Delighted that my etching Forest of Eden has been selected for exhibition at AIR Gallery on the theme of the macabre with the exhibition renamed Memento Mori. What happens when we are confronted with the uncomfortable or visually grotesque? What makes the unappealing difficult to digest but impossible to turn away from?

The myth of the wild man stretches back to the tale of Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality.  In history the wild man’s characteristics oscillate between horror and fantasy. They reflect fear of the other as well as aspirations to be at one with nature often violating the taboos of civilization and symbolizing the repressed desires of society. This person who posts photos of himself in charged poses has become an internet meme shared with equal disgust and fascination. In this etching he is placed back in the ancient forest of all our origins.

I have completed the video commission Cosmic Chiasmus (crossing the universe) for Queen’s Hall Digital but am continuing research into cosmic rays. Around 10,000 muons rain down on each square metre of Earth’s surface every minute.

Muon tomography can be used to remotely explore dense matter for hidden voids. High energy cosmic rays such as muons pass through objects, but in doing so, some will be absorbed by the object and so fewer particles will arrive on the other side. This means sensitive muon detectors can be used like x-rays to determine the structure of extremely large and dense objects. This method has been used to reveal a mysterious, 30-metre-long hidden chamber in the 4,500-year-old great pyramid of Giza, to determine the inner structures of volcanoes and to study the damaged nuclear reactor at Fukushima, Japan.

The Robot, The Dentist and The Pyramid is a 45-minute Documentary (2020) from Ancient Architects

I have discovered an audio manipulation in Adobe Audition that makes my own voice acceptable to me as voiceover for my video work. So I have returned to the video Contingent Horizons, rewritten and recorded new dialogue.

This dialogue is based on the excerpts from popular online lectures that I had used before but I have reimagined some of these quotes and included ideas from ancient descriptions of the cosmos.

the nature of the world emerges from shifting patterns

between matter and myth

to the darkest North with moon on water

to the South with sunlit crystal

to the West with Earthbound cubic alter

to the East with circling zephyrs

walking

to know the land as a plotted dimension

as abstract space

as imagined space

Out of the studio:

Lisa Chang Lee Symphony Zero at San Mei Gallery. Beautiful work creating a fragile connection between humans and the natural world as rhythms coincide to create collaborative music. Plants swaying in the breeze are each represented by a musical instrument sympathetic to its form and its movement is transposed using algorithms applied using modes of symmetry and interval into musical scores which in turn are played by humans.

Less a building: Interactions with the London Zoo Aviary book launch hosted by Passengers at The Brunswick Centre. Transported by readings from the book of this iconic flight of fancy in architecture for avian captives at the zoo. A many layered and collaborative research project by Michaela Nettell with Marcela Araguez, Tim Dee, Polly Gould, Alex Hartley, Julie F Hill, Helen Jukes, Milena Michalski, Colin Priest, Ana Ruepp and Matthew Turner. Excellent writing and gorgeous artworks. Now I wish I’d visited the aviary more often.

Geographies of Print collective Without Horizon, Without Shore. Stunning installations set against the civic backdrop of the Old Lambeth County Court, an apt setting for work looking at passage of time, capturing the transient and the human condition.

Victoria Arney has used the sonograms of bird song to create sculptural woodcuts. Capturing fleeting moments within landscape.

Victoria Ahrens looks at erosion and disappearance, creating work in situ using the minerals present in the landscape to hand colour her prints. We think of colour as light bouncing off matter, some absorbed, some reflected, but this work really brings home how integral colour is to substance.

Carol Wyss uncovers the structures that shape us physically and bear witness human frailty.

Symbols made from bones connect us to the earth as origin and destiny.

Thom Bridge Only Similar or Equivalent at Best solo show at Staffordshire Street Studios. Incredible work with light taking the image into realms of physics and geology.

“The degree to which an image is like the world is a question not of fidelity- as a narrative of documentation or technological development would have it – but of equivalence, the role that an image plays in showing in showing, or demonstrating, representing or bringing into view. Equivalence takes priority over resemblance, because the task of the image is not to repeat the world, but to inform it, and by informing it, subtly alter it in turn.” Duncan Wooldridge

Chudamani Clowes in Figure It Out with the Neulinge Collective. Wonderful immediacy as always from Chud that cuts right through to expose the lived experience of those who migrate. Epic journeys bring stories and transformation. The coral is on the move.

Robert Good in Osmosis: experiments in permeability at Espacio Gallery with work that forces an examination of an addiction to media updates, digital clickbait and daily data news dumps. Assaulted by a tsunami of inane questions and disconnected headlines into a brain numbing torpor the need for space to think is made apparent.

A captivating telling of how magic is vital for our well being and should be sought not shunned. Mythosphere is a multi-media theatre production created by Inna Dulerayn presented by Bacchae productions in partnership with Stone Nest at the atmospherically derelict Old Welsh Chapel on Shaftesbury Avenue. Inspired by the life experiences and creativity of Leonora Carrington and the writings of Diana Wynne.

This is a story about magic. The magic that we lost. The magic that is a forgotten part of our nature. The magic that is our right to be divine. But we still sense it. We dream of it. We feel abandoned without it. We keep looking for it all our lives.

Reading:

I am still dipping into The Waves by Virginia Woolf which I was inspired to read after listening to the Art Fictions Podcast with guest artist Hannah Hughes speaking to Fiona Fullerton. I particularly love the interludes as the sun rises over the ocean and begins its journey across the sky. Like too rich chocolate cake the intensity of Woolf’s writing is delicious but can only be taken in small bites.

I have Chantall Powell to thank for flagging up the book The Philosophers’ Secret Fire: A History of the Imagination by Patrick Harpur. A fascinating book taking the view that just because something is not literally so doesn’t mean it isn’t ‘real’. As in Mythosphere the book seeks to rediscover the Otherworld of spirits, gods and daimons which the west has banished to the unconscious mind.

I was so excited to read the following:

“…daimons inhabit another, often subterranean world which fleetingly interacts with ours. They are both material and immaterial, both there and not-there – often small, always elusive shape-shifters whose world is characterized by distortions of time and space and, above all, by an intrinsic uncertainty.

The point is: the words ‘subatomic particles’ could be substituted for ‘daimons’ in the paragraph above without any loss of accuracy. This is not a coincidence – the subatomic realm, like the unconscious, is where the daimons took refuge once they were outcast from their natural habitat.”

When cosmic rays smash into the nuclei of gases high up in the atmosphere a variety of secondary particles are created but the only ones typically long-lived enough to make it to the Earth’s surface are muons. Muons are heavy electrons with a lifetime of 2.2 millionth of a second before they decay into an electron and a neutrino. Muons are typically produced around 15 km up in the atmosphere, a distance which takes around 50 millionths of a second to cross at the speed of light. This is over 20 muon lifetimes so they shouldn’t be able to get to Earth’s surface before they decay. However, since they are travelling approximately 98% the speed of light, time in their frame of reference is significantly stretched relative to time we experience on Earth. This means that they can travel much further in a shorter period so many Muons do make it to the surface. Special relativity is mind boggling.

Particles that arrive on Earth can cause computer processor bits to flip from one to zero or zero to one. The larger the computer is and the higher the altitude where it operates the more data corruption can occur. There are procedures to enable high altitude supercomputers like those at Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the atomic bomb, to detect when a bit is flipped and raise an alarm to force a crash and system reset. The big problem is silent corruption that neither the computer or human notices that could occur in sensitive data such as nuclear weapons stewardship and modelling for national security, space exploration, climate change, disease transmission, new drug trials etc.

This is all research and stills from my video commission Cosmic Chiasmus for Queen’s Hall Digital which will be going live soon.

Further work on sculptural piece 90 light years home joining all the individual tiles to make raster patterns of fragmented data transmissions. Made from a combination of screen print on textile, dye sublimation print and chinagraph pencil.

