Archives for posts with tag: material

After months of anticipation we finally crammed into the miners cage and made the 7 minute descent 1100m below ground to visit the Dark Matter Research Facility at Boulby Mine near Whitby on the dramatic north east coast.

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Led by astrophysicist Dr.Chamkaur Ghag and his colleagues Emma Meehan and Chris Toth we were transported to a hot and dusty world beyond the reach of cosmic rays and background radiation that would distract from the search for the illusive dark matter particles.

Kitted out in orange boiler suits, heavy boots, hard hats, safety goggles, ear defenders, shin pads and tool belt we were inducted into the safety procedures and alerted to the hazards of life underground. The most alarming was the  instruction on use of the self rescuer (a metal box containing breathing apparatus that converts carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide) ‘better to use in doubt than die in error’. Only three breathes of deadly carbon monoxide and you are unconscious, possibly dead.

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On descent there is a series of air locked passages to pass through, ears popping before stepping out into the vast network of tunnels that extends over thousands of kilometres under the sea. With our headlamps dimmed here is total darkness.

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We walk 20 minutes to visit the original research laboratory now being ripped diagonally in half by the slow liquid like movement of the salt walls sliding against a fault line.

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The floor and ceiling are ruptured and so the highly sensitive equipment is being moved to a new purpose built reinforced steel clad lab.

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From the abandoned clutter of past experiments we cross another grimy passage to enter the pristine white cavernous space of the new laboratories.

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Still in the process of being equipped and put into full use we can only see a small part of what will go on here.

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Behind the blank face of the technology in large metal containers sprouting many wires and screens with data passing across in repeating wavering lines is the ongoing hope to witness a tiny scintillation of light that can be identified as the result of a collision of a dark matter particle in the target matter of pure Xenon.

1605 DM Boulby screen

The three hours underground pass very quickly as we are in constant awe at what we see and hear about the extraordinary past and present projects that take place in this hidden arena. 1605 dmboulby detector

Prohibited from taking anything battery powered below we rely on borrowing a lab camera to take a few snaps before we have to return to the lift shaft to be hauled back to the surface this time tightly packed amongst the silent salt dusted mine workers.

We returned to the surface exhausted and full of information to assimilate. The next stage is to let this experience feed into and stimulate new work engaging with ideas of charting the unknown and extending our vocabulary and ability to interact with the matter of our universe that at present we can only surmise about through theory.

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I was delighted to be asked to show work in Aether curated by Lumen at Imperial College London. Aether is a curatorial project, focused on the philosophical aspects of astronomy and space exploration. The participating artists explore phenomena existing in outer space  considering how “invisible” objects are made tangible in the fields of both art and astrophysics.

These pieces from the everydaymatters series were inspired by the discovery that we can only see less than 5% of the matter in the universe.  Sparked by an interest in aura of place and dreams of paradise this has expanded into a fascination with how we encounter the physical and the spiritual world and the unseen activity of matter in the universe. The images, from real locations called Paradise such as Paradise Industrial Estate, Hemel Hempstead are dissected into the proportions of dark energy, dark matter and the visible world that current science believes constitutes our universe.

I have been pursuing further investigations into matter as part of  The Matter of Objects collaboration with Medieval and Renaissance research historians. This project interested me as it combined an investigation into the physical matter of objects and also more intangible things such as agency of object. I thought the Medieval period would also be interesting as a time when science and religion clashed as being the source of truth. I was paired with PhD researcher Bruno Martinho based at the European University Institute in Florence. His work explores the consumption of non-European objects on the Iberian Peninsula during the second half of the sixteenth century. Something I had never considered. The object he chose for me to respond to was a C16th Fall-fronted cabinet probably made in Gujarat for a Portuguese merchant. This work has taken me in unexpected and new directions.

At first I thought I may only experience this object as a digital image so was pleased to discover it was at the V&A and I could visit it and get a sense of scale and materiality. The most striking thing about the cabinet are the patterns. I could see the incredible detail, the minute pieces and precision in the workmanship.

1605 cabinet detail

I think it is hard to connect to an object when you can’t touch it. It’s tantalizing not being able to open the drawers – they are tied shut just in case you are tempted to try.  At least it’s not behind glass so you can get up close and sniff it. I learnt from Bruno about its heritage from a mixture of cultural traditions seen combined in the patterns (European, Islamic, Indian) and materials (tropical woods, ivory). These cabinets were highly sought after at the time, they were the latest must have item to show wealth and status. An object of beauty, rarity and symbolism; commissioned, bought, sold and smuggled. They became part of 16th Century life but not always in a good way. A play “The Avaricious Cabinet” written at the height of the cabinets popularity criticized the hoarding practices it encouraged in merchants that were causing stagnation of the Portuguese economy. It could be written today about the unpopularity of the avaricious banker who dodges his taxes and is more concerned with his own wealth than the welfare of society at large.

