of escape.

It may sound a little dramatic but when an event you have been focused on for so long is no longer on the horizon but you have passed into its gravitational field and are sucked into its vortex it can feel like free fall, you pass through so quickly and just keep falling.

At least we took some photographs on the way through. For many of these we are extremely grateful to Sara Lynd for capturing Laboratory of Dark Matters so expertly and considerately.

In the short space of time at Guest Projects between the Lab. Talks+ and the exhibition opening I worked on some images I had taken when running the cloud chamber.

1704 Open lab testing

The original intention had been to print images of cosmic particles from the cloud chamber onto acetate and fix them behind the etched aluminium plates on the dodecahedron frame, there would be a band of light inside that would rotate, scanning the universe.

1704 Open lab testing 2

In practise the cosmic particle images were lost behind the etched plates along with the open structure of the frame and the rotating light proved temperamental.

There was also a large expanse of wall available.

1704 Susan Eyre by Sara Lynd (5)

Susan Eyre The Forms photo Sara Lynd

The result was I have two works.

1704 Susan Eyre by Sara Lynd (1)

Susan Eyre Diazôgraphô photo Sara Lynd

The immutable truths Plato discovered in geometry belong to the realm of abstract thought he called The Forms. This is where ideals reside, outside the limitations of the physical world and where, if anywhere, paradise might be found.

1704 Susan Eyre

In visualisations of dark matter created from scientific data 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.

 

1704 Susan Eyre by Sara Lynd (4)

Susan Eyre The Forms (detail) photo Sara Lynd

 

These projected shadows of The Forms that govern the structures of our universe invoke a primordial response. Plato suggested we harbour memories of universal truths in our souls.

 

1704 Susan Eyre by Sara Lynd (3)

Susan Eyre Diazôgraphô photo Sara Lynd

 

The exhibition suddenly came together.

1704 Yinka Shonibare (1)

We were honoured by a visit from our lovely and generous host Yinka Shonibare.

1704 Yinka Shonibare (2)

and really appreciated his interest and chatting about our individual responses to dark matter research

1704 Amy Gear by Sara Lynd (2)

Amy Gear Nudge photo Sara Lynd

Amy Gear’s digital video work projected onto suspended body parts was edited from footage of the Women’s Self Defence and Green Screen Workshop that explored the visibility of women in the universe and the anticipation of the nucleus of a Xenon atom being nudged by a dark matter particle.

1704 Amy Gear by Sara Lynd (1)

Amy Gear Nudge photo Sara Lynd

We enjoyed the way the works overlapped with each other.

1704 Daniel Clark 2 by Sara Lynd (3)

Daniel Clark Veil photo Sara Lynd

Programming a vinyl cutting machine to draw with a marker pen instead of to cut, Daniel Clark created Veil, a reimagining of the single line engraving of the Face of Christ, known as the Sudarium of Saint Veronica, by Claude Mellan from 1649.

1704 Daniel Clark 2 by Sara Lynd (4)

Daniel Clark Veil photo Sara Lynd

Daniel also installed Edge-work, a series of radio receivers delineating the space with sound waves being received or distorted by the interference of the human form.

1704 Daniel Clark 2 by Sara Lynd (5)

Daniel Clark Edge-work photo Sara Lynd

Every so often the words of U.S. defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld echoed through the space… ‘ there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.’

In keeping with pinning down the unknowns is Peter Glasgow’s work.

1704 Peter Glasgow by Sara Lynd

Peter Glasgow The Indicators of Illusive Ideas photo Sara Lynd

Hints lie in the MDF stand and printed text, a DVD booklet from Game of Thrones. These are really props for a live performance when the text is richly spoken and like the text itself they make no claims to legitimacy.

1704 Luci Eldridge by Sara Lynd (1)

Luci Eldridge Untitled (Dark Matter, Reconstructed) photo Sara Lynd

Luci Eldridge’s 3D print with silver leaf, reflected on privacy screen, and scanned Germanium fragments isolated in the blackness of space take on metaphors of time-warp spaceships and thundering meteors.

1704 Luci Eldridge by Sara Lynd (2)

Luci Eldridge Germanium Fragments photo Sara Lynd

Sarah Gillett uses methodology borrowed from Private Investigators creating a detectives evidence board to map the history of a gold ring that began in supernova explosions billions of years ago, arriving on the earth through an asteroid bombardment and now sits on her mothers finger.

1704 Sarah Gillett by Sara Lynd (3)

Sarah Gillett The Case of the Gold Ring  photo Sara Lynd

The journey of the ring from raw element to love token brings the incomprehensible and the everyday together in a story we can relate to.

1704 Sarah Gillett by Sara Lynd (2)

It gives us pause to wonder at the origins of matter that surrounds us.

Kate Fahey takes us further into the subconscious

1704 Kate Fahey by Sara Lynd (1)

Kate Fahey Dark Adaptation (video still) photo Sara Lynd

How long does it take our eyes to adapt to darkness? What other ways of seeing exist?

1704 Kate Fahey by Sara Lynd (5)

Kate Fahey Optimistic photo Sara Lynd

What senses should we rely on? What role does intuition play?

1704 Kate Fahey by Sara Lynd (4)

Kate Fahey Divination Sticks photo Sara Lynd

Her video installation, live performance and emblematic sculptures draw on old forms of knowledge and refer back to the lectures of Rudolf Steiner to open a dialogue between ancient and modern technologies.

1704 Kate Fahey by Sara Lynd (3)

Kate Fahey Feelers photo Sara Lynd

There is a hypnotic allure created in the dark space where Melanie King’s Cosmic Ray Oscillograph operates. A laser light is sporadically jolted by a solenoid translating data from the LUX project to traverse a rotating disc coated in phosphorescent powder.

1704 Melanie King by Sara Lynd

Melanie King Cosmic Ray Oscillograph photo Sara Lynd

While we cannot see dark matter directly, only infer it indirectly from the spin of the galaxies and gravitational lensing we sense something is present and speculate its structure and role in the universe. Elizabeth Murton tests these theories, creating hand spun porcelain galaxies vulnerable to breaking apart, strung across the universe palpably supported by the threads of dark matter.

1704 Elizabeth Murton by Sarah Lynd

Elizabeth Murton Connective Matter photo Sara Lynd

End of residency Going Dark gathering begins

1704 Going Dark (9)

Late viewing opened with a performance curated by Kate Fahey. Tim Zercie, as spiritual scientist urges us to awaken, to open our eyes and our minds, to engage our senses and be transported aided by the mesmeric playing of uileann piper John Devine.

1704 Going Dark (7)

Peter Glasgow’s spoken contemplation on the commentaries that run alongside a process; the vagaries of trying to get close to something but failing.

1704 Going Dark Peter Glasgow (1)

Captivating storytelling in The Case of the Gold Ring from Sarah Gillett

1704 Going Dark (10)

Light dimming

1704 Going Dark (11)

Within that ordinary space were hidden the building blocks of the universe.

1704 Going Dark (12)

Dark matter allows structures in the universe to form by pulling matter into its gravitational field.

1704 Going Dark (8)

 

We decide to build a wall.

Add some signage designed by Daniel Clark and we are ready for our first Open Lab. at Guest Projects.

1704 Laboratory Open.jpg

The idea is that we work in the space and are open for visitors to drop in and see what we are up to and chat about the work and the ideas around dark matter research that we are investigating.

We set up a reading table and information hub with artist profiles, research material and info on Boulby Underground Laboratory   which we visited last spring to discover for ourselves this hidden world where dark matter research and experiments take place.

During the first two weeks at Guest Projects we ran workshops and tested ideas in the space.

Chroma-key body suits needed a test run from Amy Gear.

1704 Amy greensuit

Elizabeth Murton was considering dark matter as a connective material in the universe, setting up a tension of competing forces that may be as powerful as those of fission and fusion.

1704 Elizabeth Murton testing

I ran Cloud Chamber workshops.

1704 Cloud Chamber workshop.jpg

Thankfully everyone was able to ‘capture’ their own particle trails in the mini cloud chambers they made and were duly captivated by the tiny missiles they observed.

1704 Cosmic Trail 6

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.