These are scrambled messages to outer space. This work is based on the raster patterns of the first TV signals when images were transmitted in a series of lines. It is a systematic process of covering an area progressively, one line at a time. It is similar to how one’s gaze travels when one reads lines of text. 

HD 70642 is a star about 90 light years away. It has roughly the same mass and radius as our sun. It has a companion planet that orbits in a circular motion very similar to how the planets orbit in our solar system. Waves like FM radio or television signals can pierce the ionosphere and travel through space at the speed of light. The first radio and TV signals from Earth will be reaching this solar system about now.

The work for my planned cosmic ray detector interactive artwork is still at the sourcing components stage. I am gradually gathering many small packages containing mysterious miniscule parts with worrying warning labels. No mention of the handling precautions in the HOW TO video! Also certain items seem to be difficult to get hold of at the moment with shipping dates set to next spring.

I have sent off for the custom printed circuit boards from China with fingers heavily crossed.

The detector works on the basis that when a charged particle passes through a scintillating material, part of its energy is absorbed and re-emitted as photons. A light sensitive device called a silicon photo-multiplier (SiPM) coupled to the scintillator observes these photons. A single photon can make a measurable signal in the SiPM and can be amplified to shape the signal in such a way that it can measure both how many photons were observed and at what time they arrived using an Arduino Nano. I am hoping to divert that signal to set off a script controlling a layering of on screen images which generatively decay as each cosmic ray pulse is recorded.

In 2019 for the exhibition Reading Stones I created the site specific installation Time Crystals in the ancient St. Augustine’s Tower in Hackney. The nature of time itself was a concept that St Augustine of Hippo grappled with in his philosophical texts sixteen centuries ago and is still perplexing us today; namely, how to equate the subjective experience of time with an objective understanding.

In the news recently is the actual realisation of time crystals, a wholly new phase of matter to add to solids, liquids, gases and plasma that we are familiar with. Solid crystal structures repeat patterns across space whereas time crystal patterns repeat over time. Google researchers in collaboration with physicists at other universities have used Google’s quantum computer to produce this special phase of matter that changes constantly between states, but doesn’t appear to use any energy. All other known phases of matter are in thermal equilibrium meaning their their properties don’t change with time if the temperature is constant and settle into a low energy ambient state. Electronic computers use the binary system of 1s and 0s, on or off to process data. In a quantum computer, quantum bits have more possible states than just on and off adding uncertainty to outcomes. Qubits are unstable, acting differently when they’re under observation but time crystals remain stable while constantly flipping states and may be a huge breakthrough for complex computing and data modelling.

Pleased to announce work has finally been installed through Dais Contemporary at the impressive new Taj St James Court Hotel. Two screen print pieces from the everydaymatters series which are informed by the percentages of visible matter, dark matter and dark energy in the universe, and C-type on aluminium Pairi Daêza based around the refencing by Plato of the dodecahedron as the Aether holding the stars in the heavens. Dissecting landscapes to discover the hidden structures of the universe.

Expanding my etching skills with photopolymer process under the expert eye of J. Yuen Ling Chiu. It’s all in the inking up. Ling is such a great teacher.

Trying more new skills with a Super 8 workshop run by knowledgeable enthusiast Ben Slotover who packed a lot into one day. I really enjoyed trying the different cameras and the dreamlike spattered effects of the final films. Definitely something I want to try again though I think there will be lots to learn to achieve good results. I think it might work well to revisit my paradise works with this medium. The nostalgic ethereal quality appeals for this especially with the expired Kodak film as this needs to be flooded with light to work well.

Enjoyed the super/collider hosted zoom presentation Finding Asteroids with Dr Maggie Lieu research fellow in Machine Learning and Cosmology at the University of Nottingham. As of April 2021, there are over 25,000 near-Earth objects and many of these are a potential risk to life here on Earth, but in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, there is believed to be over 2 million asteroids, some of which can reach 1000km in size! Scientists are actively searching for new, and tracking known asteroids. Often, they won’t know for sure where an asteroid will hit or how big an impact it will make until a few days before the collision. Machine learning is being used to keep a look out for potentially hazardous asteroids heading towards Earth. Interesting to hear how cosmic rays interfere with the data searches for asteroids by mimicking the traces made by asteroids but at such a different scale.

I joined Aphra Shemza for her online digital painting and co-creating workshop. The workshop was great fun, centered around the shemza.digital project which is a collaboration with computer artist Stuart Batchelor. Shemza.digital is based on the work of Aphra’s grandfather, the well-known British/Pakistani painter Anwar Jalal Shemza. It was inspiring and at times shocking to hear the family history and his struggle for recognition against the racism of the institutions he came into contact with as a young art student at the Slade and beyond.


Rewarding visit to Night Shaking with The Ingram Collection at The Lightbox, Woking. A spinetingling collection of objects dredged from the subconscious on a Night Sea Journey accompanied by enlightening and poetic text

“On the ‘Night Sea Journey’, what we think we know is held up to be an illusion. Our minds cannot fully grasp the changes of consciousness that take place during this ordeal. Ego and persona are forced to give way. This difficult inner terrain holds within it a hidden potential to experience a dramatic transformation of consciousness”

Objects and paintings made by Chantal Powell and Dean Melbourne are brought together with chosen artefacts from The Ingram Collection as the artists draw us into the Dark Night of the Soul and the Night Sea Journey narrative.

Chantal talking here on the symbolism of crowns and boats in alchemy and transformation.

We are made of carbon, it is the basic building block in virtually every cell in our body. Most of the carbon in the world is carbon-12 which contains six neutrons and six protons. However about 15 miles above our heads radioactive carbon-14 is formed as neutrons from cosmic rays interact with the atmosphere.

Protons and atomic nuclei created by events such as exploding stars speed across space and collide violently with the Earth’s atmosphere creating a chain reaction of cascading particles. Some of these tiny travellers may come from distant galaxies or be created by phenomena that we are yet to discover. Our body is continuously permeated at a subatomic scale by these particles fired into our world – an almost tangible contact with outer space.

Carbon-14 has six protons and eight neutrons and has a half-life of 5,730 years. This means that after 5,730 years dead matter which absorbed Carbon-14 when alive will contain half the amount it had when it died and after another 5,730 years that amount will have halved again. Radioactive decay is random but in a sample there are enough atoms to work out an average time it will take for the nucleus to lose the extra neutrons.

This radioactive carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by plants which are eaten by animals and humans.

Cosmic ray activity gives us carbon dating techniques.

I am working on a video, Cosmic Chiasmus, meaning crossing, which I was hoping would be part of Queens Hall Digital programme but now I am not sure they are going ahead with the commission.

Plant time lapse filming is fascinating to see how plants are so animated just at a different time scale to us. Also I have recently finished reading Richard Powers Overstory, a very powerful sobering read, which celebrates the slow yet socially active time of trees.

At Coniston. We are left to imagine the past majesty of this ancient giant which was lopped so it didn’t drop branches on the cars in the carpark.

Carbon dating is performed by measuring Carbon-14 in organic matter. Radiocarbon decays slowly while an organism is alive but is continually replenished as long as the organism takes in air or food.

When an organism dies no more Carbon-14 is absorbed and that which is present starts to decay at a constant rate.

By measuring the radioactivity of dead organic matter, the current carbon-14 content can be determined and the time of death established.

The oldest matter that can reliably be carbon dated is about 50,000 years old. Currently techniques are being refined as they have often relied on the assumption that Carbon-14 levels in the atmosphere are constant but they are not.

The burning of fossil fuels which have lost all their radiocarbon dilutes the amount of Carbon-14 with carbon dioxide and nuclear explosions add huge amounts of ‘bomb carbon’ to the atmosphere. During planetary magnetic field reversals more solar radiation cosmic rays enter the atmosphere producing more Carbon-14. Also the oceans suck up carbon circulating it for centuries.

There are a number of uncertainties for dating shell.

On the surface of the earth two to three Muons pass through your hand every second, underground this is reduced to about once a month.

