Archives for posts with tag: fundamental particles


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Donna Haraway: Story Telling for Earthly Survival


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


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Bjorn Hatleskog Perpetual Jellyfish in Liminality at Gallery 46


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

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

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

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Archaeology came with the Anthropocene.

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

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

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

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Indrė Šerpytytė 2 Seconds of Colour

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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Gery Georgieva Europa Airlines Stand


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

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


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Sam Laughlin from the series A Certain Movement


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

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Mayra Martin Ganzinotti

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

Unexpected juxtapositions offer new paths to tread.

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

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

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Mary Yacoob Draft Drawings

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

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Mary Yacoob ‘Seraphim for Sanctus’ detail

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

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Gustave Doré The Divine Comedy’s Empyrean











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.


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.


breathing it in



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




mossy glade – moss prohibition



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




faith and ritual


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.



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


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


The bronze age Tandragee Man brandishing  his legendary silver prosthetic limb


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


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


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.


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…


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.


In such a space where would you turn to escape.


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.


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.


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.


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.’


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.


“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.


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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