Archives for posts with tag: Cloud Chamber

92 Light Years is finally up on the wall in my studio. This work was inspired by a visit to the UCL Observatory at Mill Hill with Lumen Studios just before the pandemic. It then became a more poignant and personal piece for me thinking about time spent here on Earth and trying to relate that to the vastness of the cosmos.

The electromagnetic waves of radio and television signals can pierce the ionosphere and travel through space at the speed of light. HD 70642 is a star similar to our sun with a large companion planet that orbits in a circular motion very similar to how the planets orbit here in our solar system.  This means it is possible there maybe Earth-type planets orbiting further in.

This star is in the constellation of Puppis about 90 light years away. Early signals from Earth will just be reaching this distant solar system with a potential Earth like planet. The time it has taken the signals to reach this home from home is roughly the same as my Mother’s lifetime on Earth. 92 years measured in light.

Early TV signals were transmitted in a series of 30 lines to complete one image called a raster pattern. It is a systematic process of covering an area progressively, similar to how one’s gaze travels when reading lines of text. The signal is sent in fragments and must be interpreted on arrival to make sense of the message. The folded sections in this work emulate the raster pattern and are made from a combination of screen print on textile, dye sublimation print using images from the 1930’s and chinagraph pencil marking out the star chart – a bit like a lenticular image – you see the stars from one side and the fragmented signal from the other.

I have inherited a large number of lace and crocheted doilies from my Mother. A strange constellation may emerge.

In the studio I am continuing experimenting with magnets and iron filings while thinking about magnetoreception, methods of navigation and finding the way in the dark.

I have made a new etching of my iris which has been worked into with chinagraph pencil and will be used as background to film the movement of magnetised iron filings marching across the print. I am planning a moving image piece exploring magnetoreception along with a large mounted softground etching and a smaller photopolymer etching. I have tried some larger sized filings on the print which are darker but am not sure they are successful.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute investigating light-sensitive molecules that bacteria, plants and animals use to detect the Earth’s magnetic field have noted that in birds this molecule, located in the eyes, only reacts to the magnetic field if it is simultaneously stimulated by light. The researchers think that some mammals may also use this cryptochrome to perceive the Earth’s magnetic field as there is a correspondence between the blue cones in mammals and the blue to ultra violet sensitive cones in birds. It is therefore entirely possible that this cryptochrome molecule in mammals could also perceive the Earth’s magnetic field and be used for navigation and orientation.

I participated in an online residency @t.ransienttt via Instagram to share some of my work over the course of one week. TRANSIENT supports creatives who explore the relationship between Art & Technology and offers an accessible platform to showcase their work, as well as connecting with fellow, like-minded creatives from all over the world. 

My interests are broadly to do with visualising the unseen. Technology can assist in making something visible which is otherwise outside the limitations of our senses. I use the pioneering technology developed in the study of particle physics as part of my practice allowing us a glimpse into the world of subatomic particles.

Cosmic Chiasmus – This video gives a glimpse into the activity of subatomic particles fired into our world when cosmic rays strike the top of the Earth’s atmosphere. Particles created during super nova explosions or by phenomena we are yet to discover, travel from distant galaxies continuously passing through us. Some particles collide and silently interact with atoms and technology on Earth.

A cloud chamber enables us to see the trails made by cosmic particles as they collide with and pass through our world. It has been said that the cloud chamber might be the most important piece of experimental equipment in the history of particle physics.

Scales of Intangibility and soft borders were developed in a black velvet chamber built during a studio residency at Chisenhale Art Place.

Scales of Intangibility is an interactive life size cloud chamber installation. Visitors were invited to enter the chamber to ‘capture’ projections of cosmic particle trails onto hand held viewing screens.

The concept of a finite but borderless universe and the permeability of our own body is explored in the video soft borders. The work addresses cosmic and quantum phenomena that are beyond human scale and relate them back to the body’s sensory experience. I worked with dance artist Paola Napolitano who performed sequences of movements based on the geometries of the platonic solids as video of cosmic particle trails were projected onto her body. The movements relate to the system devised by choreographer Rudolf Laban who believed – 

‘What we cannot perceive with our senses, especially our fundamental sense of touch, remains unreal and its very existence is denied’

Theoretically it is possible that wormholes exist. Aóratos (which translates as Unseen) was a site specific participatory installation with fire and film presented at Allenheads Blacksmith’s Shop as part of the 2019 ACA project Continuum.

Visitors were invited to burn offerings of negative energy to power the ‘wormhole’. They were provided with special paper tokens to write on filled with chemicals that change colour when they burn. They could then pass through a portal to see a video installation showing alternative landscape perspectives and would exit via a different door having made a short journey, leaving feeling cleansed of negative thought. Imagery for the videos took reference from theories of cosmic strings, space foam and the idea of a web of tiny wormholes connecting all points in space. The processes used included putting an endoscope down rabbit holes, using a microscope over foam, fibres and skin, green screen filming magnetic fields, along with footage from a high altitude balloon flight.

Wormholes symbolise crossing improbable boundaries.

There are some cosmic particles which arrive on Earth with such high energies that it could be they come from other dimensions.

At a Distance was filmed at Lizard Point Lighthouse on 29th March 2019 – the first date the UK was supposed to leave the EU. Solitary figures using semaphore flags sign ‘We Are One’ out across the ocean hoping the message will be echoed back as in quantum entanglement theory where particles link in a way that they instantly affect each other, even over vast distances. This mysterious twinning of electrons is what Einstein famously called ‘spooky action at a distance’. The video also uses manipulated footage of Lizard Point Lighthouse lamp powering up for the night to employ another form of messaging over distance. The film is back projected onto a Fresnel lens, the type found in lighthouses to increase luminosity of the lamps beam.

I watched another excellent Laurie Anderson talk in the series Spending The War Without You, this one was titled Birds. All the talks have now been released on YouTube.

Out of the studio

LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art at 180 The Stand.

Subterranean adventures with wow factor. Light as medium and not always light in content as these spectacles can sometimes feel to be.

Hito Steyerl This is the Future is a video installation where a woman prisoner searches for a garden she has has to hide in the future to protect it from discovery by the prison guards. It also features Power Plants which are digitally generated by neural network computer systems based on the human brain and designed to predict the next frame in the video (the future) and are inspired by ruderal species, plants that grow out of waste ground or disruption.

Es Devlin BLUESKYWHITE is an installation beginning with a walk through long red tunnel accompanied by voiced text from Byron’s 1816 poem Darkness. The poem was written after the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia 1815 which released so much debris into the atmosphere there was a perceptible dimming of the sun and drop in temperature of about 3 degrees. It is known as the year without summer. The tunnel leads to a viewing bench and screens where the blue sky turns white and then black. Current solar geoengineering models suggest that a haze of suspended particles in the atmosphere could reduce global warming but would also turn the blue sky white.