I collected a selection of images from the 1930’s including some from family, including my Mum aged 3, which I have tinted blue and had printed on sublimation dye paper for transfer to the tiles making up the raster pattern in the work in progress 90 Light Years Home. FM radio and television signals can pierce the ionosphere and travel through space at the speed of light. The first signals will have travelled about 90 lightyears now to arrive at a solar system very similar to our own. Fragments travelling through space for light years with the potential for alien life to decipher.

While searching for images to use as fragments of our world as it appeared about 90 years ago in old National Geographic magazines I came across some articles about balloon voyages in the 1930’s to the stratosphere to record cosmic ray activity.

Intrepid explorers. These early explorations were innovative but also dangerous. In July 1934 a flight developed tears in the balloon fabric at about 57,000 feet and began to break apart, as it did so the hydrogen in the balloon exploded and the crew had to parachute to safety.

Physicist Victor Hess had already made a series of daring ascents in a balloon to take measurements of radiation in the atmosphere. In 1912 he made an ascent to 17,000 feet during a near-total eclipse of the Sun to determine if the source of the radiation was coming from the Sun and made the discovery that it had to be coming from further out in space.

The stratosphere balloon Explorer II was designed to carry heavy instruments for cosmic ray measurements to a height of 13 miles and more above sea level.

Scientists designed a system of cosmic ray telescopes to record the numbers of cosmic rays coming in from several angles above the horizon. Most of the cosmic rays counted are secondary particles shot out from the atoms of the air by the primary rays entering and colliding from space. During this flight the height at which most secondary cosmic rays are produced was determined and the first records of bursts of energy from atom disruption by cosmic rays was made.

Also, the first track ever made directly in the emulsion of a photographic plate by an alpha-particle cosmic ray with enormous energy of 100,000,000 electron volts was achieved. Two boxes of photographic plates coated with special emulsion were wrapped in light tight paper and attached to the balloon gondola. When the plates were developed there were no visible images but when put under a microscope tracks could be seen where the particles had ploughed through the emulsion.

Early google earth. They also took the highest altitude photographs of the Earth ever made.

To record data they had a series of cameras set to take automatic photographs of the dials on the different apparatus.

Analysing air captured from the stratosphere.

On Earth we are protected from most radioactive particles by the atmosphere and the magnetic field.

It has been clearly demonstrated that birds are able to sense the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field and that they can use this information as part of a compass sense. It may be possible humans retain some residual magnetoreceptor in our eyes that once allowed us to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. Current research suggests that some people do indeed perceive magnetic fields, albeit unconsciously.

Work in progress on navigation by magnetic receptors. Working on a soft ground etching of my iris with aquatint. Not sure yet if I will use the plate or the print in the final work which will have iron filings activated across the surface.

First components have arrived from America for my attempt to build my own cosmic ray detector to create an interactive artwork. The plastic block converts the energy of the charged particle passing through to a photon which can be read by a silicon photo-multiplier and the information fed to an Arduino processor. Daunting and exciting.

Visit to Sutton Hoo where the ever increasing accuracy of radio carbon dating has provided astonishing clues to the past history of this intriguing site. Archaeologists can determine the age of objects in decades as opposed to centuries.

Sutton Hoo is the site of two early medieval cemeteries dating from the 6th to 7th centuries near Woodbridge, in Suffolk, England. In 1939 landowner Mrs Edith Pretty asked local archaeologist Basil Brown to investigate the largest of several Anglo-Saxon burial mounds on her property. Inside, he made one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries of all time.

Past, present and future finds. Ancient trees. Burials of Kings. Amazing sword of beaten twisted wrought iron and steel. Basil Brown’s star charts.

The agency and aura of objects was investigated with the intent to generate new relations between objects and their associations with the world around them in the beautiful group show Can We Ever Know The Meaning Of These Objects curated by Sarah Sparkes and Kevin Quigley at Gallery 46.

Eileen Agar Angel of Anarchy at Whitechapel Gallery exposing the subconscious entwined with the material of nature. Enjoyed the decomposition of space into lines like foliations and contour lines. Which angel would you choose? Anarchy or Mercy?

I joined a zoom presentation from Sophie Williamson on her current project undead matter which dips into the deep time entanglement of geological ancestry. Leaving a mark in the past as a way of communicating with the future and creating a lineage for ourselves. Eras mingle with each other as ancient footprints resurface, ice melts, secreted narratives emerge. The permafrost holds vast amounts of carbon. Whole forests.

Zircon crystal contains radioactive uranium with a half-life of 4.5 billion years, which makes it useful for dating extremely old materials much much older than those containing Carbon-14. These crystals may hold clues to the origin of life. The carbon necessary for life may have arrived here in space dust from outer space via asteroids or comets.

WHAT ON EARTH group show from artists including Victoria Ahrens, Melanie King and Diego Valente using photographic processes with an emphasis on the material environment, tactility and sustainability.

Michael Armitage – Paradise Edict at the Royal Academy. Digital images do not do justice to the glow and vibrancy of these paintings. Can feel the heat pulsating with unsettling shape-shifting undercurrents.

180 The Strand with Ryoji Ikeda’s digital showcase was an intense assault on the senses using light and sound as medium to create immersive experiences. Brightness is the number of photons per second hitting your eye. Pushing the limits of what our senses can tolerate.

Took a trip to the Lake District to visit Brantwood, John Ruskin’s beautiful home to see Carol Wyss The Mind Has Mountains and Crown of Creation installations. Having seen the work that went into the printing of the large etchings at Thames-side Print Studio it was wonderful to be able to see the work finally installed and step inside the mysterious depths of the human skull; a space echoed by the surrounding mountains. The light installation is suspended in the dark chill of the Ice House vault, viewed from the top of rugged steps carved into the rock. Here the fragility of the human skeleton fades and glows accompanied by an evocative soundscape made by Natasha Lohan capturing the echoing chamber and the water that courses through everything.

HD 70642 is a star about 95 light years away. It has roughly the same mass and radius as our sun. It has a companion planet that orbits in a circular motion very similar to how the planets orbit in our solar system. Waves like FM radio or television signals can pierce the ionosphere and travel through space at the speed of light. The first radio and TV signals from Earth will be reaching this solar system about now.

Family photo 1930 Kessingland Beach. It has taken almost the equivalent of my Mother’s lifetime for the early transmissions to reach this potential home from home.

Work in progress.

The work is based on the raster patterns of the first TV signals when images were transmitted in a series of lines. It is a systematic process of covering an area progressively, one line at a time. It is similar to how one’s gaze travels when one reads lines of text. The word raster comes from the Latin rastrum, meaning rake. Patterns of line. The signal is sent in fragments and must be interpreted on arrival to make sense of the message.

Also working on a short video – Cosmic Chiasmus, looking at the journey of cosmic rays from distant galaxies to our planet. Chiasmus comes from Greek meaning crossing, like in the letter X.

Cosmic rays, some travelling from other galaxies, pass through us and our world continuously, creating an almost tangible contact with outer space.

Some super high energy cosmic ray particles that arrive on Earth have 20 million times more energy than particle colliders can generate. They may come from distant galaxies or be created by phenomena that we are yet to discover.

They may come from other dimensions.

First line of defence on Earth against the ionising radiation of high energy cosmic rays is our magnetic field which deflects many charged particles before they reach our atmosphere. Second line of defence against cosmic rays is Earth’s atmosphere. Most high energy particles that make it past the magnetic field collide with atoms in the upper atmosphere and break apart to create a cascade of secondary particles that shower down upon us. In losing some of their energy as they smash apart they are less dangerous.

I have a very short film Big Bang to be featured in the 2021 Birkenhead International Film Festival of films 30 seconds or less.

The scales of the universe are hard to comprehend and this 12 second video is an attempt to relate this unfathomability to the human experience. Each second of the video is comprised of 24 single frame extracts from 24 separate videos of the moment a soap film membrane burst. Too fast for our eyes to see, we cannot register the individual frame or the instant the bubble bursts. This is nothing compared to the speed at which the Big Bang exploded matter across the universe or the magnitude of time that has passed since that event. As scientists use ever more sensitive instruments of measurement we must try and grapple with concepts that our limited senses have no hope of experiencing directly.