The cabinet’s basic function was to store expensive objects, such as jewels or money, and important documents, like contracts or letters, and also all sorts of personal items such as lace and porcelain. There were antidotes against poison (like bezoar stones or unicorn horns), perfumes (made of musk extracted from Asian civet cats), coral (to make toothpaste), and also rosaries made of jet (that was believed to protect against melancholia). These appear as alchemical and mysterious objects today adding to the sense of mystique that surrounds the cabinet.  The warm tones, exotic aromas and smooth surfaces made using the cabinet an intimate and sensual experience.

The idea of using spices came from my conversation with Bruno about the aroma the cabinet would give off from the exotic woods it was made from and the smells it would absorb from its contents and surroundings. I thought of the mix of cultures that came together to produce this object, the markets of India and Spain and all those places in between. I made inks from ground spices and copperplate oils to fill the etching plates that would operate as markers of the route from Asia to Europe along the spice route.

I hoped that as the viewer leans in they will smell the spices and the colours would be natural and earthy like the materials used in the cabinet.

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I wanted to try and include something personal into the work about this particular cabinet but so much is a mystery. The V&A don’t hold a lot of information about its personal history. They sent me the purchase order and had a look to see if there were patterns inlaid inside the drawers – there are not. So the history of who this little cabinet belonged to and the items it stored seems lost. All that we know is it made the journey 500 years ago when navigating across the globe was reliant on reading the stars.

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containment –  60 x 60 cm,  screenprint on board, etched aluminium, spices

 

This one object that potentially holds so many other objects all with their own reasons for being, the trail is endless and diverse. After many weeks of conversation it was good to finally meet Bruno at the event at Queen Mary University and to see work produced by the other collaborators. Everyone felt it had been a worthwhile experience opening up new ways of thinking on both sides. The exhibition was then taken to the extraordinary setting of  Barts Pathology Museum where matter and objects have a very direct conversation.

1605 containment Barts Pathology Musuem

I went to the Materials Library for their Pigments, Paint, Print event.

1605 pigmentsThere were various minerals on hand that can be used to grind into pigments but we were only offered synthetic materials to make into ink and ready made inks to print with so wasn’t quite what I hope for but I did get to see aerogel.

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This was like looking at little pieces of sky or transluscent mini icebergs. Apparently NASA uses this – the lightest material on earth, to collect stardust in the tails of comets. It looks a bit like a very fine mesh yet is brittle and very fragile and also very expensive.

Helena Pritchard’s show Encounters at T.J. Boulting was a dialogue between materiality and light, the play of one off the other created in collaboration with Ilenia Bombardi.

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Mesh cloyed with plaster scattering light to create movement, light bouncing from projectors and splitting into spectrums.

Spencer Finch ‘The Opposite of Blindness’ at Lisson Gallery is also an investigation into light –  how it hits the back of our retina to burn images into our mind which hover beyond our ability to physically recreate them. What we see and what we imagine take place in the same arena.

1605 Spencer Finch Mars (sunrise)

Spencer Finch Sunrise (Mars)

There are paintings made up of concentric dots that animate themselves as our restless eyes dance over their surface creating ever changing patterns

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Spencer Finch Sunflower (Bee’s View)

then as relief, soft grey fog to wade into. The paintings, like after burn on the retina, are pared back to leave just the essential essence that Finch wishes to convey.

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Spencer Finch Fog (Lake Wononscopomac)

Finch has taken light recordings from the Pathfinder unmanned mission to Mars and recreated the exact colour tone of a sunrise as would be experienced on the red planet.

Photographic images created from space agency data by Micheal Benson in Otherworlds: Visions of our solar system at The Natural History Museum  included one of the sun setting on Mars.

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Tracing space exploration from the first images in 1967 to the present day his aim is to create images as close as possible to what the human eye would see were we able to travel to the far reaches of the solar system.