Cao Yuxi Shan Shui Paintings by AI uses deep network algorithms to learn from digital pixels of free hand oriental ink paintings on the web to produce unlimited simulations of landscape paintings combined with algorithms simulating the flow of water molecules creating a dynamic ever changing liquified landscape.

Cecelia Bengolea Favourite Positions is a 3D animation of the artist’s body liquified and melting, a body without boundaries where bodily fluids find new pathways and connections to synapses

Universal Everything Transfiguration – a figure keeps a steady pace in a continuous cycle of transformation, relentless unstoppable evolution through lava, rock, fur, water

Lux Carstens unicolor is a study in the psychology of colour perception and chromatics influenced by researchers, scientists and artists including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Hermann von Helmholtz, Werner Heisenberg, Wilhelm Ostwald, Eckhard Bending, Josef Albers and Johannes Iten.

a’strict Morando is an installation of two transparent OLED screens showing video using x-ray and time lapse techniques of peonies as they bloom and die. Peonies are a symbol of wealth and prosperity in Korea and a popular subject for paintings over many decades as well as being displayed at main life events such as births, marriages and funerals.

Flower Meadow a kinetic sculpture by Swiss studio for media architecture

a’strict Starry Beach – beauty and power as luminous waves crash all around and as in a dream we are immersed yet physically untouched

Black Corporeal (breathe) – creating a haunting soundtrack to the whole exhibition, a critical examination on the relationship between materiality and the black psyche by Julian Knxx. It explores the idea that our ability to breathe – an act that is challenged by everything from air pollution, stress, anxiety and societal prejudice – is more than our lung’s ability to take in air, but a reflection of the way we live individually and together.

Terrestrial Act III at Thames-side Gallery curated by Hot Desque with works by Sam Carvosso Anna Reading Davinia-Ann Robinson Hannah Rowan Harry Smithson Giorgio van Meerwijk. Hot Desque creates a future-past landscape through the theatrical presentation of six artists’ sculptures within a set. Initially presented on stage at the Theatre Royal Newcastle within an ornate yet empty theatre, now, dislodged in a new spacetime, the set has transformed over time.

Matter takes the stage choreographed by humans in an atmospheric alchemical collaboration.

In (Matters of the Soul) at ASC Gallery with work by Stephen Nelson, Jane Millar, Olly Fathers, James Tailor, Stephen Palmer, John Bunker and Lex Shute.

Does artwork have a soul?

21 grams was the disputed weight of a person’s soul as measured in Duncan MacDougals 1901 experiments on people before and after death. Certain work defies classification, playing with its own materiality and the illusion of what its seems to be. Other work plays with the legacy of the previous life represented in its material and the soulful spirit that could lie within.

Such an interesting concept explored in these works.

A Strange Kind of Knowing presented by Arusha Gallery and Haarlem Gallery at Noho Studios with works by Verity Birt, Holly Bynoe, Kristina Chan, Fourthland, Susan Hiller, Katja Hock, Coral Kindred-Boothby, Penny McCarthy, Kate McMillan, Aimée Parrott, Chantal Powell, Tai Shani and Eleanor May Watson. A Strange Kind of Knowing investigates phenomena such as the weather, the sea and sea caves, cloud formations and fire; lost knowledge and civilisations; and the natural and psychological cycles of transformation.

These works are pushing at the boundaries of an intuitive connection to the natural world brought to a more acute awareness during lockdown months.

I am continuing to look at research showing it may be possible that humans retain some residual magnetoreceptor in our eyes that once allowed us to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. We know animals and birds have this ability and current studies suggest that some people do indeed perceive magnetic fields, albeit unconsciously.

I dropped some iron filings into a little water which evaporated leaving a pleasing deposit. I wanted to see if the filings lose their magnetism once oxidized and how the rusted filings would sit on the iris image.

I was invited by Luci Eldridge and Ian Dawson to present a talk and run a Cloud Chamber Workshop as part of the Images In The Making series, a Communities of Practice cross-years project at Winchester School of Art.

Images in the Making considers images in an expanded sense in terms of process, materiality, interaction, exploring how artworks evolve and come into being.

Images – be they human or machine – are entities that are made. They are drawn, sculpted, painted, mapped out, captured, rendered, visualised, spliced, amalgamated. Images in the Making considers images in the broadest sense, exploring them as fluid, dynamic entities that emerge and transform through making, unmaking, and remaking. Process is at the core of this project and we will think about ‘imaging’ as an unfolding activity, investigating how artworks change as they are made and circulated.

Writing the presentation allowed me to revisit and consider how I use process in a practice broadly to do with visualising the unseen.

As my starting point is often an unseen or maybe even an imagined object this might mean visualising a close approximation of something to open up the imagination to phenomena that is beyond our capability to visualise. This would include things like dark matter, higher dimensions in spacetime, or the aura of an object. Or it may be using technology to make visible something otherwise outside the limitations of our senses. Or a conflation of real and imagined such as seeing a galaxy in a frozen puddle.

In Patrick Harpur’s book The Philosophers’ Secret Fire – A History of the Imagination he talks about those inbetween spaces where things are not quite ‘there’ and not quite ‘not there’ which I think is an interesting space to look at when trying to bring the unseen out of the shadows. The book relates how myths have long been used to make sense of the world. For most of our evolution humans have believed in an otherworld of spirits – a metaphysical realm governed by archetypes. Daimons are given context in the book as elusive, contradictory, both material and immaterial concepts that still reside in our culture but are now so far removed from their personified shapes that we fail to recognise them.

All human experience is an edited account of full reality as neuroscientist Anil Seth tells us

“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”

 and then tangled with our reality according to Harpur

“…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 subatomic realm, like the unconscious, is where the daimons took refuge once they were outcast from their natural habitat.”

A few years ago when I was visiting and photographing streets and roads called Paradise trying to capture the aura of such a place I stopped to wonder what everything was made of. Did I need to look closer to find hidden patterns or clues in the everyday which might point to something sublime. This is when I turned to particle physics. I found the language to be quite like that of mythology, full of mysterious characters; the quarks, the muons, neutrinos. Characters governed by fundamental forces like the strong force and the weak force that are defined by their characteristics, just like the mythical gods. I also found the theories of particle physics to be as fantastical as the ancient tales where the laws of classical physics do not apply. I was amazed at the time to discover that most of the universe is hidden from us as mysterious dark matter and dark energy. 

To provide a relevant backdrop for the online presentation I set my dodecahedron sculpture Diazôgraphô by the window to light up the images of cosmic particle trails within. The dodecahedron is used here as a motif for the universe. The title translates from Greek as ‘to embroider’. Plato described the dodecahedron as ‘a fifth construction, which the god used for embroidering the constellations on the whole heaven.’

The cloud chamber workshop gave students a chance to experience the otherworld of subatomic particles. Dark matter might be inaccessible to us but cosmic particles offer a more tangible contact  – although too small to see we can witness their effects through quite simple processes. In the chamber we see trails from naturally occurring background radiation as well as particles from outer space.