According to theoretical physics higher dimensions exist where space acts very like a soap film membrane in trying to minimize surface area. String theory, which attempts to combine quantum mechanics with general relativity potentially allows for many universes each with different physical laws.. It may be possible for our universe to suddenly transform into a universe with completely different properties. If this did happen, it would thankfully be so fast we would be oblivious to the moment of transition.

Out of the studio. Wonderful to be able to visit exhibitions again.

Matthew Barney Redoubt at Hayward Gallery

Incredible, stunningly beautiful and riveting film full of mythology ritual and alchemy that spills over into the gallery.

Igshaan Adams Kicking Dust also at Hayward Gallery

Dust clouds and desire lines. Leaving the dark and snow laden forest in the upper gallery for hazy sandy plains.

A rather lovely lump of creamy smooth marble from Not Vital at Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery.

Robert Rauschenberg Night Shades and Phantoms also at Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery. Slippery surfaces. We are the phantoms.

Rachel Whiteread Internal Objects at Gagosian. A different sort of negative. All in the detail.

Stephen Friedman Gallery at the London House of Modernity Quite splendid.

Jaki Irvine Ack Ro’ installation at Frith Street Gallery Bathing in pink neon song and sounds, gentle breezes and dappled light.

Tuned in to the webinar Art in Flux: The Invisible In collaboration with National Gallery X | Curated by Olive Gingrich

In a time, when there are nearly as many pieces of digital information as there are stars in the universe, contemporary artists explore new forms of making this vast amount of information accessible – be it through visual interpretations or new forms of interactivity. While museums around the globe including The National Gallery revisit their collections through the prism of data, contemporary artists such as Refik Anadol, Marshmallow Laser Feast and the Analema Group develop new processes for audiences to experience invisible phenomena in all new ways.

Ben Judd ‘The Origin‘ beautiful exhibition at Stanley Picker Gallery looking at island communities.

“Nothing comes into being out of what is non-existent. It’s our common observation that nothing magically appears out of nothing. It is also our common experience that stuff doesn’t magically disappear. These are concepts that are embedded deep in our common understanding.” Jim Baggott

I have finished the video work exploring the decomposition of space.

Contingent Horizons looks at how space is perceived as a plotted dimension, as abstract space calculated mathematically but perhaps not something we can visualise, and as imagined space.

“You’re locked inside a bony skull trying to figure what’s out there in the world. There’s no light inside the skull, there’s no sound either, all you’ve got to go on are streams of electrical impulses which are only indirectly related to things in the world, whatever they may be. Perception, figuring out what’s there has to be a process of informed guesswork” Anil Seth

Setting off at dawn and walking the most direct route to each of the four points due North, East, South and West of my home the film charts the three mile journeys which approximate the distance to my visible horizon at sea level.

“It may be that these four dimensions are manifest to us but that in fact we are embedded in a higher dimensional space.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

Possible hierarchies of dimensions and perception are viewed from three speculative perspectives; ‘the seeker’ who wishes to discover what is beyond the horizon; ‘the seer’ who imagines what might be beyond; and ‘the scientist’ who offers calculated theories.

It’s possible that ‘spacetime is really dramatically warped so that we really only experience one region of space and other regions of space have less influence on us’ Lisa Randall

Constantly changing ephemeral landscapes begin to lose form and clarity as the horizon approaches breaking down into contour lines and foliations.

The decomposition of shape into lines and circles and obfuscating patterns reflects the difficulty we have not only trying to see what is beyond our horizons but how we interpret the world around us and what information we trust.

The journey is accompanied by audio clips from academic and popular lectures which act as a sort of internal dialogue. Walking and thinking. Walking can help to improve brain function and aid creativity.

We may live in a multiverse of bubbles each with wildly different laws of physics. String theory allows for many universes with different physical laws. It may be possible our universe could suddenly transform into a universe with different properties. If this did happen it would be so fast we wouldn’t even register it.

Enjoying the many patterns playing with kaleidoscope effects using video footage of soap film membranes. In the 7th dimension space acts in a similar way to a bubble membrane trying to minimise surface area.

Trying to visualize other dimensions is not easy. The odd little book Flatland written by clergyman Edwin Abbott in 1884 demonstrates just how hard it is to grasp anything beyond what we can experience.

I have been awarded a micro commission by Queens Hall Digital an arts organisation based in the North East of England to make a short film about our interaction with cosmic rays.

Cosmic rays, some travelling from other galaxies, pass through us and our world continuously, creating an almost tangible contact with outer space. Witnessing this incredible activity helps us to look beyond what our immediate senses tell us exists and consider the interconnectedness of our universe. I have been filming the beautiful trails formed within a cloud chamber by these unseen travellers from the stars and thinking about the journey of these particles and the impact of their collisions as they strike Earth’s atmosphere and shower down upon us.

Making tiles to fold together a bit like a lenticular but to reflect the raster pattern created when early television signals were broadcast using 30 lines to make up one image. John Logie Baird set up the Baird Television Development Company in 1926, he was the first to transmit experimental television broadcasts for the BBC.

Television and radio broadcasts can travel out of Earth’s atmosphere and through space, albeit quickly becoming very diffuse and hard to pick up. FM radio or television signals can pierce the ionosphere and travel through the vacuum of space at the speed of light. Currently these fragmented signals could be picked up by other worlds about 90 lightyears away. Basically my Mother’s lifetime to travel so far.

First exhibition visit in a long time was a real treat.

Victoria Rance’s In Real Life at Cable Depot. It was so good to escape into this poignant and shadowy otherworld. It was also available to view online via webcam but definitely best experienced sitting alone on the carpet in the dark.

‘And here is one of the map’s most important characteristics: the viewer is positioned simultaneously inside and outside it. In the act of locating themselves on it, the viewer is at the same moment imaginatively rising above (and outside) it in a transcendent moment of contemplation, beyond time and space, seeing everywhere from nowhere.’ Jerry Brotton in A History of the World in 12 maps

Locked down editing video work. Setting off at dawn and wearing a headcam I walked the most direct route to each of the four points due North, East, South and West of my home. I chose a three mile radius as this approximates the distance to my horizon at sea level.

I am interested in how space is perceived as a plotted dimension, as abstract space calculated mathematically but perhaps not something we can visualise and as imagined space.

I aim to relate these different perspectives on space to broader knowledge. In my film there are three speculative viewpoints; ‘the seeker’ who wishes to discover what is beyond the horizon, ‘the seer’ who imagines what might be beyond and ‘the scientist’ who offers abstract theories.

In the film I explore connections and hierarchies of physical dimensions and perception, the use of contour lines on maps, foliation and patterns in soap film membranes or marbling.

Foliation is the decomposition of shape into lines and circles. It occurs in geology as repetitive layering in metamorphic rocks and in mathematics as the analysis of curves and surfaces. The math’s language is way beyond what I can understand but it does have connections with holonomy and manifolds and Poincaré which I am interested in though I am yet to get to grips with any firm understanding. The notion of leaves (slices) allows for an intuitive way of thinking about a foliation. In mathematics, topology compares shapes to see if they have the same number of holes and handles and can therefore be moulded from one shape into the other by stretching, twisting, crumpling and bending, but not tearing or gluing.

I took many films of soap film membranes and have been exporting the final single frame at the moment the bubble bursts. I have used these frames to create sequences of collated membrane bursts. We may live in a multiverse of bubbles each with wildly different laws of physics. String theory allows for many universes with different physical laws. It may be possible our universe could suddenly transform into a universe with different properties. If it did happen it would be so fast we wouldn’t even register it.

I made a silver cape for some green screen filming in character as the seer. Learning lots about Adobe After Effects so if the editing requires I drop this section then the hours put in won’t be entirely wasted and the cape will come in for when next door can have their parties again.