1704 Cosmic Trail 8

It is a sealed environment containing a supersaturated vapour of pure alcohol, warmed at the top and super cooled at the bottom with dry ice.

1704 dry ice remains.jpg

Charged particles passing through the chamber cause the alcohol molecules to gain an electric polarisation and condense into liquid droplets which look like tiny airplane trails.

1704 Cosmic Trail 9

To see the trails the particles leave as they tear through the cloud it must be very dark with a bright light shining across the floor of the chamber.

1704 Cloud Chamber setup

The activity takes place very near to the base of the chamber just a centimetre or two deep.

1704 Cosmic Trail 5

There is so much activity going on and these particles are whizzing through us all the time.

1704 Cosmic Trail 4

It seems we shouldn’t actually see some of these visitors at all but due to the weird way special relativity works we do. Muons are typically produced around 15 km up in the atmosphere, a distance which takes around 50 microseconds to cross at the speed of light— this is over 20 muon lifetimes and so they shouldn’t be able to make it to the earth’s surface before they decay.

1704 Cosmic Trail 1

However, since they are travelling quite near the speed of light, time in their frame of reference is significantly dilated as seen by an observer on Earth, meaning that a significant fraction can, in fact, make it to the surface. I have to be honest I can’t get my head round this but I love the idea of a particle having its own time frame of reference.

1704 Cosmic Trail 3

As well as Muons we see particles from background radiation. Radioactivity is a random naturally occurring process.  Alpha particles are released by high mass, proton rich unstable nuclei. The alpha particle is a helium nucleus; it consists of two protons and two neutrons. It contains no electrons to balance the two positively charged protons. Alpha particles are positively charged particles moving at high speeds. Beta particles are emitted by neutron rich unstable nuclei. Beta particles are high energy electrons. These electrons are not electrons from the electron shells around the nucleus, but are generated when a neutron in the nucleus splits to form a proton and an accompanying electron. Beta particles are negatively charged. For the particle to cause a trail it must have a charge which will ionize the vapour as they pass through, we don’t see neutrinos as they do not have a charge.

1704 Cosmic Trail 2Once you have the right set up it’s surprisingly easy to witness this turbulent landscape with it’s own little microclimate.

1704 frosty edges

Melanie King ran a day of hypnotic workshops painting with phosphorescent powder and using lasers to activate the phosphorescence which absorbs light then slowly releases it, allowing patterns to build up, layer and fade away.

1704 Melanie King phosphorence workshop 1

1704 melanie king Phosphoresence

The very knowledgeable Jennifer Crouch founder of Making in Transit and member of Art/Physics collective Jiggling Atoms ran a Super Symmetry workshop for us transforming the space with shimmering two way reflective veils

1704 Jennifer Crouch Super Symmetry 1

explaining the different types of particle and how easy or not it is to detect them, the contested theories of supersymmetry and the use of a black mirror (Claude glass) for observing nature

new particles were ‘created’, observed and drawn

Amy Gear invited anyone who identified as female to join a green screen/self defence workshop under the guidance of martial arts expert Jiff Higman to explore the visibility of women in the universe. The points of body contact echoing the anticipated nudge of the target xenon nucleus when a dark matter particle hits it and causes a scintillation of energy that the scientists can record. In the final video work only 5% of the bodies will be visible.

There was a spellbinding Hour Of Listening curated by Jennifer Boyd and Amy Pettifer. As the light faded we listened to Dark Matter Gushes From The Mouth Into The Open Air – ‘Latent gurgles, murmurs rising… a tone begins in the depths of the belly and strives in the throat before escaping – a burst of vocal dark matter. ‘

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Jocelyn Monroe, Professor of Physics at the Royal Holloway University of London kindly shared some links to her research areas.

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She works in an underground laboratory SNOLAB where the DEAP dark matter search experiment takes place in Canada. She also works with the The Dark Matter Time Projection Chamber project and has written an article for symmetry magazine about the search for the dark matter wind which could give an idea of the direction dark matter comes from.

Lecturer in accelerator physics at Lancaster University and a member of the Cockcroft Institute of Accelerator Science and Technology, Ian Bailey shared his fascinating research searching for new particles and forces at both high energies and low energies.

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He works with microwave cavities that are in some ways similar to household microwave ovens to look for the effects of hypothetical particles such as axions or hidden-sector photons. These particles are sometimes generically called weakly-interacting slim particles (WISPs). Just like their heavy cousins, the WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles), WISPs may also be a major constituent of dark matter.

1704 Ian Bailey Cascade cooling

If they exist, hidden-sector photons (dark photons) would allow normal light to penetrate through walls in a way that it cannot normally do. The experiments that look for this effect are called light-shining-through-a-wall experiments and one such experiment has taken place at the Cockcroft Institute recently. It may be possible that dark matter could have subtle effects on the motion of light.

So from looking into this a bit it seems regular photons are changed to dark photons (axions)  by applying an intense magnetic field or maybe some other force – a barrier is set up that regular photons cannot pass through but dark photons can – the dark photons pass through the barrier and then turn back into visible photons which can be detected.

He is also involved in the design of the International Linear Collider, a potential new 31 km long particle accelerator which will try to produce WIMPS by colliding intense beams of electrons and positrons (anti-electrons) at high energies.

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I was invited to write a lead article for Run Riot listing site of cultural happenings in and around London explaining how the project had come about. Great dealing with the lovely Ava Szajna-Hopgood.

Elizabeth Murton curated and expertly chaired our Lab. Talks+ sessions. We opened with a live link to Boulby Underground Laboratory for a remote tour with lab. director Prof Sean Paling who made our visit to the lab. last year possible.

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Chair of UK Dark Matter, LUX collaborator, UCL lecturer and enormously generous supporter of our project Dr Cham Ghag gave us an in depth talk on the latest dark matter detection experiments and theories

1704 Guest Projects symposium Cham Ghag

Extraordinarily super clever Libby Heaney had us entangled with quantum theory, weaving and whispering and negotiating being in two states at the same time.

UCL History and Philosophy of Science lecturer Dr Chiara Ambrosio gave us her insights on visualising the invisible, and what can happen when art and science collide

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ending with a panel discussion joined by Kate Fahey on ideas from the day

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and lots of conversations over supper…

I had finished etching the pentagon plates and I had made the dodecahedron frame – it was time to put it all together.

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I did a test fit. Then spent 5 hours back at home heat pressing the plates with sublimation images; hints of dream worlds.

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I was quite pleased with the results and went to bed

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In the morning the colours had undergone some reaction to the metal and had either vanished or changed to a sort of purple hue (funnily enough often used to colour dark matter visualisations). I was also feeling I might just be making a large Moroccan lamp.

Time to embrace unexpected outcomes….

 

So I entered that tunnel where everything blurs and I shoot through the ether at uncontrollable speeds slammed rigid as I am blasted forward barely able to make any alterations to my predestined trajectory. Those faraway deadlines have arrived. I am writing from the middle. Trying to recall events that have passed unrecorded as the avalanche of admin hits home. Yet more funding applications, press releases, ticketing sites, contracts and applying emotional balm to frayed nerves.

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And now I am slung out the other side. Limp and disorientated, I will try to make sense of what just happened.

I got myself an orange boiler suit in preparation.

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I was generously given dark matter visualisation images by Ralf Kaehler and astrophysicist Tom Abel from the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), a joint institute of Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory who worked on Terrence Malick’s IMAX documentary  “Voyage of time”.

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From these images I created my own interpretations for screen printing sugar lift

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The image was screen-printed on both sides of an aluminium pentagon

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using a sugar lift solution of camp coffee and Indalca paste, really sticky sweet and two coats are good, allowing the first to dry before applying the second

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The plates are then immersed in a bitumen bath

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the pooling of dark matter

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Once dried they are put in hot water, bubbles gather and the image emerges

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ready to etch (a dodecahedron has 12 sides)

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copper sulphate that catches in the throat, salt on the lips + hot water (500g+ 500g +3l )

a light froth and a pink blush quickly spreads

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fizzing and belching so that the plates must be weighted down, the copper separates out to appear as a thick red lichen to be scooped out, bath refreshed four times and after eight hours the metal erodes and restoration can begin

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galaxies appear as light breaks through

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In the meantime I did the first cloud chamber test to see the trails of cosmic particles.