Out of the Studio

Not Painting at Copperfield

Inspired work by Nicola Ellis from Dead Powder series (first pic) in a show hitting the zeitgeist of rethink, repurpose the materials around us. Some beautiful and thoughtful work here much of which will confound you as to its material origins.

Darkness At Noon: Nigredo of a Pandemic at APT curated by Ruth Calland for Contemporary British Painting

Great to see some of Sarah Sparkes exquisite ghost painting series along with Chantal Powell’s alchemical totems and other works from 27 artists.

Alchemy is all about transformation from one state to another, the pursuit of a deeper truth as precious treasure. Alchemists were engaged in the Middle Ages with a physical process, trying to turn base materials into gold through a series of chemical processes, a metaphor for the transformation of the soul. There had to be a Nigredo, a dark night of the soul in order to purify it. Death and decay, destruction of the old to make way for the new, are both real and symbolic in these precarious times of ours. 

Bosco Sodi Totality at König London presents a grounded solar system we are able to walk amongst, surveying the raw materials of our creation. Heat, minerals and time. Very satisfying.

Tacita Dean – The Dante Project at Frith Street Gallery, Golden Square

Hell made heavenly in silvery surfaces, paradise emerges glimmering from the streets of LA.

Magical otherworlds. These stunning backdrops were created for the ballet based on Dante Alighieri’s 1320 narrative poem The Divine Comedy choreographed by Wayne McGregor at The Royal Opera House but can also transport you in their own right. I was lucky to also see them on stage. The sets progress from the monochrome backdrop of Inferno, through the luminous transitional state of Purgatorio into a circling colourfields of Paradiso.

The large-scale photographs printed as negatives are of Jacaranda Trees which bloom in hot climates when the entire foliage turns into purple blossoms. In negative the purple becomes an otherworldly green and the background streetscape is muted with white pencil. The monochrome photogravures of an inverted mountainous terrain in negative using silver ink reference Botticelli’s drawings which signify Dante and Virgil’s descent through the nine circles of hell.

Tacita Dean Monet Hates Me at Frith Street Gallery, Soho Square

The importance of objective chance as a tool of research used as the basis to craft 50 objects inspired by the random choice of a box of artefacts at The Getty Research Centre, Los Angeles. The objects pertaining to ‘an exhibition in a box’ include ‘the forged signature of Christian Dotremont, a long-dead Belgian surrealist, on a postcard; a letterpress copy of Piet Mondrian’s carte de visite, hand-corrected by Dean to match a pencilled correction on the original; Fluxus artist George Brecht’s Stamp Out Stamping stamped on vintage index cards; a vinyl record of Dean reading a montage of text fragments collated from her working photocopies; and ‘a foot of feet’ – a foot-long strip of film made of sixteen frames of found images of feet. Object 1, is a small book which also acts as the key to the provenance and manufacture of the other 49 objects.’

The enigmatic painting I love Lord Pannick sits outside the viewing area for Pan Amicus, filmed in 16mm on the Getty Estate but transporting the viewer to a golden classical Arcadia littered with Greek and Roman objects and imbued with the spirit of Pan “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908).

Mixing It Up; Painting Today an exhibition of painting at the Hayward Gallery.

Charmaine Watkiss showing with Tiwani Contemporary at Cromwell Place.

Meet The Seed Keepers in Charmaine’s magical collection of works on paper. Powerful images brought to life with a luminous delicacy full of hidden symbolism waiting to be discovered.

Researching the medicinal and psychical capabilities of plants, Watkiss has personified a matrilineal pantheon of plant warriors safeguarding and facilitating cross-generational knowledge and empowerment.

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.

1907 prints of 35mm at 35km 0.jpg

Great excitement at the Gate Darkroom as I was helped to develop and print the 35mm film that had reached over 35km altitude as stowaway in the payload of a high altitude balloon.

1907 35mm at 35km

New to film processing; my first job was to insert arms into a light tight bag and get the film out of the cannister and wind it onto a large spool while not being able to see what I was doing. I learnt about the Digital Truth App and followed instructions in order to develop, stop and fix the negatives, then put them under the darkroom viewer to see the results.

If any record was made of the cosmic ray activity at high altitude I expected it to be just tiny white specks of light where the high energy particle hit the sensitive film emulsion.

At first it looked like there was nothing on the film but on closer inspection there are quite a lot of specks of light.

1907 negative scan 35mm at 35km

Are these faint white dots evidence of cosmic particle activity or just general noise in the large crystals of the photosensitive emulsion?

 

There is a link here to a short video of the preparations, launch and outcome of sending a cloud chamber up in the payload of a high altitude balloon which fed into the work Aóratos.

1907 Aoratos clip 11907 Aoratos clip 5

Insatiable Mind Exhibition at Salisbury Arts Centre came to a close1905 Insatiable Mind Wonderful technicians ensured Pentacoronae smooth taken down

1907 pentacoronae.jpg

Editing video of semaphore performance filmed on 29th March (the first date the UK was supposed to leave the EU) for At A Distance to be back projected onto a Fresnel lens for the upcoming exhibition in Cornwall and London looking at ways of communication across distance inspired by the heritage or the Cornish coastal area.

1907 semaphore

Playing with ideas for an etching of my iris and using magnetism to explore magnetoreception, something evident in birds and some mammals that we may once have had access to as a way of navigating.

ImageJ=1.46i

Plans are also underway for new work for Reading Stones exhibition at St. Augustine’s Tower, the oldest building in Hackney.

Reading Stones could be considered as the first instruments used to create an enhanced sensory experience. Originally made from ground and polished rock crystal or beryl they were placed over texts for the purposes of magnification. This early optical technology paved the way towards the observation of the furthest reaches of the universe and its minutest components.

1907 reading stones WIP 11907 reading stones WIP 2

Testing some lens options for visitors to use to read tiny hidden texts.

The act of “reading stones” can refer to both the scientific practice of geological investigation and the acroamatic ritual of lithomancy which seeks to interpret the patterns of stones cast by those wishing to divine the future.

1907 beryl structure scale

Looking at the molecular crystal structure of beryl to map out the structure for a video. The word brilliance is probably derived from the ancient Greek word for beryl, berullos.

The tower is defined by a magnificent 16th century clock whose mechanisms still strike the hours and occupy three floors connected by narrow stone spiral stairs.

1907 St. Augustine's clock.jpg

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.

The New Materialism Reading Group has meandered to the conclusion of Geoffrey West’s book Scale to discover an open ended question.  Can we avoid the mother of all singularities and the stagnation and collapse of civilisation with another paradigm shift through innovation or deurbanization?

“The time between the ‘Computer Age’ and the ‘Information and Digital Age’ was no more than about thirty years – to be compared with the thousands of years between the Stone, Bronze and Iron ages.