Thinking about making new work that interacts in real time with cosmic rays as they hit the Earth’s atmosphere and shower down upon us.

Cosmic rays, some travelling from other galaxies, pass through us and our world continuously, creating an almost tangible contact with outer space. Witnessing this incredible activity helps us look beyond what our immediate senses tell us exists and consider the interconnectedness of our universe.

We are made of carbon. Most of the carbon in the world is carbon-12 which contains six neutrons and six protons. Protons and atomic nuclei created by events such as exploding stars speed across space and collide violently with the Earth’s atmosphere creating a chain reaction of cascading particles. Some of these particles created are neutrons which can smash into atoms of nitrogen to create carbon-14 which has six protons and eight neutrons.

Cosmic ray activity gives us carbon dating techniques. Carbon-14 is unstable and therefore radioactive. It has a half-life of 5,730 years. This means if a sample of a tree contains 64 g of radioactive carbon, then after 5,730 years it will contain 32 g, after another 5,730 years that will have halved again to 16 g. Radioactive decay is random but in a sample there are enough atoms to work out an average time it will take for the nucleus to lose the extra neutrons.

Carbon-14 atoms in the atmosphere combine with oxygen to create radioactive carbon-dioxide. This radioactive carbon-dioxide is absorbed by plants which are eaten by animals. When an organism dies no more carbon-14 will be absorbed. The existing carbon-14 will start to decay. By measuring the radioactivity, the current carbon-14 content can be determined and the time of death established.

A planet with twice the mass of Jupiter has been discovered orbiting HD70642 in an almost circular orbit. This means it is possible that Earth-type planets may be orbiting further in. In all other planetary systems discovered with massive planets they usually have disruptive closer elliptical orbits which would destroy any smaller planets on a circular orbit. Hope to return to my studio soon to continue work on ’90 light years home’ which will use a raster pattern on folded paper looking at mapping out a space ship as a star map using 137 points. As physicist Laurence Eaves states – ‘The number 137 would be the one you’d signal to aliens to indicate that we have some measure of mastery over our planet and understand quantum mechanics.’

137 comes from the fine-structure constant, also known as Sommerfeld’s constant and is represented by the alpha symbol α. Using several fundamental constants found in nature to give a fundamental physical constant. This number represents the strength of electromagnetic interaction between elementary charged particles which is the probability that an electron will absorb a photon.

I watched the Hito Steyerl lecture as part of the Dramaturgies of Resistance online event series.  ‘At this unprecedented time, when it seems as if “everything is canceled,” Steyerl’s most recent work explores the complex relation between spread (of conspiracy theories no less than viral contagion) and simulation (from the automization of performance to our capacities for virtual interaction with statistical probability of human risk).’

I was excited to find the lecture covered topics very relevant to my research into abstract space at the moment such as objects in topology. The Alexander horned sphere is a pathological object in topology. It is formed by starting with a standard torus, removing a radial slice of the torus and connecting a standard punctured torus to each side of the cut, interlinked with the torus on the other side. A pathological object is one which possesses deviant, irregular or a counterintuitive property, in such a way that distinguishes it from what is conceived as a typical object in the same category.

The opposite of pathological is well-behaved.

Mathematician Shing-Tung Yau set out to discover if there could be a spacetime which contains no matter but in which there is still gravity caused by the topology of the space. In 1977 he solved the Calabi Conjecture posed by Eugenio Calibi in 1954 who was interested in whether a certain type of topology guarantees a certain type of geometry. Topology looks at the overall form of an object and recognizes shapes that have an equivalent topology but different geometry such as a doughnut and a coffee cup as they can be morphed from one to the other. Topologists generally study manifolds. Manifolds are shapes that could be flat when looked at close up such as the earth’s surface or a ball if you were an ant. Each point on the surface can be mapped using two coordinates onto a 2 D plane and the shape is finite. Taking the average of all the curvatures at every point on the surface gives what’s called the Ricci curvature. A doughnut which is a 2D manifold mapped in this way has a Ricci curvature of zero which shows that a manifold can have a zero Ricci curvature at every point without being flat. There are also shapes which look 3D when seen up close and need 3 coordinates to map them. In mathematics it is possible to think of Euclidean (flat) space in any number of dimensions by increasing the number of coordinates you use giving manifolds in many dimensions. Transferring this equation to physics Ricci curvature describes the curvature of spacetime that’s induced by matter being present if this curvature is zero then it describes a spacetime with no matter. Yau proved that this type of manifold could exist in all dimensions. This type of manifold is known as the Calabi-Yau manifold. Particularly in superstring theory, the extra dimensions of spacetime are sometimes conjectured to take the form of a 6-dimensional Calabi–Yau manifold, which led to the idea of mirror symmetry.

Hidden in the future.

Grow the space of cooperation.

I took a couple of online geometry courses with The Princes School of Traditional Arts.

Mapping the Cosmos class was based on the geometry and symbolism of the Cosmati Pavement at Westminster Abbey which was laid in 1268.

The Geometry of Sound class looked at Chladni patterns which occur on a rigid surface caused by various modes of vibration.

We begin each drawing with a circle intersecting a horizontal line. The horizon where heaven and earth touch.

I am about to follow up on some of the recommended further reading.

Other reading has provided some mind blowing facts. Thanks Jim Al-Khalili.

There are scientists measuring time in attoseconds. There are more attoseconds in a single second than there have been seconds since the big bang.

Atoms are incredible tiny; you can fit more atoms into a single glass of water than there are glasses of water in all the oceans of the world.

“Which is older, day or night? “Night is the older, by one day.” — Thales

Progressing new work Seeker Seer Scientist. I have completed walks to my south and west horizon points wearing a head camera.

2011 south walk

Each walk starts at dawn and takes the most direct route to a point on the map 3 miles from my home. For an average height observer, the visible horizon is approximately 3 miles distant. The true horizon is usually hidden.

2011 south map

‘Horizon’ derives from the Greek ‘horizōn kyklos’ meaning “separating circle” which in turn comes from the verb to divide as in creating a boundary. 

2011 South 1

2011 south destination

The walk west was the longest of the four as the winding River Thames disrupted a very direct route.

2011 west 1

2011 west 2

After walking to each of the four compass points NESW I have about 5 hours of footage which I have edited down to about a 6 minute journey to the horizon edge. I am aiming for the final film to be viewed while on a treadmill to experience the meditative rhythm created by walking which heightens creative thought processes. The work will consider the existence of many more dimensions than we are aware of in our known and knowable universe from the perspective of mathematical theory and levels of consciousness.

‘We have many tools at our disposal to gather information about the world. Physicists are tuning their instruments to an unprecedented level of sensitivity. Ultimately, however, whatever external instruments we use, all data is experienced by our bodily senses. These senses turn out to be more finely tuned and calibrated than anything we have yet invented.‘ Ansuman Biswas

My friend has leant me her grandfather’s beautiful compass to use in the film. The magnetic compass was first invented as a device for divination as early as the Chinese Han Dynasty.

‘Scales of Intangibility’ an installation using cosmic trail projections within a velvet lined chamber was planned to be included at the 2020 Hidden Door Festival in Edinburgh. Due to the ongoing pandemic this was to be postponed until late spring 2021 but could now be postponed further.

In readiness I am running my cloud chamber to get some new footage.

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. The interactive experience brings alive the fact that these visitors from outer space are everywhere. Filmed on 4th November, the day of the American Presidential Election, this V for victory was an encouraging message from the stars.

2011 cosmic trail V

It’s also quite cool when a puff of air gets into the chamber.

2011 cloud chamber

Watched the London Screen Archives film about Woolwich which shows clips from Paradise Place. This has given me an idea for new work taking rubbings from the walls of paradise once I can travel about again in London.