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It was incredible. Mesmerizing. Captivating. So much activity going on all the time that we are unaware of.

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It all happens on such a small scale but draws you in to this strange landscape

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I have Alan Walker of The University of Edinburgh to thank for all his advice on building the chamber and for providing the anodised aluminium plate that really helps ensure a good result.

I learnt some interesting things from Paul Hill of Awesome Astronomy in his talk Dark Side of the Moon. That all the metal we use on earth has been deposited here by asteroid and other collisions from outer space – any metal that was part of the original lump of matter that became earth is trapped molten at the core. That the moon doesn’t pull but push – I am still trying to come to terms with it being me moving not the sea when the tides turn. This needs further research.

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Another mind bending talk was Adventures in the 7th Dimension a UCL lunchtime talk from Dr Jason Lotay. I knew I was at the right lecture when he said one of his favourite shapes was the dodecahedron. In the 4th dimension it becomes a hyperdodecahedron made up of 120 dodecahedra. We can never really see it – it is always a projection back into 3D.

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I thought I was following, then suddenly from the 4th dimension we are in the 7th and I don’t know how I got there. Then I remembered it’s all maths. I can’t visualise this.

As you go up in dimensions there can be more symmetries. There are special symmetries that happen only in the 7th dimension. This is Holonomy G2. We don’t know how to combine quantum theory with gravity. String theory says you replace dots with lines – instead of having zero dimensions they are one dimensional. Lines can be curved, geometry can start to appear. M-theory combines all the different string theories together into one but you have to have 11 dimensions in the universe for this to work.

11 = 4 (3D + time) +7 (G2)    =  serendipity

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Then a different experience that was purely sensual, Tree of Codes had me in tears for sheer pleasure. Taking inspiration from Jonathan Safran Foer’s book of the same name, which was physically carved out of the pages of another novel,

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Wayne McGregor,  Jamie xx and Olafur Eliasson collaborate seamlessly

Tree of Codes

a successful cross discipline collaboration is not about sharing knowledge but about tolerating each others ignorance…in this way gaps open for others to enter

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Hackney Today

Then it was time to move into Guest Projects….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big news is that Laboratory of Dark Matters has been awarded Arts Council England funding. I am still struggling to believe. We are also getting some support from the Institute of Physics for when we take the exhibition to the North East. This news is such a boost for our project and has unleashed a rush of activity, but also a torrent of admin. I had been making some progress with the sculpture.1702 Dodecahedron.jpg

Results of a day at Woodhall Barn Workshop under the steady supervision of wood wizard Christopher Hall and I am very chuffed with my dodecahedron frame.  The angles have to be cut so very accurately using a table saw and digital level to achieve the precision needed for it to fit together. It’s basically 30 identical pieces ripped from 2 x 4 pine at 31.7° and mitred at 36° and glued together. We got these top tips ‘How to make a dodecahedron the easy way’ from YouTube. It was not easy.

Reading Plato’s Timaeus and Critias I was hoping to find some more information on the relationship drawn between the dodecahedron and the cosmos but have found no further explanations. Plato describes a primitive chaos where the four elements of fire, earth, water and air formed from a turbulent mix of ‘being’, ‘space’ and ‘becoming’ to be assigned by their solid or fluid characteristics to the tetrahedron, cube, icosahedron and octahedron respectively then adds .. ‘There still remained a fifth construction, which the god used for embroidering the constellations on the whole heaven’…it’s almost an afterthought or maybe just too illusive to elaborate on.

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I have started the experiment with sugar lift and etching aluminium to see if I can bite right through the plate and keep the structure of the image. I screenprinted a sugar lift mixture onto the plate on both sides. The image was adapted from data visualisation of dark matter kindly supplied by Ralf Kaehler of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology.

I drenched the plate in stop-out and left it to dry before immersing in hot water which dissolves the sugar and reveals the image. It was surprising how much fine detail came through. Though one side of the plate was always better than the other – this could be due to lots of things that are hard to control accurately like concentration of sugar, thickness of stop-out, temperature of water. A primitive chaos.

1702-detail-stopoutI am etching in saline sulphate as it gives quite a deep etch into aluminium.

great colours and quite mesmerising to watch as thick red deposits appear

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Chemistry at work, lot of bubbles and heat. Several hours later after lots of dips, touch up of stop-out and fresh saline sulphate baths, light begins to appear through the plate

Cleaned up to see the results and decide where to go from here

The cloud chamber is also coming along. With the help of next door cutting my wood I have assembled the box. Even the insulation for the dry ice is cosmic.

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Had an interesting day listening to panel discussions and talks at Belief and Beyond Belief on the South Bank. Topics covered were Science versus Religion: Do We Need to Choose? ; Quantum Theology: When Faith Meets Science; The Big Bang and Beyond; God of the Gaps. Religion and science ask the same questions but have different mechanisms to answer those questions.

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These were some of the points discussed – When we look to understand the human condition and question the meaning of life, what truth are we seeking? The scientists present seemed more content to live in doubt but appreciated aspects that religion offered such as community, emotional beliefs and quiet reflection. The difficulty for scientists was in accepting that religions think they are based on truth. This religious truth comes from faith and cannot be tested as the argument is that God is beyond definition and therefore transcends understanding. It may be that searching for answers to resolve uncertainty is a survival trigger that persists as a craving in the human condition. .

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The methodology of science is devised to look at facts unbiased, it has no moral or ethical framework. A theory in science is not a hypothesis. The scientists said they get frustrated by people saying they don’t ‘believe’ in their theory when they are based on facts. A theory may begin with a lot of intuition and wondering and develop like an artistic process of discovery within parameters; but then there is lots of testing, running the ideas through a sieve to filter out possible truths. A theory may start in mathematics but then is brought into the realm of language and the visual to express what we don’t understand. Georges Lemaitre in 1931 chose to explain his theory of the origin of the universe as “the Cosmic Egg exploding at the moment of the creation”; this became known as the Big Bang Theory. Pervasive metaphors colour our perceptions.

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Science is perfectly happy to interrogate contradictory theories at the same time unlike religious belief which involves accepting one truth. All religions can’t all be right but their own belief in one truth makes it hard for them to accept a non-exclusivity of truths. Science cannot offer us all the answers. There cannot be a theory of everything, there must always be a gap in our understanding because to understand everything we would have to be omniscient – to look in from the outside. Or step outside of our own subjectivity. Thinking about this I went back to look at Schrödinger’s Mind and Matter, particularly his chapter Science and Religion which asks if science can help answer the questions of a possible eternity. Plato was the first to frame the idea of a timeless existence, more real than our actual existence which he saw as a shadow from some realm of ideas. He looked at the patterns in mathematics and geometry embedded in the structures around him that were determined by reason and logic and concluded that mathematical truth is timeless; discovery of it does not bring it into existence, it never changes and goes on forever. Schrödinger opens up further ideas on the indestructibly of the mind using the theories of space/time from Einstein and world view from Kant. This moves into more mind bending ideas, that theoretically time can be reversed. Here I struggle. The theories when pulled from mathematics into language sound fantastical, yet I am asked to believe mathematics is a truth. Then we come to the quantum world where observation and measurement do not apply. And so on.

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Conclusions were: Our consciousness is the intrinsic unknown. We have to seek paradise even if it is unachievable and live our lives in a precarious state of doubt.

Analogies can be made, replacing religion with art. Making in Transit hosted an evening at Cube exploring art and science in collaborative situations to discuss the strengths and challenges in bringing them together. ‘Both physics and art thrive on the premise that there is structure as well as genuine ambiguity and mystery in the universe and although  very different in terms of practice, they both depend on an ability to visualise or conceptualise abstract notions and patterns.

There was an introduction to the world of Jiggling Atoms, a collaboration of scientists and artists who bring fun to workshops and experiments in arts and physics. Named after the visual interpretations of maths formula from Richard Feynman they display the same constant energy.