The clock by which we measure time on our watches and digital devices is very misleading; it is determined by the daily rotation of the Earth around its axis and its annual rotation around the sun. This astronomical time is linear and regular. But the actual clock by which we live our socioeconomic lives is an emergent phenomenon determined by the collective forces of social interaction: it is continually and systematically speeding up relative to objective astronomical time.”    Geoffrey West

1907 stonehenge.jpg

We also looked at an article from the Guardian questioning Donna Haraway on her position relative to a post-truth society.

1907 Donna Haraway

Referring back decades to what seems a golden age of freedom and creativity she was clear that she never advocated truth as just a perspective; that reality is not a question of belief but of worlding, inhabiting and testing if things hold. She stresses the importance of not shying away from ‘strategic essentialism’ which is using the same language as those you wish to engage and make progress with and opening up to what is possible through play and creativity. There are huge problems to address. But don’t be negative.

1907 fireball.jpg

I have also been reading Antimatter by Frank Close. Fascinating to read about the dazzling explosive fireball witnessed in a remote Tunguska river valley in 1908, a thousand miles east of Moscow, which left a charred circle of devastation; threw so much dust and smoke into the atmosphere around the globe that in London the midnight sky was lit up by photons scattering off the dense air pollution; but left no crater.

1907 Tunguska event

Antimatter is found on Earth in the form of the positron. These positively charged electron are produced by some radioactive elements. They are used in PET scanners – positron emission topography where the flash of gamma ray produced as the positron immediately bumps into an electron and annihilates is recorded to map out an image.
In the extreme temperatures at the centre of the sun where atoms are unstable, positrons emerge, annihilate into gamma rays and begin a hundred thousand year journey of transformation to the surface of the sun eventually emerging as daylight to nurture life on Earth.

1907 sunlight.jpg

Energy is stored in matter. Whatever antimatter touches it will destroy, releasing more energy more explosively than anything else we know.

The difference between bodily warmth and a chemical explosion is just a question of timescale. If time were compressed and the energy delivered to the body from a meal were given out in a millisecond the results would be explosive!

1907 Lee Krasner 1

Lee Krasner 

Lee Krasner (1908 -1984) led a commission for the War Service in 1933 to design public information window displays. She included photographs from classes she attended as part of her research – the class on explosives she described as ‘an alchemist’s dream’. Showing in Living Colour at the Barbican.

1907 Lee Krasner 2

Lee Krasner Imperative 1976 Future Indicative 1977

Exciting use of projectors and collaged film with much poignant material particularly a shocking ever increasing list of those who have died in search of a better life in Lis Rhodes Dissident Lines at Nottingham Contemporary.

Incredible night at The Royal Albert Hall with Public Service Broadcasting performing Race For Space Late Night Prom.

1907 race for space prom1907 race for space prom 2

It was a unique coming together of technological and geopolitical events that inspired an explosive burst of development for the human race. It also touches deeply on our spiritual side as a species, making us ask bigger questions about the universe and our role within it, as well as drawing attention to the bravery of so many of those involved on both sides.

J. Willgoose, Esq., of Public Service Broadcasting

 

 

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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Insatiable Mind exhibition opened at Salisbury Arts Centre with space inspired food and a heartfelt speech from visual arts and exhibitions manager Mirka Golden-Hann who writes in the accompanying catalogue;

“I was driven by the overarching urge which is innate to humanity. The urge to break away, the urge to explore, the urge which would force a human to construct a spaceship and the urge of another human to step into it in order to walk on the Moon: the same compulsion behind the collective force to bring down the Berlin Wall and with it the Iron Curtain. It was the power of human curiosity and the dissatisfaction with the familiar that provided the basis for this exhibition.”

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The installation of my suspended sculpture Pentacoronae was surprisingly smooth considering the height of the supporting beams.

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There was a great team to help and although one or two anxious moments when hooks came away from loops it went up very well.

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This work was made to highlight the importance and need to preserve dark sky areas. As powerful technology opens new areas of the universe to our view, generating imagery we could never see with our naked eyes, we are drawn to experience space via mediated technologies. Our ancestors mapped the stars and drew shapes across the darkness which became familiar anchors for navigation, described mythological characters and foretold fortunes. Through this work the viewer is encouraged to seek darkness, stargaze, wonder, and map their own stories across the sky.

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I also had two concertina books installed in the gallery cabinet.

Making these books turned out to be quite a fiddly process.

For the book Unbound I used images from my cloud chamber printed on transparencies cut into pentagons. Cosmic Rays know no boundaries as they pass through us all the time. The twelve pentagons form a dodecahedron, the solid described by Plato as ‘the fifth construction, which the god used for embroidering the constellations on the whole heaven.’

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In/Out expresses the energy and randomness of quantum fluctuation as particles pop in-and-out of existence in empty space. At this tiny scale the universe is mysterious and unpredictable.

I has thought I would draw the energy fields in white china-graph pencil but it turned out graphite looked much better

The bright spheres are four colour separation screen prints and act as a series of portals to alternative perspectives.

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It was great to meet some of the other artists in the show whose work was really interesting and beautiful.

1905 Eunmi Mimi Kim

Eunmi Mimi Kim Me Time video installation which uses her own sensitivity to sensory overload to explore sensory deprivation and isolation.

 

 

Katayoun Dowlatshahi  presented work form her series Orbit looking at the former cold war secret rocket testing site West High Down on the Isle of Wight.

19052 insatiable mind Katayoun Dowlatshahi

Oksana Chepelyk Collider immersive film screening in the theatre. Throwing significant moments in history into the collider to see what future particles get thrown out.

1905 Insatiable mind Oksana Chepelyk

I have been meeting up with students Sena Harayama, Romain Clement De Givry and Medad Newman from Imperial College Space Society.

1905 ICSEDS team

Supervised by senior lecturer in spacecraft engineering Dr Aaron Knoll they are building a cloud chamber to withstand a journey to the edge of the atmosphere in the payload of a high-altitude balloon. The chamber must be able to withstand the low pressure at high altitude which might make it break apart.

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There needs to be a heat pad controlled by an Arduino processor to keep the batteries running to power the tracking device and cameras and maintain a suitable environment in the chamber to allow alcohol vapour to fall and create a cloud.

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A cloud chamber enables us to see ionising trails made by radioactive and charged particles. Cosmic particles continuously collide violently with the Earth’s atmosphere then break up and shower down upon us.

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Keeping the weight of components down is vital. The payload must not be over 2kg.

1905 weighing the chamber

We are hoping to capture cosmic ray activity on video as well as a view of Earth’s atmosphere as it blends from blue into the darkness of space. This footage will become part of the video installation I am creating for Continuum midsummer weekend at Allenheads Contemporary Arts.

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This new work Aóratos will be installed at Allenheads Blacksmith’s Forge.

Black holes were once thought to be pure science fiction but in recent decades scientists have discovered that these extraordinary objects exist throughout our universe in all shapes and sizes and this year astoundingly have even produced an image of one.