Also testing the raster folding for the work 90 light years home. A raster scan, is the line by line pattern of image capture and reconstruction used in early television transmission. Work based on the idea that there may be a habitable planet orbiting HD 70642, a yellow dwarf star in the constellation of Puppis. At 90 light years away, extremely faint early broadcasts from Earth are now passing this planetary system. Representing the Stern, or Poop deck, of the Argo Navis, Puppis is one of the three constellations that once formed the huge constellation Argo Navis (the ship of the Argonauts). Looking at a contemporary (space) ship symbolizing adventures into the unknown that could be transmitted as raster image.

I found participating in Robbie Coleman and Jo Hodge’s Shoreline to Shoreline a very moving experience. This collective pilgrimage in the time of Covid to stand at the edge of any significant nearby body of water at 3pm on 20th December 2020 to remember, mark or memorialise loss was an invitation to feel grief without suppression and feel a connection through commonality.

Every droplet of rain, every snowflake that falls is on a circular journey. Water that evaporates from the surface of a puddle may arrive on the other side of the world as part of a wave crashing onto a beach. The journey may have taken a few days carried in clouds across the sky or a thousand years trapped in a glacier creeping through the Northern darkness.

2012 shoreline to shoreline

This coincided with the Winter solstice return of the light. Grief like a wave, swelling and rolling over you, making you gasp for air. We struggle against it but here I let it wash over me a little. I stood on the bank of the little Hogsmill river which is our nearest body of water and somewhere I visited often during lockdown and also on the day my Mother died when it seemed particularly vibrant.

Also checking on the progress of ‘stumpy’ in winter guise.

2012 stumpy

As night fell Saturn and Jupiter edged closer together. The 2020 great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is the closest these planets appear since 1623 and the closest observable since 1226.

2012 great conjunction

The winter solstice is the precise moment at which the Northern Hemisphere is at maximum tilt away from the Sun. At that moment, the sun’s rays are directly over the Tropic of Capricorn (my birth sign). It is the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year. The shadow at noon is the longest a noontime shadow can be.

‘There’s something wrong! There’s something wrong – It’s high noon and my shadow’s long!’ Was Not Was One White Crow

After an exciting fun packed real life opening event, a stop and start exhibition between lockdowns Bow Arts Nye Thompson led Visions II programme at the Nunnery Gallery closed. It is still possible to view the films on the Nunnery Gallery YouTube Channel

During the window of opportunity between lockdowns I was able to enjoy a journey through Andy Holden’s cartoon world of existential angst The Structure of Feeling (A Ghost Train Ride) at Block 336.

Also an up close visit to the winding labyrinth of Terra Nexus, a network of interconnected installations questioning the role of the human as part of ecology at Proposition Studios and was lucky to be guided through by curator Gabriella Sonabend. Excellent poetic film One Day As I Was Driving Home by WR Saunders, which simultaneously condenses and stretches the experience of time exposing the unrelenting power of entropy. Great to see the congealed organicly industrial cavern Swimming in the Mud by Emma Jane Whitton. Whole show ambitiously moving to South Bank in New year.

Just squeezed in a trip to The Botanical Mind at Camden Art Centre.

The ceremonial use of entheogenic, or mind altering plants is closely associated with the shamanic tradition and many different cultures and traditions work with plant medicines for psycho-spiritual transformation. It has been suggested by academics and researchers that the evolution of human consciousness was catalysed by psychoactive plants. In the Amazon rainforest, the patterns found in nature are the basis of sacred geometries that indigenous people incorporate into their everyday world through their art and which trace a connection to a primordial reality where the material, immaterial, visible and invisible planes of existence were once unified and whole.

2010 at a distance

Delighted to be included in Visions In The Nunnery at Bow Arts and so good to be at the opening with live performances. Robert Luzar with Timo Kube Tracing Someone Else’s Skin and Libby Heaney presenting Top of the Bots karaoke where audience members embody pop idols via AI technology. 2010 Visions Robert LuzarBodies touching and people singing seemed illicit and extra joyful. 2010 Top of The BotsVisions in the Nunnery is Bow Arts’ biennial showcase of international moving image and performance art.

2010 VisionsLeaflet_Digital-2

Lead artist for Programme 2 is Nye Thompson. Creating new data-generating artist software systems she explores the hidden impact of new technologies. For Visions she premieres /artefact, an immersive work building a colossal border wall on Mars through satellite and google earth imagery accompanied by a throaty space-filled soundtrack.

2010 Visions Nye Thompson

For the first time, all Visions 2020 works will also be available online for international audiences and those shielding. The themes of programme 2 include digital mediation, digital infrastructure, the remote gaze, CCTV, borders and separation, other worlds and alternate geographies.

2010 at a distance 2

In At a Distance solitary figures using semaphore flags sign ‘We Are One’ out across the ocean. Filmed on 29th March 2019, the first date the UK was supposed to leave the EU.

As in quantum entanglement theory where two paired electrons mirror each other at a distance it is hoped the message will be echoed back. This mysterious twinning of electrons where particles link in a way that they instantly affect each other, even over vast distances is what Einstein famously called ‘spooky action at a distance’.  The 4m video includes mirrored footage of the iconic Lizard Point Lighthouse and covers the time it takes for the lamp to power up. The video is back projected onto a Fresnel lens, similar to that found in lighthouses to increase luminosity of the lamps beam.

Exhibition and launch images below by Rob Harris courtesy of The Nunnery Gallery.

Updated my website Finding Paradise project pages with Paradise(suspended).

2009 featured image

Making (slow) progress on new moving image work Seeker, Seer, Scientist.

We each have a personal distance to the horizon based on our specific height of eye from the ground and the local elevation from sea level at which we stand. It is a place we can never reach as it always recedes as we approach.

Walking East at dawn.

2010 East 1

In my enthusiasm I may’ve set off a little too early and some footage has turned out to be rather dark, though passing the Sewage Treatment Works at this hour was an uncanny futuristic experience. It was the hummmm.

2010 East 2

Grappling with abstract space as I research for the audio track. Revisiting a lecture I attended at UCL on the 7th dimension by Jason D. Lotay

As you go up in dimensions there are more symmetries that you cannot see. There are special symmetries that only happen in the 7th dimension, this holonomy set of transformations is called G2.

There are 7 new numbers known as Octonians. The symmetry of the Octonians is precisely G2.

2010 symmetry

M theory unites the various different string theories into one master theory but in order to do this there must be 11 dimensions. These 11 dimensions are the 4 we know (3 dimensions + time) + 7 new dimensions (related to G2) (which I think allows for the multiverse to exist)

The 7th dimension is closely related to soap films and soap bubbles in that these try to minimise their surface area. Seventh dimensional things with holonomy G2 also try to minimise a kind of energy or area.

1810 freezing bubble

I am continuing to film soap film as light is spectacularly reflected from the surface. The colours depend on the thickness of the water sandwiched between the soap and as the membrane becomes so thin just before breaking the colours fade away.

2010 membrane filming

Trying a new soap bubble recipe with lots more glycerin and a different brand of washing-up liquid. I also have a larger frame for the soap film so I don’t know which factor has effected the results most but I’m getting falling rainbow stripes morphing to grey and black swirls.

2010 membrane 22010 membrane 1

Finally ventured back into the Print Studio to clean my screens ready for potential new work. It’s the first time I had been back for months. I’m working on images of glacial water which has been trapped for 80,000 years.

Everything we can see, everything we know exists, makes up just five percent of the matter and energy in the universe.

I watched the live stream Dark Matter Day event live from Sanford Underground Research Facility and Boulby Underground Laboratory and was struck by the use of the word shielding, it’s all about shielding which of course is something we hear a lot about now amid the pandemic. In the case of dark matter detection experiments it is about shielding from cosmic rays. On the surface of the earth 2/3 Muons pass through your hand every second, in the underground labs this is reduced by a factor of 10,000,000 to about once a month.

2010 particle trail

I also learnt that gravity travels at the speed of light.