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Dr Daniel Glaser the director of the new Science Gallery London made the point that a successful collaboration is not so much about sharing knowledge but about tolerating each others ignorance, in this way a gap can be opened up for those who know nothing about either field to enter. The role of each party isn’t always clear or equal. He suggested the platonic ideal of ‘the essence’ was something artists could extract and Dr Chiara Ambrosio  suggested art should question the boundaries of science. Her interests are in the use of images to produce knowledge such as when high speed photography or microscopes revealed the secrets of the natural world. It was not as symmetrical as we supposed.

I returned the next day for an evening Imaging the Invisible to explore how we observe what we can’t see. Scientists and artists gave their perspectives on the invisible and how it operates in their own spheres. Bernard Siow and Yolanda Ohene from the Centre for Biomedical Imaging at UCL were passionate about the body imaging technologies they are developing, enabling extraordinary visualisations such as the muscle fibres of the heart.

Artist Dave Farnham has created sculptures through 3D print technologies that replicated internal structures from his friends who were going through medical scanning procedures due to illness.

Particle physicist Dr Ben Still introduced us to the world’s largest cosmic particle observation device The Super Kamiokande, set 1,000m underground in Japan.

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Using 50,000 tons of ultra-pure water as a target to detect neutrinos. The quantity is to increase the chances of a collision.  A neutrino interaction with the electrons or nuclei of water can produce a charged particle that moves faster than the speed of light in water. This creates a cone of light known as Cherenkov radiation, which is the optical equivalent to a sonic boom. The neutrino is a subatomic particle able to travel through matter without interacting, they have no electric charge and almost zero mass.

Lead is what we think of as most impenetrable. A lead lined coffin for Alexander Litvinenko. However it would take a light-year of lead, to stop just half of the neutrinos flying through it.

Anselm Kiefer Walhalla at White Cube Bermondsey weights the air with lead. We are in the lead coffin.

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Alternative materiality at Chain by 15 an artist led exhibition in Peckham presented an Itchy and Scratchy world brought together by the Pokémon generation.

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The Head Must Go cross stitch on linen by the uncompromising talent Hadas Auerbach was a delicate and poignant highlight.

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Enjoyed the beautifully staged performance  –Venus Anadyomene -a collaborative 3 channel video and performance by Verity Birt, Holly Graham and Richard Forbes Hamilton; part of ongoing research around de-colonising histories, feminist narrative and collective voice.

The layering of voices, looping narrative and rhythmic pulse hooked into lost voices of history transporting the audience into a dreamlike territory.

I was invited by Lumen:School of Light to show everydaymatters at Ugly Duck for a weekend showcase of artists who explore the relationship between astronomy and light.

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everydaymatters dissects landscapes to discover the hidden structures of the universe.

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Images taken from everyday prosaic paradises such as Paradise Road, Stockwell and Paradise Row Bethnal Green, are divided into constituent proportions of dark energy, dark matter and the visible world opening the spaces between what is seen and unseen.

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Anna Gray’s water filled glass sculpture gave endless pleasure

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the mini planetarium experience from Sylvana Lautier, Rose Leahy and Kim Yip Tong was blissful immersion

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Spaceheads & Rucksack Cinema multi media performance was funky

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Was quite energising to set up and take down over one weekend with lots going on

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We have our second venue confirmed and the first of our funding applications submitted for Laboratory of Dark Matters.

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I have been to see the lovely people at Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum who will be hosting our exhibition from July to September 2017.

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We are very pleased to be able to install Laboratory of Dark Matters so close to Boulby Mine, in the North East of England. This is a working mine that is also home to the underground laboratory we visited in spring to see for ourselves where scientists conduct research into dark matter and other projects that benefit from this extreme environment.

Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum has secured funding for major expansion over the next year with the whole site being redeveloped. This period of change gives us the opportunity to be inventive with the spaces that are available.

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Chatting with our dark matter consultant astro-physicist Dr. Cham Ghag about the different work the artists will be making for Laboratory of Dark Matters I was explaining my own interest in the symbolism Plato assigned to the dodecahedron as the shape that holds the constellations in the heavens and how I might use this as a metaphor for dark matter as the substance holding the universe together;

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Cham recommended I read some essays by Erwin Schrödinger that explore the thoughts of ancients and how they have gone on to impact our understanding of the universe. As Roger Penrose says in his forward to Nature and the Greeks and Science and Humanism ‘Schrödinger clearly believes that there is more to the study of ancient history than mere factual curiosity and a concern with the origins of present-day thinking.’  He is looking back to a time before science and the metaphysical parted company and set out on different paths to answer the same questions about matter and consciousness. Schrödinger explains the history of this rift and the consequences of separating reason from the senses; the paradox of an objective perspective and the limitations of science that excludes the imagination. I read What is Life? followed by Nature and the Greeks, while in Greece which seemed appropriate.

I also read Plato A Very Short Introduction by Julia Annas and have learnt more about his ideas and what was really meant by platonic relationships.

Plato was very concerned about what it meant to have knowledge and how people can be misled or manipulated by others.  From this standpoint he was not keen on the theatre or the popular epic poetry of the time that used seductive methods to persuade an audience of things that were not true. 1610-amphitheatre

He believed philosophy was a search for truth and his academy was a place to learn how to think for oneself through debate and come to your own conclusions. Not great as an artist to find Plato had no time to indulge the imagination but going back over what he was saying I think he had a valid concern over the sort of entertainment that is spoon fed to society and becomes part of a culture that then has influence on the way people live. It is the pap of the media that does not challenge but anaesthetises society. I am hoping he would approve of our endeavours to question the origins of faith and our relationship to matter.

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Visiting Athens I had the opportunity to experience the majesty of the Parthenon and Temple of Zeus while trying to imagine the people I was reading about spending their days here debating the most fundamental and difficult questions about existence.

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An interest in history and archaeology led the progressive and pioneering Gertrude Bell, born 1868 in County Durham in the North East, to visit and fall in love with the lands and people of the middle east. She led an extraordinary life at the centre of middle eastern politics at a time when women were rarely conceded any powers at all. Letters From Baghdad, premiering at the London Film Festival, was a moving portrayal of her life told in her own words and those of her contemporaries recorded in evocative letters and archive film footage. This wonderful tribute to a woman previously written out of history was researched and directed by Zeva Oelbaum and Sabine Krayenbühl, founders of  Between the Rivers Productions, a name derived from the ancient word “Mesopotamia.”

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Another brilliant film documentary was Dawson City: Frozen Time; the bizarre true history of a collection of around 500 silver nitrate movie films from the 1910s – 1920s, which were lost for over 50 years until being discovered buried in a sub-arctic swimming pool deep in the Yukon Territory.

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Meticulously brought to us by Bill Morrison, clips from the reclaimed  films form the backdrop to the history of Dawson City, a once important hunting and fishing camp for a nomadic First Nation tribe known as Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in that became the centre of the Klondike gold rush displacing the native people as the area was swamped with 100,000 prospectors hoping to make their fortune.

The talk Going Round in Circles – from the roundabout to the quark delivered at Manchester University and the RCA as part of the final year of my MA programme was a reflection on the development of my practice and brought home the themes that repeat themselves within my work.

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The circle appears in the  banality of a grey suburban roundabout that seemed a metaphor for a routine existence, becoming a catalyst in the search for paradise and its origins of Pairi Daêza and going on to question the matter that these dreams are made of.

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William Blake The Ancient of Days frontispiece to Europe a Prophecy depicting Urizen separating light and darkness

I was therefore interested to visit Seeing Round Corners at Turner Contemporary Margate. They had thrown the net wide in drawing together artists that have used the circle in their work or responded to its significance as  symbol.  I am often disappointed by this scale of exhibition that packs so much in. Too much information at once. Annoyingly there was no catalogue and no photography allowed. I have to rely on remembering what I saw.

More circles to be seen in the beautiful collection of works in  Romanticism and the Sublime curated by Jonty Levin at Lubmirov/Angus-Hughes.

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Mohammed Ashfaq Black Hole III

The most mysterious circle of them all, the black hole was the subject of Professor Joseph Silk’s Gresham College lecture. We learnt there are two types of black hole – stellar black holes formed when massive stars die and supermassive black holes which sit at the centre of galaxies and probably formed along with the galaxies. The existence of black holes was first proposed by clergyman and philosopher John Mitchell in 1783. Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916 and in 2016 this phenomena was finally observed providing direct evidence for the existence of black holes.