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Einstein’s theory of general relativity written in 1915 predicted the existence of black holes and is also consistent with the possibility of gravitational tunnels known as wormholes. It could be that there is a hidden web of planck scale wormholes linking all points in space. Theoretically, threaded through these tiny holes would be filaments of cosmic strings created in the primitive goo of early matter and flung across space when the universe burst into existence.

However, to traverse space by means of a wormhole would require vast amounts of negative energy, not something usually found on Earth yet in the current political climate in no short supply.

Making use of the Blacksmith’s hearth visitors will be invited to burn offerings of negative energy to power a ‘wormhole’.

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Special paper will be provided for people to write, draw or furiously scribble their own symbols of negative energy. These offerings will be burnt in the forge hearth releasing any pent-up negative energy to power the wormhole portal above.

I have been experimenting with chemicals to make the paper.

Really pleased with the results.

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It’s fine. I am sealing the chemicals inside two sheets of paper so no skin contact for visitors.

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In my search to discover how to make coloured fire I did make a visit to Davenports magic shop in a very unprepossessing but not uninhabited pedestrian subway. A dismal setting for a dismal shop where I got no help at all. Felt an absolute muggle.

1905 davenports magic shop

The risks and obstacles of entering a wormhole include creating enough negative energy to open the wormhole mouth wide enough to weaken the gravitational tidal forces which would rip travellers apart; keeping it from collapsing so travellers are not indefinitely trapped inside; exceeding the speed of light and avoiding incineration from deadly high radiation.

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

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Aóratos translates as ‘unseen’. The videos in the installation will look at hidden landscapes and usually unseen perspectives. For research I have been exploring rabbit holes, bee holes, mice holes and abandoned tunnels with my endoscope camera.
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A fascinating dark world of root webs and filaments interconnecting tunnels.

 

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The reading group is persevering with Geoffrey West’s Scale despite the woolly editing and rambling digressions it does hold some interesting facts. I liked the section about turbulence. Fluid motion is chaotic and objects moving through water or air are subject to very different outcomes at different scales. Froude introduced a scaling methodology used in industry that has become increasingly sophisticated. Lord Raleigh emphasized the primary role of the ‘dimensionless’ number in scaling. This is a pure number such as pi which does not change depending on which unit of measurement is used, the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter is always the same. “Pi embodies the universal quality of ‘circleness'”

1905 Gaia Luke Jerram

Visited the impressive sphere Gaia by Luke Jerram in Salisbury Cathedral as part of Salisbury International Arts Festival. Stunning architecture.

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Extraordinary that this majestic building piercing the sky has the most shallow of foundations and unless they keep a regular check on the water level through a little door in the floor the weight of the spire would not only bend the supporting columns but might tumble down.

I was excited to find a dodecahedron at the pinnacle amongst platonic solids topping an elaborate tomb.

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Also the oldest working clock was fascinating to see

1905 oldest working clock

“How can the past and future be, when the past no longer is, and the future is not yet? As for the present, if it were always present and never moved on to become the past, it would not be time, but eternity.”

― St. Augustine of Hippo

Sensory overload on the Lizard Point Artist Residency hosted by Mayes Creative and Lumen London. Serpentine rocks, wide horizons, sparkling sea, dark starry skies swept by the dazzling beam of Lizard Lighthouse.

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We are here to research the communication heritage of this dramatic coastline once plagued by shipwrecks and pirates.

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Rachel Holder from the National Trust guided us along the cliff path and told stories of the treacherous seas and lives lost on the hidden rocks. We heard about the history of Lizard Lighthouse and other methods of communication across distances.

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We visited Marconi’s radio station hut which was full of wonderful scientific equipment like spark transmitters and Morse code machines. In the early 1890s, Marconi began working on the transmission of telegraph messages without connecting wires. An early experiment was a storm alarm made up of a battery, a coherer (an early form of radio detector consisting of a glass tube loosely filled with metal filings whose bulk electrical resistance decreased in the presence of radio waves), and an electric bell, which went off when it picked up the radio waves generated by lightning.

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The message ‘WE ARE ONE’ was filmed on 29th March {non} Brexit Day signing with entanglement semaphore flags across the ocean

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The plan is to make a film exploring communication across distances, relating it to entanglement theory where two paired electrons mirror each other. This will then be back projected onto a frosted Fresnel lens as used by lighthouses.

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Joanna Mayes gave us a warm welcome to Cornwall on arrival as we witnessed the molten sun colour the whole sky before dropping out of sight.

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Sitting in the receding warm glow of the sunset we listened to the electromagnetic musical collaboration between sound artist Justin Wiggan and some house plants.

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The meteor viewing pod created by artists Andrew Bird and Christina Romero-Cross was installed in the YHA grounds where a series of Deep Time films commissioned by Mayes Creative were screened with the sequence to be controlled by a cosmic ray detector.

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Two Geiger counters with lead between them identify those particles coming from outer space.

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Astroarchaeologist Carolyn Kennett led us along a section of the Southwest Coast Path from Ruan Minor to Cadgwith via Poltesco Old Serpentine Works.

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Carleon Cove is full of Kennack gneiss, giant pebbles of pale pink granite and dark grey basalt banded together during enormous geological upheavals as the Lizard was thrust northwards and the melted rocks were fused together.

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Constant swirling sea sculpting

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organic micro rock constellations

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The Sky Disc of Nebra is a Bronze-age astronomical disc possibly used to determine the seasons for sowing and harvesting in the Halle area of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It is the oldest depiction of the cosmos yet known from anywhere in the world. It was discovered in 1999 by metal detectorists working illegally who sold it onto the black market where  it was later recovered in a police sting operation. Analysis shows the gold and tin used in the disk were from the Carnon Valley in Cornwall. Evidence of ancient links between communities.

Digital StillCamera

Workshops during the residency included looking at found matter under the microscope

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A Chemigram workshop which involves painting various resist materials such as toothpaste, suncream and honey onto photographic paper before exposing to sunlight, fixing and developing.


Astrophotography; learning the camera settings to use to capture the extraordinarily starry night sky we were fortunate to experience. This shot was using bulb mode, focus infinity, 2.8 aperture, 3200 ISO, 30 sec exposure.

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We did have to try and escape the sweeping beam of the Lizard Lighthouse but for some shots the added exposure gave some interesting results.

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On the trip down to join the art and science Lizard Point artist residency we found ourselves serendipitously having a delicious afternoon tea at The Cornubian Arts & Science Trust (CAST)

The original Science and Art School was built in 1897 by Cornish philanthropist John Passmore Edwards at the request of local people.

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The disperse papers left over from making the entanglement semaphore flags have good wormhole portal potential

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Two great resources discovered:

Design Me print studio where I have tracked down a large format heat press available for open access.

Fat Llama a rental resource for practically anything and everything.

I rented an EF 100 f2.8 USM macro lens and set up a mini green screen in the studio. Apparently black tourmaline is good at cleansing negative energy so I sourced a pendant to use to create a hypnotic state of relaxation encouraging the release of negative energy to power the transformation wormhole. Have changed the chain to leather thong.