Some wonderful online discussions are being had by The Diagram Research Group (DRG), a collaboration between artists David Burrows, John Cussans, Dean Kenning and Mary Yacoob. Each collaborator conducts an illustrated discussion that explores their interest in diagrams in relation to Flat Time and Latham’s ideas concerning the unification of scientific and artistic bodies of knowledge and the primacy of time and event (rather than space and matter).

As part of the National Parks Virtual Dark Skies Week 2020 there were a series of online events available such as a talk on The Search For Dark Energy from Dr Luke Tyas. The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) will measure the effect of dark energy on the expansion of the universe. It will obtain optical spectra for tens of millions of galaxies and quasars, constructing a 3D map spanning the nearby universe to 11 billion light years. 

2010 stargazing

Looking at new ways to experience dimensions, Laure Provoust explores her approach to installations as living works, with sculptural elements and films that function in 3-D, invoking the viewer’s senses of taste and touch. In an online talk hosted by Yorkshire Sculpture Park she introduces us to her installation at Lisson Gallery where we are invited to learn a new language, new ways of connecting and associating.

2010 Laure Prouvost

It reminds me of the Carsten Höller perception-altering device I experienced back in 2015 that fed each eye with a different woodland perspective. I found it very unsettling. Like my brain was splitting. 

2010 Carsten Holler

This year I had to experience the London Film Festival at home with streamed content but was able to visit the BFI Blue room for the Expanded programme The Expanse, a gallery of immersive 360 videos and interactive virtual reality experiences. This was all free with lots of Covid safe help on hand to enjoy the VR.

Icarus – ‘don’t think of my fall, think of me soaring to the sun.’

2010 Icarus BFI

THE END Heather Phillipson’s sculpture of excess on the Fourth Plinth transmits a live feed of Trafalgar Square picked up by the drone’s camera and visible on a dedicated website www.theend.today giving a sculpture’s eye perspective.

2010 heather phillipson The End

Fascinating work by Trevor Paglen at Pace Gallery uncovers the hidden agendas and bias present in systems which now govern many aspects of our lives.

The works in this exhibition seek to provide a small glimpse into the workings of platforms that track faces, nature and human behaviour, and into the underlying data that structures how machines ‘perceive’ humans and landscapes.

You can visit virtually through a live web portal connected to cameras placed in the gallery, observe gallery visitors experiencing the work in real time and can even be “present” in the space by streaming your own webcam onto monitors displayed within the exhibition. Or you can visit in person as I did where I was assessed and evaluated by ‘ImageNet Roulette’ an interactive artwork that classifies people’s digitally-captured portraits according to one of the most widely-used datasets used for training and evaluating computer vision systems.

My classification oscillated between ‘dosser’ and ‘char’.

‘Bloom’, a series of large-scale photographs that depict flower formations conceptualized by various computer vision algorithms created to analyse the constituent parts of real-life photographs. The colours and shapes in the images represent similar areas that the AI has detected in learning from other images of flowers. They do not represent real-to-life colours so much as what the AI thinks the different parts of the images are.

‘The Standard Head’ is a large-scale reconstruction of the 1960’s mathematical model of a “standard head” by the pioneering researcher funded by the CIA, Woody Bledsoe. Conceived from the average measurements of the faces Bledsoe experimented with, Paglen reconstructed the “standard head” from rare information left behind in Bledsoe’s archives at the University of Texas. Artificial intelligence algorithms are designed and trained to look for faces, unique key points, lines, circles, and areas of interest as they attempt to deconstruct the underlying reality into a more simplified series of sections or shapes.

2010 Trevor Paglen 7

‘The Model (Personality)’, a plated bronze phrenology skull derived from the current categories that are used in predictive policing and sentencing algorithms that intend to gauge someone’s level of criminality by measuring their psychological attributes and behaviours.

2010 Trevor Paglen 1

‘Distracted Drivers’ and ‘Classifications of Gait’ showcase grids composed of thousands of smaller images used to evaluate people’s behaviours for commercial purposes.

The dataset for ‘Distracted Drivers’, for example, is a collection of images used to recognise if someone is distracted while driving by an AI system. This dataset was created by State Farm insurance to adjust their insurance premiums in real-time, based on that information.

The group exhibition Washing Line curated by Neil Zakiewicz and Patrick Morrissey at Thames-side Gallery took work away from the gallery walls and strung it across space. This made for a dynamic viewing experience negotiating a route to new perspectives. Two dimensional work hanging out in the world of three dimensions.

Robert Good’s stream(ers) of questions from Google News Feed rams home not only the overwhelming assault of media but the constant interrogation we are subject to. Another form of surveillance.

2010 Robert Good

Elizabeth Price raising the ghosts of a lost era in Slow Dans an Artangel presentation at The Assembly Rooms on Borough Road. This was a haunting and fascinating evocation of lost landscapes and what is quite recent but rapidly disappearing social history. Mineshafts, ink-wells, the human throat connect a geological past with a technological present.

2010 Elizabeth Price 12010 Elizabeth Price 22010 Elizabeth Price 3

2009 paradise suspended

Paradise (suspended) 

Latin suspendere, from sub- ‘from below’ + pendere ‘hang’ –

the prefix, sub- is often simplified to su- before sp; as seen in suspect, suspend, suspicion, suspension –

attachment from above/ imposed but not enforced/ dispersed through the bulk

A meshing of images and geometries which serve as a motif for the universe, fragmented and suspended echoing a time when dreams have been put on hold and the routines of daily life broken and held in limbo.

2009 paradise suspended 2

Work in progress looking at the possibility of a home from home orbiting the star HD70642 in the constellation of Puppis located about 92 light years away.  Link here to see HD70642 using the online planetarium Stellarium.

2009 STELLARIUM HD70642

This star has a long period planet companion making a circular orbit which means it is one of the most similar currently known planetary systems to our Solar System. There could be an Earth like planet orbiting this star. It would have taken my Mother’s whole life to reach here and the very first radio signals are only just arriving.

Puppis is one of the three constellations that once formed the huge constellation Argo Navis. In Greek mythology, the Argo carried Jason and his 50 Argonauts to Colchis at the eastern end of the Black Sea, to recover the Golden Fleece helped by Athena and Orpheus.

2009 Puppis

Imagine a world 92 light years away looking back at us. What patterns do the stars make? What stories are told here? Could those radio signals reaching them now be picked out from the noise of the universe?

I have made some progress with Seeker, Seer, Scientist an investigation at the boundary of my horizon. What lies beyond.

2009 gopro

Marking out a 3 mile radius on my customized ordnance survey map to determine each destination at the four points of my compass.  I embarked upon my first journey at dawn.

My GoPro headstrap had not arrived and so I had to improvise.

I was surprised by huge flocks of raucous parakeets rising from their overnight roost.

2009 parakeets

Destination North took me to Richmond Park. Wild deer and the terrifying roar of the nearby stag made a magical encounter.

2009 deer

2009 TEST membraneSome test filming of soap membranes for use in the film as a crossover point between the visual and the imagined reality.

2009 membrane 32009 membrane 22009 membrane still

Wonderful to hear that my video sculpture At a distance has been selected for Programme 2 of Visions in the Nunnery 2020 at Bow Arts

2009 At a distance

Nye Thompson’s Programme 2 explores our world through the many new digital systems that have fundamentally changed how we see and exist. Data is harvested, other worlds are imagined and the cataclysmic effect of technology is explored. I’m very excited to see her new work which virtually builds a colossal dividing wall on the un-walked territories of Mars.

In At a distance solitary figures using semaphore flags sign ‘We are one’ out across the ocean. Filmed at Lizard Point Cornwall on 29th March 2019 (the first date the UK was supposed to leave the EU). As in entanglement theory where two paired electrons mirror each other at a distance it is hoped the message will be echoed back.

Every outing is precious now. Visited Unit 1 Gallery/workshop Radical Residency V exhibition particularly to see the enigmatic sculpted forms of Marianne Walker’s 3D drawings connecting conversations across the ages echoing object and mark making. Impressive collection of works including Emily Woolley’s alchemical sculpture articulating swirling ocean currents through the use of mica.