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The spiritual vs physical human needs- Mike Kelley showing at Hauser and Wirth, recreates a piece of social architecture from the Chinese-America community of LA, reflecting a unique cultural collision in Framed and Frame.

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Also at Turner Contemproary Margate was Yinka Shonibare’s The British Library, a seductively beautiful celebration of all that we have gained from first and second generation immigrants who have enriched British society with brilliant literature.

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‘Is this that pinpoint which is divided by sword and fire among so many nations?  How ridiculous are the boundaries of mortals.’ Seneca AD 65

Haunting work by Lygia Pape at Hauser and Wirth exploring the relationship between reason and nature through geometric shapes.

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I was interested to read how she followed intuition when creating her woodcuts; to let relationships between shapes be guided by an underlying sense of ‘magnetisation’. The artworks created then embody and emanate energy which creates ‘magnetised space’ into which the viewer is drawn adding another dimension to the field.

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Forces are at play but gently held, as in the fragile balance of pigment particles, cascading and spreading in Ttéia n.7

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and the silver threads of Ttéia 1C that appear and disappear as ephemerally as a shaft of sunlight.

Between Materials and Mechanisms from Elizabeth Murton; an exhibition with associated events and symposium was hosted by UH Galleries at The University of Hertfordshire. This work looked at connectivity and the structures that physically bind us together, spanning our body, architecture and space to explore how interactions of ourselves with matter reflect in our consciousness and effect our emotions.

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Bringing together ideas and experts from fields including anatomy, philosophy, dance, visual arts and Zen Buddhism we enjoyed a day of theory and physical engagement which really brought home these relationships through dynamic experience.

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Prof. Diana Cooles’  keynote speech Dirt- A New Materialist Approach helped set the background to the history of materialism from the old materialism of the first thinkers like Plato where consciousness and matter are separate to Freud and Marx where theory and matter are integrated. New materialism rejects the duality of mind and matter and believes that agency is not just a human capacity. Bruno Latour is a prime exponent of flat ontology where everything is equal in its capacity to be an actant. Prof. Coole went on to give examples of the agency of matter, looking at dirt and our relationship to it. She drew on the writing of social anthropologist Mary Douglas who classified dirt as matter out of place. Dirt is associated with pollution and waste but also soil and nutrients.

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It changes agency depending on its location; inside/outside. She also looked at artists who use dirt in their work not as a material to comment on society or value but as a co-collaborator, allowing the dirt its transgressive qualities to create a visceral experience for the viewer.

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Interestingly I have found Mary Douglas has also written an essay that examines circular thought patterns from ancient texts, Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition. The abstract is as follows – ‘Many famous antique texts are misunderstood and many others have been completely dismissed, all because the literary style in which they were written is unfamiliar today. So argues Mary Douglas in this controversial study of ring composition, a technique which places the meaning of a text in the middle, framed by a beginning and ending in parallel. To read a ring composition in the modern linear fashion is to misinterpret it, Douglas contends, and today’s scholars must re-evaluate important antique texts from around the world.’

 

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Mona Hatoum +and-

 

Another experience of dirt was the excellent broadcasts from DIRT collective including  Peter Glasgow It’s not the Digging it’s the Dirt as part of ArtLicks Weekend which can be listened to via above links.

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 All of which reminded me of this work “THREE STONES” (2004) Antti Laitinen dug a hole and collected the stones he found after seven minutes of digging, seven hours and seven days.

 

Amazing News Update – Laboratory of Dark Matters has been awarded a month long residency at Guest Projects for April 2017. Exciting times ahead.

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Laboratory of Dark Matters is a response by artists to scientific investigations into the unknown nature of the Universe; opening a dialogue between scientists and artists who are each driven by curiosity and seek answers to fundamental questions about matter and consciousness.

“All visible matter in the entire Universe, including all the stars, cosmic objects, black holes and intergalactic gases, amounts to less than 5% of the mass we know to be present.”  

The search for dark matter is a scientific endeavour but also requires a large degree of faith in both the existence of these elusive particles and in the scientists’ ability to eventually detect and identify them. For artists, creating work is often about searching for some unknown and embracing an unexpected outcome.

The participating artists will be Amy Gear, Daniel Clark, Elizabeth Murton, Kate Fahey, Luci Eldridge, Melanie King, Peter Glasgow, Sarah Gillett, Susan Eyre.

Unexpectedly found myself trailing Game of Thrones fans location hunting.

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Visiting Northern Ireland’s dramatic coast and spiritual heartlands. Brooding ruins and primeval earthworks, geological anomalies and wide windswept bays. I was on the lookout for saints and sacred wells.

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breathing it in

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The walls of Dunluce Castle – struck through with the local geometric formations

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mossy glade – moss prohibition

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‘The Armagh Astropark – where Heaven comes down to Earth…’

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faith and ritual

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At Cranfield Holy Well there was no evidence of fine spring water and amber coloured crystals, it looked dank and more pestilent than healing. Still it is festooned with personal items tied to the overhanging branches, each one a little prayer. According to  custom, one must bathe the infected part of the body with a rag dipped in the well, pray and then tie the rag to a large overhanging tree, as the rag decays the affliction is supposed to disappear. Judging from the preservation of these items, for some, the cure is a long way off.

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County Antrim wears its heart on its sleeve.

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Settlements past and present – Downhill House a recent ruin and the grassy banks of Lissenden Earthworks

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The enigmatic nun, dark Julia’s grave stone at the ancient Bonamargy Friary

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The bronze age Tandragee Man brandishing  his legendary silver prosthetic limb

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The even more ancient belly of the earth at Marble Arch caves

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Containment slotted nicely into the Plastic Propaganda curated exhibition Sugar and Spice at St. Katherine’s Dock.

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Made in response to the trade of exotic objects by merchants who journeyed across the globe five hundred years ago when navigation was reliant on the stars.

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Shaped plates, etched using a sugar lift technique, are filled with inks made from ground spices and copperplate oils wafting traces of their origins in to the gallery space –  turmeric, coriander, cumin, paprika…

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These operate as markers plotting the spice route from India around Africa to Europe according to the latitude and longitude lines taken from C16th maps of Mercator and Ortelius. The patterns combine ideologies of origins with destinations reflecting the breadth and mix of cultures that came together. I like how viewing becomes a ritual.

Sugar and Spice explored ideas of trade, hybridization and inter-cultural exchange and the legacy of the rich mercantile history of the docks. Looking back informs, educates and gives us the platform for continuous debate…

 …all more poignant post referendum.

Sarah Gillet’s magical show Quarry at Brocket Gallery was in itself a process of quarrying – exhuming material from a forensic analysis of Paolo Uccello’s painting   ‘The Hunt in the Forest (1470). The pursuit of quarry. This inversion of meanings repeats itself in the work as do the shapes and shadows of a forest that extends beyond the boundaries of any canvas into the dark depths of dream spaces where strange creatures abound.

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In such a space where would you turn to escape.

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It’s how I imagine the labyrinths of Venice should be during the carnival. Full of intriguing theatrical creatures appearing out of the void; playful menace.

I have long enjoyed the work of Raqib Shaw and the dazzling paintings he creates with intricate enamelled surfaces glistening with gemstones and gold; the chaos of  battle played out to the personal beat of shamanic drums; the quest for unattainable perfection.  His obsession with self, pitted against the world, seems to have reached a melancholic peak with Self-Portraits at White Cube. This reimagining of old masters heavily laden with references to his own worlds of Peckham and Kashmir appear as premature reliquaries to a life saturated in self immolation.

1609-raqib-shawHe looks weary.

Hidden undercurrents of surface beauty are exposed in Victoria Ahrens thoughtful presentation of her PhD research ABSORB. A meditation on the history of the Paranà River in Argentina. From a mystical place of leisure for her Grandfather to the brutal grave of those who ‘disappeared’ during the military junta, thrown to their deaths to be slowly and anonymously absorbed into the landscape.

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By allowing the waters of the river to wash over the plates and images that she creates the alchemical processes continue and those lost into the waters imbue the work with a gentle pathos.

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From shards of shattered time an image is built that hovers between past and present.