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Not sure what the backdrop will be yet. Also tested the movement of iron filings against the green screen.

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I made a frozen ice disk and tested back projecting particle trails onto it. This was tricky to film as rather slippy but I can see this could be a good effect showing the detail in the ice.

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Cosmic rays stain icey asteroids red.

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Tested filming the cloud chamber with the macro lens and although the depth of field maybe better because it’s such a small area in the viewfinder I didn’t capture many trails.

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I’m not sure the result was better.

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Got some good air turbulence though

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The plan here was to have dry ice vapour coming through the perforations

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I made a site visit in heavy rain to Salisbury Arts Centre

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I will be installing Pentacoronae hanging sculpture for the Insatiable Mind exhibition as part of Salisbury International Festival.

1809 Pentacoronae

It was great to meet everyone and hear about their ambitions for the space. Being an old Church the ceilings are very high. It’s going to be a challenge but they do have their own cherrypicker.

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In preparation for the launch of the high altitude balloon with a cloud chamber in the payload students from Imperial College Space Society experimented with the mini DIY Cloud Chamber kits I provided.

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They are testing outcomes to design a prototype chamber that can withstand low pressure at high altitude, also they must ensure the base plate is kept extremely cold to create the supersaturated environment but any batteries onboard are kept warm enough to function and that turbulence doesn’t cause a whirlpool effect in the cloud.

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It looks like we might be launching from an airfield near Oxford.

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The New Materialisms Reading Group I attend are currently reading Scale. Geoffrey West’s research centres on a quest to find unifying principles and patterns connecting everything, from cells and ecosystems to cities, social networks and businesses. Full of interesting facts about heartbeats and energy, lifespans and growth cycles.

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It has been alarming to read about the terrifying unpredictable phenomenon of exponential growth. At the beginning growth is slow, but this soon accelerates to such a rate that it becomes out of control, unstoppable and then collapses under its own weight.

I am also still trying to understand entropy as explained by Carlo Rovelli in The Order of Time. So, the universe began with low entropy and it has been increasing ever since, the past leaves traces in the present caused by the irreversible process of energy degrading into heat from which our brains create extensive maps of past events and this is what gives us the sensation of time passing.

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Out of Studio

A packed gallery for Ray Richardson‘s entertaining talk and screening of award winning Our Side of the Water at Thames-side Studios shows how much he is held in our mutual esteem.

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Fun night with Andy Holden at The Cinema Museum.

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Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape uses live green screen filming allowing the narrator to interact with clips from hundreds of cartoons. The film proposes the world is best understood as a cartoon through examining the formation of ‘laws’ within cartoons as a way of making sense of the world we inhabit, a space where anything could potentially happen.

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I joined some students from Imperial College Space Society and other High Altitude Balloon enthusiasts at Wormwood Scrubs for the launch of a couple of Pico balloons that they are testing tracking with the aim of making a complete circuit of Earth.

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Anxious moments as the balloon barely gains height but soon it has vanished from sight

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The next couple of hours are spent listening in for the tracker system transmissions which can drop in and out of range; travelling at something like 60metres/second both balloons made it to Belgium before the transmissions ceased.

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Work resulting from an unexpected encounter that demands attention in By The Way at Lewisham Art House had some ephemeral photopolymer etchings of found seashore plastic by Sam Hodge.

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I also liked this work by Mark Sowden who photographed found frames and then mounts the resulting image in the frame.

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Great show Undertow at Sluice HQ. When prevailing discourses tip towards hyperbole, generalisations or simplification, there is a need to swim against the current, to carve out a space that allows for ambiguity, correspondence and a quieter voice. In the employment of few words, a scale of action or use of minimal materials, understatement can be both a way of confronting moments of crisis, or of evading them.

Alex Simpson Scratching the surface    /    Lauren Ilsley Fluvial Additions

 

Time Tries All Things video installation at the Institute of Physics by Grace Weir explored time and our human relationship with it.

1903 Grace Weir Time Tries All Things

Two narrators consider time from different perspectives against the backdrop of a stone carver replicating a plaque, repeating time.

DAVID:
I think when people talk about time they often confuse two sorts of thing.
There is time itself and there is what’s called the arrow of time, which is
direction, and its perceived nature as a human being.

FAY:
Being or becoming is an ancient question.
Ever since we have records of people thinking about the world, in ancient
Greek philosophy for example, there have been people on both sides of
this debate.

The complete audio transcript is available here.

There is a very impressive diffusion Cloud Chamber in the foyer at The Institute of Physics. Lots of activity but it was hard to see the particle trails clearly through all the reflections. 1903 Diffusion cloud chamber

They also have a cosmic ray detector on the roof which has scintillator plates containing molecules of a substance which emit a tiny flash of light when they are hit by a high-energy particle.

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The latest ACA Project Continuum  is launched and I am looking forward to contributing to the programme with some new work exploring the activity of cosmic rays at the edge of the earths atmosphere. I have had two productive meetings with the Imperial College Space Society and the project to launch a high altitude balloon with a cloud chamber in the payload is underway. The first tasks are to make contact with the Civil Aviation Authority ahead of requesting flight permissions and researching how to safely transport helium to the prospective launch site.

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The team have been issued with their own mini cloud chamber kit to test and use as a basis for designing the prototype for launch which must be able to function in low air pressure and turbulence.

There was a fantastic turnout to Culture Lab. Newcastle University for the first Continuum event in an inspiring season of art, science and speculative fiction taking place at Allenheads, Hexham and Newcastle. So happy to be involved in this new project.

1902 Continuum Launch

We heard from Minna Långström about her latest film The Other Side of Mars and her installation Photons from Mars which explore how we see Mars through the mediated eyes of technology.

1902 Continuum launch Minna Langstrom

Robert Good analysed what happens at the intersection of art and science, concluding that insight comes from multiple perspectives working together.

1902 Continuum Launch Robert Good

Pippa Goldschmidt read from her texts The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space and Falling Sky highlighting the emotional and lived experience of the scientists who square up to the big questions in astronomy. She has fascinating first hand knowledge of the political sensitivities surrounding studying the stars when visiting observatories such as in the Chilean Atacama Desert when the nation is undergoing a military coup.

1902 The Falling Sky - Pippa Goldschmidt

Chris Welch professor of space engineering from The International Space University gave a lively account of Space Travel. Fact and Fiction; current technology, theoretical technology and science fiction technology. Sometimes it’s hard to tell one from the other.

1902 Continuum Launch Chris Welch

He also kindly allowed us to handle a mini rocket smuggled in from Strasbourg

1902 Continuum Launch mini rocket

The artist Nahum relayed a beautiful story of the moon landings from the moon’s perspective written by an 11 year old refugee girl and punctuated by real magic. This originated from his work giving refugee children a sense of belonging by imagining looking back at earth from space to see that we are all human on one tiny planet. In other work aiming to democratise space travel he hypnotised his audience in order to prompt false memories of visiting the moon into their minds.