1606 Francis Upritchard Orrery IV

Francis Upritchard Orrery IV

The speakers at Tate Talks New Materialisms: Reconfiguring the Object were considering how investigating materials can stimulate new ways of thinking. Francesco Manaconda gave an overview of his curatorial explorations into how materials can be presented in new ways by imagining viewing an exhibition from the perspective of an alien in Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art and Radical Nature which focused on our relationship with nature. Anne-Sophie Lehmann and Iris Van Der Tuin discussed the importance of material literacy and the exactitude required in differentiating between materials, matter, materiality and materialisms. It is important that if we are to understand the matter that surrounds us we must test the resistance of the materials we encounter.

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Back to etching. Have completed an intro/induction at Thames Barrier Print Studio so am now good to go with new work. 1603 aluminium plateTried aluminium in saline sulphate which gives a really deep etch. Used stop out and painting into hot hard ground. Was good to play around with new materials and get some tips from resident expert etcher Nick Richards. 1603 stop out

This primer from Wilkinsons is cheap and works well as a stop out solution. The etchings I had done before were all on steel with soft ground, I love the deep rich tones from steel but am trying a new piece of work on zinc with hard ground with should give me a more precise line.

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This work is inspired by the idea of gravitational waves and grains of space which is one of the lessons in Carlo Rovelli’s book Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. It’s taking a while to cover the plate in the dots. I’m not sure when it’s all done if the wave pattern will disappear.

 

Michael Doser’s keynote paper Seeing Antimatter Disappear at the symposium Shadow Without Object  gave an insight into how the study of gravity acting on antimatter may help explain why it has disappeared. As a research physicist at CERN he is engaged is trying to discover why there is not the same amount of antimatter as matter in the universe and why what little there is remains clumped at the centre of our milky way galaxy. I asked him if antimatter was considered part of the 5% of the visible world of matter and I think he said that it was as it interacts with photons and fundamental forces.

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Although gravity is the weakest of the fundamental forces its impact on the parabolic flight of anti-hydrogen atoms can be witnessed by using emulsion on a photographic plate which records the particle collision. Using photographic emulsion gives a far more accurate and sensitive result than any digital recording device could.

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He said some confounding things – that antimatter emits light exactly like normal matter so you can photograph it but you only see it when it annihilates. So we don’t actually see the antiprotons just the trace of the aftermath of their disappearance left in the photo emulsion on the plate. Working at quantum scales the collision of the proton into the emulsion is digitally scanned and a 3d image stacked up to reveal a starburst. The starburst is the locus of disappearance.

Cosmic rays coming from remote stars hit our atmosphere and produce showers of particles that plough through our bodies – these can be seen using cloud chambers which are detectors that track the particles. The unseen activity of the universe made visible. This is something I am hoping to see when we visit the underground laboratories at Boulby.

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At the talk Are We Darkened by the Light? at Tate Modern architect Asif Khan had brought along a sample of the darkest material on earth – a Vertically Aligned Nano Tube Array. This material was made as a reference for noise images which aim to establish what black should be when looking at a camera chip to remove interference. This material is so black because it absorbs all the photons of light rather than bouncing some back to our eyes.

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I wonder if all the photons stay in this material when they are absorbed. Does it fill up with photons?  Does it get hot in there?  Planck’s constant states every hot object emits light, how does that fit in?

Also at Tate Modern was In/Visibility a work by Vinita Khanna that uses a polarising filter to conceal and reveal the colours in a copy of Gustav Klimt’s painting Portrait of Frau Adele Bloch Bauer.

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Vinita Khanna In/Visibility

Choosing an image that we are all familiar with, yet most of us have never seen the original, Vinita Khanna comments on the intangible nature of vision demonstrating the invisible made visible. Humans treat their vision as absolute, when in fact the bulk of our perceived reality is generated by our brains.

1603 Clare Muireann Murphy

Clare Muireann Murphy is a brilliant story teller. She was performing her new work Universe at The Crick Crack Club event upstairs at Soho Theatre. Colliding the science of the big bang (cracking of the cosmic egg) with mythical tales of a goddess tumbling from the skies into a watery world to be rescued by a fearless turtle who then gets turned into a magical lyre that plays the music of the cosmos passing from god to mortal. Clare creates a place of wonder and insight where time stretches and a fissure opens that builds a dream bridge between many worlds…

1601 Repetition Variation

Julian Page presented a group show at Clerkenwell Gallery with a strong sense of the material world. Layers, grids, clusters, networks and stacks – great pictures here:  Repetition Variation.  Having watched the steady growth of Stack while sharing a studio space with Amy Gear at the RCA I have a great affection for this piece.

Stack is an encounter with mass.

