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

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

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It is not impossible that wormholes exist in our universe.

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

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

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

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

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

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Beyond the threshold hidden landscapes and alternative perspectives were revealed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In the Studio

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

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

 

Out of the Studio

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

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