1902 Continuum Launch Nahum assited by Minna Langstrom

John Bowers and Tim Shaw ended the evening with mesmeric visualisation and acoustics extrapolated from electromagnetic waves generated by meteors, minerals and mystical phenomenon.

1902 Continuum Launch John Bowers

It was a quick visit to Allenheads this time but Annie Carpenter, Nicola Ellis, Robert Good and myself can look forward to an upcoming week of research and stories around the fire as a prelude to making new work for the project.

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Delighted that my work Pentacoronae has been selected for the exhibition Insatiable Mind which is part of the Salisbury International Arts Festival 2019. The festival will highlight the anniversaries of the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Moon Landing of 1969. The exhibition seeks to convey the notion of leaving behind the comforts of the familiar in order to discover the unknown.

Pentacoronae encourages the viewer to seek darkness, stargaze, wonder and map their own stories across the sky.

1902 Pentacoronae photo John Hooper

Maybe I should take my cloud chamber with me to Salisbury just to make sure that clean up of radioactive material was as successful as they claim.

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More exciting news is that Carol Wyss, Anne Krinsky and myself have been awarded a two week takeover of Hackney’s oldest building, St. Augustine’s Tower.

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The tower is the last remains of the original church built in the late 13th century.

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Our proposal is for an exhibition of site-specific new works made in response to St. Augustine’s Tower and the historic role of spires as a symbolic connection between earth, mortals and the heavens.

1902 St Augustines Tower

There are four floors connected by a narrow stone spiral staircase.

1902 St Augustines Tower roof

It has an amazing clock dating from about 1580; the pendulum case is on the first floor, the clock on the second and the bell on the third floor.

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Drawing on our individual interests in geology (Anne Krinsky), anatomy (Carol Wyss) and cosmology (Susan Eyre) we will curate the exhibition with the intent of sparking a dialogue between works installed to convey a cohesive exploration of materiality, the passage of time and wider philosophical issues evoked by these relationships.

1902 St Augustines Tower graveyard

 

The New Materialisms Reading group I attend have been reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. It is extraordinary to discover how trees communicate and consider the slow time at which they operate and the age and extent of the largest known living organism, the fungi web. I also have a whole new raft of guilt to contend with.

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I am also out collecting images of bare branches that resonate with the idea of particle decay.

1901 Cosmic ray decay

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In the studio painting ‘entanglement’ in disperse inks to heat press for the semaphore flags ready for the Lizard Point Residency. Semaphore = information at a distance, entanglement = spooky action at a distance (according to Einstein)

 

 

 

 

Out of the Studio….

Called at SPACE to see Anna Chrystal Stephens’ show Anorak. A derogatory term for an obsessive but maybe it’s a necessary trait if you are to survive in alternative social possibilities. Either that or develop superpowers.

1902 Anna Chrystal Stephens

I joined Robert Good at the opening of Word Bank of Lost Dialects at The Word National Centre for the Written Word, South Tyneside. Word Bank of Lost Dialects created by Jane Glennie and Robert Good is a fascinating documentation of the thousands of North East dialect words donated by visitors to The Word’s original Lost Dialects exhibition.

Also opening at The Word was Cracked! Secret Codes and Communication, with a very useful semaphore flag chart – just what I needed for the work I am planning for the upcoming Lizard Point Residency. In 2019 the Lizard is celebrating the 400 year anniversary of Sir John Killigrew’s building of the first lighthouse on Lizard Point in 1619. The subsequent lighthouse also has important links to the search for reliable Longitude measurement, with an assistant to the astronomer royal visiting the lighthouse at the time of the first Transit of Venus to record an accurate location for the Lizard Rocks. The world famous Goonhilly also celebrates the 50 year anniversary of their transmission of the first lunar landings. We will also be visiting wireless and semaphore stations along the Lizard coastal path, considering the Scilly Isles 30 miles out to sea and the important prehistoric menhirs offering ‘beacons’ for travel & procession across the land.

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Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms at The British Library was full of ancient treasures from the Library’s own collection, including the Lindisfarne Gospels, Beowulf and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, the Domesday Book and Codex Amiatinus, a giant Northumbrian Bible taken to Italy in 716, returning to England for the first time in 1300 years. A surprising number of books in flourishing scripts, illuminated, illustrated and bound in sculpted covers. However I found it very frustrating to be presented with so many undecipherable pages and envied those muttering in Latin or Old English who could gain some insight. More translations please. Possibly you had to buy the catalogue to learn more.

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Inspired by the legend of How Raven Stole the Sun and brought light to the world Joana Escoval’s  The Sun Lovers at Tenderpixel dazzled with an overload of fluorescent tubes.

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Especially blinding when visiting at the twilight hour. The story and further daydreams  were reduced to minimalist gestures in gold wire, feathers and blasted rock.

To celebrate Chinese New Year of the pig the mass underground car park takeover Four legs good, two legs bad (a quote from George Orwell’s prescient 1945 book Animal Farm)was heavily porcine in theme with a weirdly anarchic yet delineated curation. Pick of the show was Carol Wyss and Anne Leigniel.

Some interesting work in Critical Matter at the reduced RCA Dyson Gallery from Rosanna Dean, Victoria Mihatovic, Susie Olczak and Samuel Padfield. Looking at the very current theme of entanglement of materials in the web of life in reference to the philosophy of  Henri Bergson who wrote Matter and Memory in 1896 which argued against memory as a purely physical embodiment.

Flux Social presenters this month were Adam John Williams // a.k.a Chemical Adam, Adeline Rozario from Tinderdust, and Sofi Lee-Henson. Another interesting evening and good to talk to Adam about his use of the cloud chamber to translate the randomness of radioactive decay into music.

I joined Walking as Material led by Lily German who took us through the city down to the shores of the Thames and up onto the walkways and bridges, stopping to look at the fabric of London and consider its past and the changing materials that make up its surfaces. Also the amount of sewage that must be dealt with.

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We ended the walk at Matter(ing), an exhibition investigating ides of materiality and the outcome of enabling materials to drive the creation of work at Platform Southwark from artists Abigail Brothers, Lily German and Sebastian Sochan.

Enjoyed the connections made by Zach Blas in his performance lecture Metric Mysticism at Edel Assanti. Tracing the use of the crystal ball from John Dee via Derek Jarman, David Bowie’s Labyrinth, Lord of the Rings, Saudi Arabia’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology to Palantir Technologies, a private American software company that specializes in big data analytics. Prophecies of a society controlled by the media and the police appear fulfilled.

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Treated to a personal private view of Draft at The Hospital Club by Mary Yacoob. Strong work held it’s own amongst the plush velvet sofas and hand embellished wallpaper.

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Work in progress experimenting with ideas for some new video pieces that will develop from my collaboration with the high altitude balloon student society at Imperial College London and participation in the Continuum residency at Allenheads Contemporary Arts.