First post lock-down gallery visit was to see Among The Trees at the Hayward Gallery.

‘In meditative works across different media, 37 artists explore how trees challenge how we think about time, and consider how intimately entangled they are with human affairs. They invite us to appreciate their soaring scale, in art works such as a monumental sculpture cast from a 2,000-year-old olive tree by Ugo Rondinone, a cinematic portrait of a 30-metre-high spruce tree by Eija-Liisa Ahtila, and a vast forest of trees constructed entirely from cardboard by Eva Jospin. Among the Trees transports us around the world – from Colombian rainforests and remote Japanese islands to olive orchards in Israel and a 9,550-year-old spruce in Sweden.

There was lots to feel in awe of as trees are such magnificent beings. During lockdown trees became a vital presence for everyone confined to their immediate neighbourhood. The daily walk gave us time to notice spring unfurl and appreciate local nature.

I followed the fortunes of stumpy from a brutal curtailment of growth happened upon during my first covid walk, to the fight back to regain some of what was before. Just as we are bristling and sending out tentative new growth as we emerge from lockdown.

2008 stumpy4 (4)2008 stumpy4 (3)2008 stumpy4 (2)2008 stumpy4 (1)

Rachel Sussman’s photograph Underground Forest #0707-1333 (13,000 years old; Pretoria, South Africa) Deceased 2007 was particularly intriguing.

2008 Among the trees 15

This is the crown of a tree that has migrated underground possibly to survive the areas regular wildfires.  These underground trees are found in the savannahs of southern Africa and South America and are different to the root systems of other trees. The shoots on the surface could be part of a network with large woody structures as much as one metre wide with stems measuring up to 10 metres across. If there is a fire the shoots above ground can quickly regrow. These underground forests are extensive and diverse and seem to be linked with the spread of the savannah around 8 million years ago that led to an increase in wildfires.

It is also what is known as a clonal tree which reproduces vegetatively underground. There are also clonal colonies where a forest of trees are all genetically identical linked by one network of roots that send up suckers. The world’s largest living organism (and maybe the oldest) is a clonal forest known as Pando or the Trembling Giant. This striking colony of quaking aspen covers 106 acres of Fishlake National Forest in Utah.

2008 Pando

The other thing everyone mentioned during lockdown was how birdsong was louder and more pervasive to our days as traffic and flights ceased to muddy our soundscape.

The lockdown zoom Ways of Listening from Complicité was a joy to listen to. I didn’t realise how starved I felt of these sort of conversations. Hopefully the link below will remain active for the future. Unlike our eyes, our ears are never closed.

Ways of Listening | Complicité

2008 complicite zoom

I also watched the film Infinite Potential: The Life and Ideas of David Bohm which gives a biographical account of his life and search for something beyond or at the intersection of science.

2008 David Bohm

Bohm was interested in consciousness because of its implications with regard to quantum theory.  He looks at the interconnectedness of all matter. How we interact with the earth, how we interact with each other. If we want to go beyond our current state of consciousness and experience wholeness we must look beyond the manifest veil of form to a realisation of oneness.

It’s very difficult to express the changes that have occurred since starting this post back in March. I was researching the electro magnetic spectrum towards new work and a potential UCL Observatory/Lumen Studios collaboration and looking ahead to installing the audience participatory work Scales of Intangibility at a secret location in Edinburgh with Hidden Door.

Change came on a global and personal scale with no time to prepare or assimilate. Suddenly no exhibitions, no gallery visits, no studio access and above all this was the loss of my Mother. A tiny woman with huge impact and treasured wherever she was known. Many people have found lock down a time to reflect, slow down and enjoy the spring awakening but for many others it has been blighted by loss.

This blog is a diary of interests that usually relate to my work and I use it to remember things I’ve seen and to help contextualize my thoughts. My Mother’s illness and death have been the main focus of my thoughts since March so writing about it serves a similar purpose of holding onto something.

My very active and independent Mum became seriously unwell at the beginning of lock down and was taken into hospital. So began weeks of waiting, telephone calls and anxiety. No hospital visits and little information to be gleaned from busy overstretched staff. A couple of weeks in came the feared news that she had contracted Covid-19. We all must endure the ultimate loss of our parents but to be forcibly separated while they suffer was never a consideration. For a time one ward had a covid designated tablet and so Mum, who had never used a mobile let alone smart phone, was introduced to Skype. Often she was too weak to lift the tablet and so we spoke remotely to the space above her head, the darkness of a blanket or the blurred view of a patient opposite. Occasionally, and especially the first time after weeks of isolation, when our eyes locked across the covid divide and we exchanged smiles her exhausted face lit up. From these depths it seemed impossible but slowly she recovered enough to be discharged and I moved in to care for her at her Suffolk home.2004 washing

Her joy at being home soon dampened as her new reality became evident. Fighting for breath at the slightest exertion and despairing at her failing body she clung to her faith and prayed for release.

2004 beach

In three weeks she was back in hospital. A week later she died in the early hours of a foggy June morning. I was able to be with her at the end for her final few hours, a raw and precious experience for both of us.

The three hour drive from home to the hospital as the sun dipped and then rose, bracketing the night she died, was a surreal experience compounded by a comprehensive display of extreme weather heightening my mortal awareness of the sublime in nature.

Masked, I stood at the bedside holding her hand as she drifted in and out of sleep and lucidity. When she asked if this was the end I had to say yes, we have to say goodbye and grasped clumsily for appropriate words of comfort. She replied that she wasn’t afraid and told me that she loved me. Presently, she opened her eyes one last time and maybe it was the anecdotal light she saw that drew her gaze upwards as her face softened in willing acceptance. Slowly her consciousness ebbed and each faltering intake of breath grew a little further apart so that I didn’t notice for a few moments when she had gone.

2006 nature

At the funeral the Reverend spoke of her earthly body, no longer needed, being returned to the elements. Nature seemed very vibrant that day.

Time passed, passes fast.

I have spent a lot of time distractedly editing webpages of old projects. What to do with all these images of past work, past events. Now I have inherited my Mother’s photographs too. Albums of blurred, faded images of people and places, many unknown.

Process driven work is good at times when focus wanders.  Cutting shapes for a hanging sculpture I had started before life was abruptly suspended – Paradise (suspended)

2005 wip paradise suspended

A meshing of images and geometries which serve as a motif for the unknown universe  fragmented and suspended echoing a time when dreams have been put on hold and the routines of daily life broken and held in limbo.

Made a post lock down foray to Epsom Downs to try and spot the comet Neowise.

2007 epsom downs

Naively thought on arrival that the packed car park at 1am was fellow astronomy enthusiasts but it turned out to be a hang out for displaced clubbers. Advised to leave by a couple of concerned girls who said that if I had the camera out here it would certainly get nicked. There was too much light pollution anyway.

2007 epsom downs 2

Lock down solargraph retrieved and scanned to discover some pinhole alignment issues. 2005 lockdown solargraph

 

Back in March …

Researching early radio and television transmissions.

FM radio and television signals can penetrate through the ionosphere and then travel at the speed of light through space but as they are omni-directional the signals soon become extremely diffuse and hard to pick up. A receiver on another planet would need to look for unusual patterns to pick the signal out from all the background noise present.

2003 Science_and_Invention_Nov_1928_pg618

Hidden, an exhibition at the RCA showcasing work from the College’s technical and non-academic staff.

Kam’s video game was very popular

2003 Hidden RCA 2

I joined Olga Suchanova for her Solargraphy workshop as part of the exhibition programme she had curated at Lumen Studios Crypt.

The exhibition explored how solargraphs are able to “condense time” within one image. Solargraphs capture the movement of the Earth around the Sun, as well as the tilt of the Earth.                                                                                                                    2003 pin hole solargraphy

We each made a pin hole camera from a drinks can with photographic paper inserted inside. Mine is now attached to the drainpipe to catch the daily arc of the sun.