Alex Simpson’s exploration of material in Through Viscera at Barbican Arts Group Trust was fresh and almost vibrating with energy.

Like a virus spreading across all surfaces, into the core of matter that lay extruded across the floor, eaten into and vein like, globular and thick with fungal felt, drying and dropping, leaving prints as scars.

 

In Lichtlose Luft, at PARCspace the LCC’s photographic archive resource centre,  Johanna Love’s lithographic prints and drawings on digital prints of tiny specks of matter magnified to reveal the sublime contours reminiscent of a mountain landscape were a very successful exploration of finding the human relationship in a scientifically generated image.

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The technical image is a starting point for the work, either obtained through the electron microscope or the digital scanner. Through the process of drawing and digital manipulation, there is an attempt to bring the image back into the physical, material world of the living and imagination, for as Merleau Ponty (1964) states, ‘science manipulates things and gives up living in them.’

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Isolated like meteorites falling through a grey space that vibrates with the blurred colours we see on the back surface of the eyelid; these drawings capture the imagination.

Super/collider once again brought us a mind blowing yet entertaining talk at Second Home.  Dr. Andrew O’Bannon has been studying Holography for 15 years. He proposes a bold idea that all the information in our 3D universe may be contained in a mysterious 2D image, like a hologram. Promising not only to unite Einstein’s relativity with quantum physics, holography also has the potential to provide us with cleaner energy, faster computers, and novel electronics. Using ideas from string theory he studies holography and strongly interacting systems.

In everyday life, a hologram is a two-dimensional image containing enough information to reconstruct a three-dimensional object. In theoretical physics, holography proposes that some strongly-interacting systems are equivalent to Einstein’s theory of gravity in one higher dimension.

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“Many experiments to detect proposed dark matter particles through non-gravitational means are under way. On 25 August 2016, astronomers reported that Dragonfly 44, an ultra diffuse galaxy (UDG) with the mass of the Milky Way galaxy, but with nearly no discernible stars or galactic structure, may be made almost entirely of dark matter.” From BBC science

There were two talks at New Scientist Live that I found particularly interesting. The first was from Dr Andrew Pontzen a theoretical cosmologist explaining the evidence that dark matter exists and why it is proving so hard to detect. He spends his time working through theories that are then passed on to someone like Cham Ghag, an astrophysicist who will devise strategies to test theories in direct detection projects such as ZEPLIN and LUX.

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It’s not only the calculations from gravitational lensing that suggests way more mass is present than can be seen but also large computer modelling samples of how galaxies form and rotate. Removing a few stars from the model galaxy ends in a chaotic breakdown, but making a few stars ‘dark’ so that the mass remains but we cannot see them does not change the rotation of the remaining stars we can still see. The distribution of dark matter across the universe appears like a fibrous net, imaged from the cosmic microwave background, an echo still reverberating from the first few seconds at the birth of the universe. The second talk ‘Beyond the Higgs’ was from particle physicist Professor Tara Shears who inspects the data produced from the experiments colliding proton beams to create fundamental particles at CERN, for anomalies that might turn out to be evidence of an interaction with a new particle. The search goes on.

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In my first brush with particle physics I discovered the language to be quite like that of mythology, full of mysterious characters like the charm quark and strange quark, the muon neutrino and the tau. These characters are governed by fundamental forces like the strong force and the weak force that cannot be seen or explained other than by their attributes – just like the mythical gods.  I have recently been working my way through The Quantum Universe: Everything That Can Happen Does Happen by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. It attempts to explain the theories of quantum physics.

1512 The quantum UniverseI’m not sure how this will ultimately feed into my work and the maths is way beyond me but I am excited by the possibilities it explores. I find this unpredictable world that operates on an unimaginably tiny scale fascinating. It is hard to grasp certain concepts as the theories cannot be visualized. Subatomic particles, physicist Richard Feynman tells us, do not behave like waves, they do not behave like particles, they do not behave like clouds, or billiard balls, or weights on springs, or like anything that you have ever seen.

Back in 1927 scientists Davisson and Germer did an experiment firing electrons through two slits in a screen. They expected a certain pattern to appear on the screen on the other side as the electrons hit that surface. The interference pattern that did appear gave the impression that a wave had passed through the two slits rather than a series of particles yet on the collecting screen were tiny dots not a continuous wave like surface. Something very strange was happening – and from then on physicists have had to rethink how things move around the universe.

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Anders Jonas Ångström discovered in 1853 that each element emits its own unique spectrum of coloured light when heated. This is spectroscopy. There is a handbook on this by Heinrich Kayser – Handbuch der Spectroscopie which is online but not the simple colour chart I was hoping for. Quantum physics has been able to explain why these coloured lights are unique to each element and astronomers have been able to use these codes to work out the chemical composition of the stars.

I signed up for a sunrise walk with Royal Society Research Fellow Lucie Green as part of Tate Modern’s weekend of events – Light and Dark Matters. Lucie researches the activity and atmosphere of our nearest star. The walk however was marked by the extreme absence of sun. Horizontal sleet whipped at us as we stood on the millennium bridge, blustery snow forced us to huddle under the arches of the Bank of England.

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Soaked through and bitterly cold we contemplated the effects on our economy of the massive hot plasma ball and the space weather it produces.1512 Sunrise walk (1)

Geomagnetic storms with massive solar flares can send huge surges of electric currents to course through the earth and knock out the electric grid of cities that sit on a solid rock base where the current is trapped.

In the afternoon was a panel discussion Are we darkened by the light? with Catherine Heymans, Katie Paterson and Marek Kukula chaired by Asif Khan.

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The artificial light that floods our lives hides from us the magnitude of the night sky. Astrophysicist Catherine Heymans gave a moving account of how a chance internship in the Australian outback opened her eyes to the stars and began her love of astronomy.

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There were so so many stars – she, like many of us, had been robbed of this amazing experience for years, so yes we are darkened by the light.  The universe is an arena of extremes; the longest timescales the hottest temperatures, the largest voids of utter emptiness. An astronomer can only observe what the universe chooses to reveal through light. For most people darkness is the absence of light, it is light being absorbed by something. For scientists darkness means that the object doesn’t emit light. Dark matter does not emit light, it should really be called invisible matter. Millions of dark matter particles flood though us all the time yet we still haven’t managed to identify even one particle.

There is so much unknown about the fundamental truths of our universe but with new technology more and more is revealed to us. The gravitational bending of light is one way to ‘see’ dark matter. In the next few years the European Space Agency are launching a new super powerful telescope Euclid that will image the whole sky in its quest for Dark Matter.

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Katie Paterson spoke about her work while burning a candle that released scents in ever disturbing layers beginning with wet basement as we projected through our atmosphere towards interstellar space.

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The candle’s 12 hour olfactory journey though earth smells includes geraniums, tar, old pennies, raspberries, rum and sulphuric acid finally snuffing itself out on reaching the scentless void of a black hole. Katie Paterson was the first artist to launch a piece of art into space.1512 melting

Working at the sort of extreme temperatures found in the conditions of creation within the universe  she undertook melting and re-casting a meteorite. She was resetting the meteorite’s inner cosmic clock.

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Reformed, the meteorite was launched back into space to reach the International Space Station returning once again to earth perhaps this time burning up in the atmosphere on re-entry.1512 launch

It is usual to think about what is revealed to us by light but Marek Kukula also wanted to show what can be revealed through shadow and darkness.  In Dark Frame, made by Woolfgang Tillmans while visiting the European Space Observatory in Chile, the image displayed on the screen is of the digital camera chip before an image is captured.

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It reveals the flaws and aberrations in the dark space of the camera itself. Darkness is not always as dark as we expect.

Galileo Galilei shocked 17th Century society when he pointed a telescope at the moon and made drawings of the shadows he observed. His drawings demonstrated that the moon was not the smooth and perfect celestial object set in the sky that people had believed.1512 galileoThe movement of the shadows showed a lumpy pitted surface rather like earth. Maybe we weren’t so special after all.

We still use darkness and shadow today to understand what the universe is like.1512 starWith ever more powerful telescopes we have been able to determine that all the visible stars in the universe have their own solar system. We know this because as a planet moves across a star the light dips by a tiny amount, enough to be registered. The shadow of the planet gives it away.