Repetition celebrates editions in the print fest Multiplied at Christies. A jostle of galleries showing their wares. The RCA gets a stand showcasing alumni with recent graduates. I had one sculpture from everydaymatters showing. It looks obvious in this picture but it was surprising how people just didn’t see it. It was about the only work not on the wall and when the room was packed it disappeared in the crowd. Invisible matter.1602 RCA  mulltipliedI was pleased to have two variable editions of Paradise Road sw4 shown by Dark Matter Studio in a grouping with work by Zoe Dorelli, Mary Yacoob, Marianne Walker and Patrick Jackson – The Inner City Pilgrims. A new collaborative project I am involved with whose aim is to re-mystify the city.

1602 Dark Matter at Multiplied

Katharina Grosse has been interrogating space in relation to her paintings such as  ‘Untitled Trumpet’ which have expanded to the point that you can walk through them.

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Katharina Grosse Untitled  (Trumpet)

From the experience of having a painting transferred from canvas to silk she was inspired by the folds in the fabric. Folds in space.

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Katharina Grosse Untitled (Trumpet)

A fold in space could theoretically, allow a short cut from one place to another.

1601 wormholeA wormhole has two mouths and a throat. For travel to be possible, wormholes would need to be full of exotic matter, that is to say a non-baryonic matter like dark matter i.e. not made of the stuff we are made of. It is as yet another unknown.

How we move through space and interact with the architecture that surrounds us was explored in Mimesis  at Westminster Reference Library.

“Mimesis produces mere ‘phantoms’, not real things. It is at once dependent and deluded, just as a mirror is empty and inessential without something to reflect.” – Matthew Potolsky

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Amelia Critchlow

Amelia Critchlow and Evy Jokhova have been considering how image and architectural form influence the way we read our world; how cognition can cloud and clarify and how association can attack an image or experience, or stand apart, apparently neutral and transparent.

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Evy Jokhova

Mimesis created an unstable environment of wobbly furniture, erased images and material associations where the chalky surface of architectural columns turn out to be constructed from Brie.

This is the playful mimic undermining the authority of grand architecture and opening a space to question our surroundings by subverting expectations of form.

I was introduced to the beautiful work of Ben Cove at Multiplied and then visited his exhibition Modern Language at Peter Von Kant Gallery.

Architectural devices are made symbols. Flat surfaces deceive the eye with shadow and form. Clean, sharp colours zing against black and white images drawing the eye backward and forward shifting us in space and in time. It’s a dynamic experience. Having read a lot lately about how there is no empty space, there is no void, I can feel here that all space is packed with information and all is connected through space time.

For her archaeological installation Wrong Way Time in the Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale Fiona Hall filled the room with an ecology of objects that tell the story of civilization from primal beliefs in magic and animism through capitalism, global economic collapse and climate change leaving us with the challenge of facing the end of anthropocentrism.

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Fiona Hall

She trusts in our sense of wonder and imagination that can see life forms in sculpted drift wood to see a world not of exploitation but of symbiosis.

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Fiona Hall

In the French Pavilion Celeste Boursier-Mougenot’s work also activated primal beliefs that animals, plants, and inanimate objects possess a spiritual essence. In transHUmUs an arboreal dance reintroduces us to a latent anthropomorphism. The trees glide around directed by their own metabolism with their truncated roots exposed on their islands of dirt, like isolated protesters quietly demonstrating.

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Celeste Boursier-Mougenot transHUmUS

In the beginning…the word became flesh. The vertical-transcendent dimension of the Logos – the word of God from above and the horizontal-immanent dimension of the flesh below were the axes of research put forward by the Holy See as participant in the Venice Biennale 2105.  Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva created ‘Haruspex’ in this context.

1602 Venice Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva Haruspex

Using the raw flesh of pig’s caul, sheep’s intestine and cow’s stomach she weaves a canopy, an enclosure, a net, a trap, a sanctuary. It’s meaning oscillates as does the beauty and horror of its materiality. We must read the omens by inspecting the entrails of sacrificial animals.

Pamela Rosenkranz questions what it means to be human in a digital age. The anthropocentric bias of humanism is challenged when subject and object are impossible to separate. Our physical and psychic being is undergoing a transformation by the new materials that we wear, inject, subsume.

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Pamela Rosenkranz Simulation

The glowing wet body of synthetic liquid designed to replicate a particular skin colour floods the Swiss Pavilion with a sickly sweetness that has a back flavour of the murder victim’s chemical bath.