We will be attempting to launch a cloud chamber into space and film the outcome. 1803 filming cloud chamber (1)

 

It will be interesting to see how much cosmic ray activity we can record at high altitude. This is where protons emitted from the sun or distant galaxies crash into the Earth’s atmosphere and break apart.

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There may be other methods of recording we can try such as stacked layers of very thin plastic sheet which are ionised as the particle passes through and can later be etched to show the resulting track.

On Earth we are also protected from cosmic rays (which are high energy radiation) by the Earth’s magnetic field which is caused by the spinning molten iron core setting up convection currents in a geodynamo process.

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I am exploring magnetism and its powers. To be drawn to some powerful source. To fall into a black hole. I am trying ideas of a portal that offers transformation. This is also about returning to Allenheads, being drawn back. A black hole transforms matter, a wormhole deals with exotic matter.

 

Theoretically, to pass through a wormhole you need negative energy.

‘Negative energy is a concept used in physics to explain the nature of certain fields, including the gravitational field and various quantum field effects. In more speculative theories, negative energy is involved in wormholes which may allow for time travel and warp drives for faster-than-light space travel.’

So a portal that transports or transforms you (matter) could channel any ‘negative energy’ present and this could be dissipated by using black tourmaline which is supposed to clear negative energy. This could be the fuel to ignite the process.

I have a obtained a small two way mirror to test for the portal interface so the viewer can witness their own transformation.

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This could involve the vital fluids of Animal Magnetism or suggestion therapy of Mesmerism/ Hypnotism.

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Magnetoreception is the detection of a magnetic field by an organism. We have a protein (a crytochrome) in the human eye which could serve this function of navigation.

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How can we be equipped for physical or subconscious navigation/transformation?

I will be looking at tracking the electromagnetic field, sending messages and reading codes for new work to be made responding to this years incredible communications double anniversary, for Lizard Lighthouse (400 years) and Goonhilly Earth Station (50 years: transmission of the first lunar landings). I am excited to have been offered a place on the Lizard Point Residency run in partnership with Mayes Creative, Lumen London and the National Trust.  We will be visiting wireless and semaphore stations along the Lizard coastal path, considering the Scilly Isles 30 miles out to sea and the important prehistoric menhirs offering ‘beacons’ for travel & procession across the land.

I have a lovely frosted glass Fresnel lens (as used in lighthouses) to experiment with.

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With the prospect of using more technology in my work I spent an intense weekend with Aphra Shemza and Jamie Howard at Ugly Duck learning a quick guide to interactive light art. Had a chance to program an Arduino, solder it to a PCB and connect up individually programmable LED’s to respond to sound with variable colour and brightness. Also first time soldering which was very satisfying.

Not sure how I will cope when I start my own project but at least I know what an Arduino looks like now and some of its possibilities. Also it’s good to know Aphra and Jamie do offer support consultation.

I followed this up joining a Flux event hosted by Maria Almena, Oliver Gingrich and Aphra Shemza at The Library where a diverse mix of artists, musicians and various tech geeks from the creative media arts community come together monthly to network and share crits.  Was fun and welcoming.

Out of the Studio..

The Alicja Kwade installation in Space Shifters at Hayward Gallery was clever

and of course I liked Helen Pashgian’s resin spheres

I do like shiny things and reflective surfaces but this show was overload and works became just that – light entertainment.

Pierre Huyghe Uumwelt at The Serpentine Gallery was not so light and felt a bit like being stranded under medication in some apocalyptic lost outpost trying to make sense of incoherent images morphing into something almost but not quite recognisable.

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The walls were sanded to reveal layers like the dissections of the brain that was scanned to produce the data used to try and build an image from the electrical impulses.

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The dust filled the air, purposefully bred flies swarmed in vain to escape leaving little corpses on the floor.

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Francis Upritchard Wetwang Slack at the Barbican Curve. Gorgeous glazes and uncanny mystics.

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Left unsure if this was archaeology or evolution.

Attended the talks accompanying In the Dark curated by Genetic Moo, a London Group event at The Cello Factory.

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Talks by Nick Lambert and Sean Clark from the Computer Arts Society who are celebrating their 50th year anniversary this year, and Jack Addis from the Lumen Prize. Artists discussed their practices and Tim Pickup and Nicola Schauerman from Genetic Moo talked about the challenges of working in the dark when overspill of light from other peoples work reduces the impact of all works.

Tim was wishing for a bulb that emits darkness. I remember Cham telling us about the photomultiplier tubes in the dark matter detector at Boulby Underground Laboratory which he said were in effect reverse lightbulbs, in that they absorb photons rather than emit them.

Made use of a free ticket to London Art Fair, Brockett Gallery had managed to shake of the fair vibe in their installation and I was glad to discover the 1974 film Space Is The Place in the Art Projects Screening Room.

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Presumed lost in space Sun Ra returns to do battle, outwit the white NASA scientists and transport the black race to a new planet in outer space.

Also good to see Thom Bridge’s intriguing self portrait of himself and his twin Theo One Ear Both Eyes which was a requirement of their visa application photograph. Shown so you can’t see both portraits at the same time unlike below. Which is Thom?

Thoughtful and prescient video based work looking at natural selection/personal choice from David Blandy and Larry Achiampong in Genetic Automata at Arts Catalyst. What colour skin would you choose? How far back do we reach for our identity? What can I claim as my own? Net migration google map was fascinating to watch.

Where are those phrenology bumps developing on our contemporary skulls?

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Falling Stars/Stelle Cadenti exhibition at The Crypt Gallery was a display of work created in response to last years Lumen Atina Residency where the group experiences local astronomical sights and dark skies.

Of Stars & Chasms at ArtHouse1 showing stellar work from Julie F. Hill bringing the astronomical sublime to a bodily encounter.

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– A half of the celestial sphere, the sky.

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Exciting news for the New Year. Allenheads Contemporary Arts has been awarded Arts Council funding for the next phase of Beyond, launching as Continuum, ACA will be working with curator Rob Le Frenais.1812 observatoryI am delighted to be part of this new interdisciplinary programme of contemporary art which aims to connect the arts and sciences via the conduit of speculative literature and science fiction.
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Also, thanks to the support of Senior Lecturer in Spacecraft Engineering, Aaron Knoll, at Imperial College London I have been offered the opportunity to work with a small team of students to realise the launch of a high altitude balloon with an aim to film a cloud chamber at the edge of the atmosphere where protons crash and decay. If successful, it could be the first time cosmic particles have been filmed in a cloud chamber at 30km altitude.

Aaron has previously launched a high altitude balloon with 12 GoPro cameras to capture 360 footage for a virtual reality experience VR2Space flight to the edge of the atmosphere.

1812 VR balloon experience

Video and data from this experiment undertaken with Imperial College will then feed into the work I will be making as part of Continuum.

I have been thinking about Vitruvian Man as a reference point for making video work with an aerialist and developing some sort of sequence based on this image which Leonardo da Vinci said was cosmography of the microcosm. He saw the workings of the human body as an analogy for the workings of the universe based on symmetry and proportion.