What he told us next I found quite hard to grasp and I keep thinking about how can this be true and what does it mean for us. Astronomers chose a tiny piece of sky that looked black with no stars in it – from earth it would be the size of a grain of sand.  They pointed the Hubble telescope at this piece of sky for 10 days. It cost £50,000 an hour to do this. It collected light for 10 days and this is what it saw….

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This tiny fragment of sky was full of galaxies. In extrapolation this means there are at least One Hundred Thousand Million galaxies in the observable universe.

The scale is beyond imagining yet in this image there is still blackness between the galaxies, this tells us something fundamental. If the universe was infinite and had been around for ever then every part of sky would be filled with stars – the image would be would be completely bright. So as there are still black parts we can deduce that the universe hasn’t been around forever and is not infinite. We understand that our universe hasn’t been around for ever from the big bang theory but does this prove there was nothing before?  Does this prove there is an  edge with nothing beyond? It is hard to grasp as the distances are so vast.  Would light from so far away have got here by now – was 10 days long enough to look?  I keep thinking about it.

In the image of all the galaxies we see some areas of distortion caused by gravitational lensing that is the clue to dark matter existing. How do we represent what we can’t see? Here dark matter is shaded in as a blue haze but it gives a false impression of what dark matter is.1512 blue dark matter

Scientists often colour space images using black and orange as the human eye is good at seeing detail in this combination. For the Planetarium Show Dark Universe at the Greenwich Observatory the American scientists decided to use a different colour scheme. Inverting the black sky to white and the dark matter to black the bright conglomerations of galaxies are shown nestling within filaments and tendrils of dark matter. 1512 dark matter

This new image gives a poetic insight into how our universe is bound together by unseen forces. Marek ended his talk quoting a poem by dark matter research astronomer Rebecca Elsen who died in 1999.

Let there Always be Light (Searching for Dark Matter)

For this we go out dark nights, searching
For the dimmest stars,
For signs of unseen things:

To weigh us down.
To stop the universe
From rushing on and on:

Into its own beyond
Till it exhausts itself and lies down cold,
Its last star going out.

Whatever they turn out to be,
Let there be swarms of them,
Enough for immortality,
Always a star where we can warm ourselves.

Let there be enough to bring it back
From its own edges,
To bring us all so close we ignite
The bright spark of resurrection.

Rebecca was hoping for a rebirth of the universe but it’s not what looks like will happen. Dark energy is causing the universe to expand at a faster and faster rate. Dark matter doesn’t look like it will be able to prevent it reaching a point of collapse.

Dark energy is not a force but it is having an effect.

How do we explain these phenomena of the universe when we do not have the words?  Physicist Werner Heisenburg replied – fortunately mathematics isn’t subject to this limitation. Marek Kukula concluded – Perhaps art is not subject to this limitation either?

It was good to see an exhibition of works entirely devoted to finding ways of expression for our experiences of the universe.
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Mahal de Man

Melanie King and Louise Beer not only collaborate as super/collider with Chris Hatherill but also run Lumen with Raymond Hemson  – an artists collective based in Bethnal Green that once a year heads up a residency in the small village of Atina, Italy away from light pollution that hides the stars from Londoners.

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Nettie Edwards

They aim to inspire a dialogue about how humanity understands existence in providing an opportunity for artists to encounter the night skies and make work in response to their experiences.

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Peiwen Li

Lumen iii LA LUCE DELLE STELLE at the Crypt Gallery, Kings Cross was the result of the last residency.

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Eva Rudlinger

Exhibiting artists: Naomi Avsec, Louise Beer, Molly Behagg, Samuel Brzeski, Alice Dunseath, Nettie Edwards, Jaden Hastings, Osheen Harruthoonyan, Raymond Hemson, Emilia Izquierdo, Elena Karakitsou, Melanie King, Claire Krouzecky, Peiwen Li, Mahal de Man, Yaz Norris, Lisa Pettibone, Marta Pinilla, Natasha Sabatini, Alice Serraino, Joshua Space, Eva Rudlinger, Sisetta Zappone, Qing Zhou

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Melanie King

I am hoping I have put the right name to the right work but I couldn’t quite get to grip with the map so apologies if I got any wrong.

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Sisetta Zappone

As I learnt at the Princes School of Traditional Arts looking for patterns in nature leads to geometry.

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Manifold Design ‘345 in RGB’

Manifold Design exhibiting at the 56th Venice Biennale are an architects studio that questions the relationship of physical materials and properties to conceptual constructions.

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Manifold Design ‘345 in RGB’

‘345 in RGB’ supposes a landscape composed of fundamental elements.

In the context of interconnectedness Eduardo Basualdo makes work that tests our understanding of material. Generating  elements that work together to reflect the way the universe  connects through opposing forces and results in a precarious act of balance. As in quantum physics we must look at the world differently.

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Eduardo Basualdo Grito

These quotes from Eduardo Basualdo about his work Grito are taken from an interview with Javier Villa

“The pieces shown in Venice are practical exercises to test strengths we humans have to interact with the material world and modify it. In this case the question was how to break an iron bar using pencil and paper, and where to do it…this happens, from my point of view, in the plane of the imagination”

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Eduardo Basualdo Grito

“The paper is an X­ray, it becomes a lens through which we view that metal and we see it as a different state of matter, as in a dimensional leap. The Biennial spoke of the possible futures and the actions that we may exert on matter, the violence on the material is a way you have of building your own future. Of nor depositing it either in the hands of religion, or of technology, or of politics.”

A piece from my series everydaymatters was selected to show in Space Between at The Stone Space, Leytonstone. This was a group show of work which inhabits the space between perceived reality and abstraction.

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Susan Eyre everydaymatters (palm SW4)

The gallery also hosted an afternoon of artist talks. A good chance to explain and exchange ideas.1512 Space Between

My interest in the origins of the idea of paradise and wondering what exactly I was looking at when I went out to photograph locations led me to the CERN website. From reading about the standard model and dark matter I discovered some amazing theories about what we can and can’t see. Now I have been reading about how electrons leap about exploring the entire universe in an instant on their journey. I have a lot of questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Chamkaur Ghag’s talk Dark Matter presented by super/collider at Second Home was inspirational in many ways. It was fascinating to hear a first hand account of how the search for dark matter is conducted and the challenges that face scientists looking for something so elusive. We learnt that there are underground laboratories around the world where research takes place away from background radiation which makes it harder to isolate any particles that might be dark matter.

The occurrence of dark matter was first theorized through the pioneering research of Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky who in 1933 looked at galaxy rotation curves and decided there was more going on than could be accounted for by the mass of the matter we could see. Something mysterious was holding the galaxies together. It is dark matter that allows structures in the universe to form by pulling matter into the gravitational field of pools of dark matter.

It could be that Plato accounted for dark matter when he assigned this role to the fifth platonic solid – the dodecahedron as ‘a fifth construction which God used for embroidering the constellations on the whole heaven’ – a concept that I used as a framework for Pairi Daêza

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Susan Eyre Pairi Daêza

Using the net pattern that is used to construct a dodecahedron to mesh together images of constellations, an abandoned walled garden and a roundabout.  Recent imaging of dark matter derived from the way it distorts light shows it as a web like structure.

It is still not known what dark matter is, it does not reflect or emit light and doesn’t interact with the fundamental forces except gravity. At present there is speculation that it might be a WIMP – a weakly interacting massive particle and the difficulty in confirming this theory is in witnessing a particle collision with the nucleus of an atom. The majority of these particles pass through the earth without even hitting an atom.

It was exciting to find out we have one of these underground laboratories in the UK set in a working salt mine north of Whitby. The Boulby Underground Laboratory is a special place for science – ‘a quiet place in the Universe’. The ZEPLIN dark matter experiment ran here until 2011 using a liquid Xenon target. Xenon is a liquid gas that glows with a very pure light. Should a dark matter particle hit the atom nucleus there is a scintillation in the crystals and light is given off, also a little heat and ionisation. Only the dark matter particle will hit the nucleus of the atom, other particles, gamma rays etc will hit the electrons first giving a faint flash that can identify them. The detector must be very sensitive which is why they need to go deep underground away from background radiation. The program moved to LUX at a disused gold mine in the USA but is due to return to Boulby for work on a much larger scale.

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Studies at Boulby range from the search for Dark Matter in the Universe, to studies of cosmic rays and climate, astrobiology and life in extreme environments, development of techniques for deep 3D geological monitoring and studies of radioactivity in the environment.

The most exciting part is that a group of RCA graduates, myself included, will be able to visit the facilities early next year with a view to making work in response to the research taking place there. I am really hoping that we can organise a touring exhibition of work made in relation to this and engage people in these fascinating concepts, to think about our place in the universe and the extraordinary nature of everyday matter.

Elizabeth Murton who runs the peer crit group Engine ChatChat organised an artists sharing dinner at Bow Arts and invited along artists who use textiles in their work so we could chat and exchange ideas about our work. The guests included Kirsty Lowry, Lizzie Cannon, Katherine May, Jessica Hemmings, Jessica Smulder-Cohen, Ruby Hoette, Angela Maddock, Malina Busch, Jodie Carey, Lauren Jetty Howells-Green. We all gave a little presentation and chatted over dinner about our interests and the different reasons why we might use textiles in our work.

Lizzie Cannon meticulously repairs the cracks and decay of the material world.

Lizzie Cannon Corrosion (study with beads)

Lizzie Cannon Corrosion (study with beads)

Angela Maddock investigates how we might use craft practice, especially knitting, to question ideas about our relationships with people and objects.

Diana Springall has a passion for embroidery and hopes to instigate a major retrospective of embroidered works.

Diana Springall

Diana Springall

Jessica Hemmings is a writer who has researched textiles as a distinctive area of cultural practice and a developing field of scholarly research.

Ruby Hoette proposes alternate modes of accessing and engaging with fashion. She frames the garment as a unique artefact carrying traces of social and cultural interactions and transactions.

Ruby Hoette Lost and Collected

Ruby Hoette Lost and Collected

Lost and Collected is an ongoing project that documents and maps lost and discarde clothing and proposes an alternate understanding of the value of a garment.

Jessica Smulders Cohen’s passion is creating a sustainable textile and fashion industry her film is watchable via  the password is “fibreshed” https://vimeo.com/136830440

Kirsty Lowry is interested in psychological space and also makes work with light and I particularly like her electric prints using the conductive qualities of graphite.

Kirsty Lowry Gravis: Electric Print

Kirsty Lowry Gravis: Electric Print

Hannah Collins showing at Camden Arts Centre also investigates the emotional and psychological aspects of space. Her exhibition presented the open spaces of the dessert and the dense closure of the rain forest.

Hannah Collins The Fertile Forest

Hannah Collins The Fertile Forest

The poetry of the wall plaques was at odds with the clinical display of the photographs of medicinal plants of the rainforest. Two perspectives brought crashing together.

Hannah Collins The Fertile Forest

Hannah Collins The Fertile Forest

The Fertile Forest shared a resonance with the Taryn Simon exhibit at the Venice Bienalle. In Hannah Collins work it was power of knowledge that is being lost whereas Taryn Simon looked at displays of power in the corporate and political world, documenting the flowers used in the bouquets and arrangements that were the backdrop to moments in history.  Coming from very different places both artists show the diverse ways we use plants in our culture.

Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon Paperwork and the Will of Capital

Formal formality

Taryn Simon at Venice Biennale

Taryn Simon Paperwork and the Will of Capital

Katherine May is interested in plants as a resource for dyes and perfumes

Katherine May The Nature of Colour underground installation at a perfume factory in Floris

Katherine May The Nature of Colour underground installation at a perfume factory in Floris

Jodie Carey painstakingly extracts dyes from flowers to colour the yarn for her crochet. Flowers here are a metaphor for the fragility of life.

Jodie Carey Untitled(Bouquet)

Jodie Carey Untitled(Bouquet)

The bouquet of cut flowers prepared as a gift of love is already a symbol of death.

Danh Vo

Danh Vo

We are all flowers growing on this earth, picked by God at some point, a little earlier for some, a little later for others. One is crimson rose, another the virginal lily, another the humble violet. Let us all try to please the Lord and Master, with the perfume or radiance we were given.    from a letter written to his father by the soon to be executed J.Theophane Venard 1861.

Danh vo

Danh vo

Danh Vo invokes demons in the Danish Pavilion. Fragments of belief. A whiff of the Catholic Church, cherubs, polished wood. A mostly empty space, calm yet from these symbols we do not receive comfort but a jolt as we read lines spoken by the demon in The Exorcist (1973)

Danh Vo

Danh Vo

Do you know what she did, your cunting daughter?

Danh Vo

Danh Vo

I was lucky to meet Imogen Stidworthy as a visiting tutor at the RCA. I had a very inspiring tutorial with her which really helped me make decisions about my final show. She was showing some very moving work at the Imperial War Museum – a sculptural sound installation developed through interviewing two former British soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the wife of one of the soldiers, who lives with the effects of war at home.

Imogen Stidworthy The Work v5

Imogen Stidworthy The Work v5

She uses the voice as a sculptural material, engrained with traces of experience and transmits these voices through objects associated with conflict, exploring memory and the difficulty of communicating traumatic experience. We feel we are eavesdropping on a private perhaps internal conversation; echoing through the layered voices is each persons isolating pain.

It seemed appropriate for me to go and see Finding Paradise at Lacey Contemporary as this was the title of my dissertation.

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The gallery was vibrant with paintings of lush landscapes, forgotten pasts, and the ever-changing patterns of nature by Gemma Billington, Orlanda Broom and Ylva Kunze.

We can never inhabit paradise for more than a fleeting moment. It can be glimpsed on the edges of our vision and drive our passions but to find paradise is to experience ecstasy and a perpetuity of heightened bliss would actually be torturous to endure. Its power and attraction lies in its being momentary.

These fleeting moments and sensations which are not fully understood because they are only briefly glimpsed or experienced are what inspires the work of Malina Busch who explores material possibilities looking for traces of memory.

Malina Busch Curl Up

Malina Busch Curl Up

There was a political edge to this years Venice Biennale with the theme All The World’s Futures.

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It added a serious undercurrent to a lot of work which drew on documentary and news footage. Apart from Sean Lynch representing Ireland I didn’t have a list of must sees this year. At the last Biennale so many of my favourite people were showing, this was a chance to come across new names.

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I was keen to see what Sean Lynch would present as I had enjoyed meeting him during his workshop at Flat Time House and really like the way he works.

Sean Lynch

Sean Lynch Adventure:Capital

His installation Adventure:Capital encompasses his interests in stone carving and storytelling. He manages to pull mythology into London’s contemporary financial district. A narrated video sweeps through history from the pits and quarries to the monuments and symbols of power that are made from the stones pulled from the earth.

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Sean Lynch Adventure:Capital

This inversion of material is dusted with magic as the narrator traces the polished stone of the corporate world back to the rocks of prehistory.

The gods, swollen with symbolism are everywhere, causing havoc with their greed, gluttony, fertility and abundance.

1511 Sean Lynch (2)

Sean Lynch Adventure:Capital

There was striking work in the Nordic Pavillion by Camille Norment.

In Rapture eerie sounds emanate from a thrusting bank of speakers on the ceiling.

Camille Norment Rapture

Camille Norment Rapture

The large empty space is skewed with shattered billboard sized glass windows. It looks like the aftermath of a cataclysmic disaster and holds you in the moment when the ringing in your ears could be shockwaves of an explosion that segue into the voices of angels heralding the appearance of the saviour.

Camille Norment Rapture

Camille Norment Rapture

The sounds could be coming from the fragmented glass as they have that quality of a finger across a wet goblet rim. It is at the pitch of angels and voices do join the chorus. In fact Norment has used a glass armonica to compose this soundscape, an 18th century instrument that creates ethereal music from glass and water and was invented by Benjamin Franklin.

Camille Norment Rapture

Camille Norment Rapture

The glass armonica was used to cure many ailments with its entrancing sounds but was later banned for fear it aroused sexual excitement in women bringing them to a state of rapture that might overstimulate and ultimately kill them.