Archives for posts with tag: copper

Editing footage for the video Belly of a Rock which will be shown on an old monitor encased in a sculptural hybrid form relating to both mollusc and rock. The giant sea slug of the mollusc family, can derive directional cues from the magnetic field of the earth which is then modified in response to the lunar cycle. It orients its body between north and east prior to a full moon. In the slug’s nervous system, four particular neurons are stimulated by changes in the applied magnetic field, and two are inhibited by such changes suggesting that the animal uses its magnetic sense continuously to help it travel in a straight line.

The Earth can be divided into the inner core, the outer core, the mantle, and the thin crust. The outer core is about 1,367 miles thick and mostly composed of liquid iron and nickel. It is very malleable and in a state of violent convection. The churning liquid metal of the outer core creates and sustains Earth’s magnetic field. At the boundary between the inner and outer core temperatures can reach 6,000° C which is as hot as the surface of the sun. The inner core is a dense ball of mostly iron, but with a temperature above the melting point of iron, it is not liquid or even molten. Intense pressure from the rest of the planet and its atmosphere prevents the iron inner core from melting as the iron atoms are unable to move into a liquid state. It could be described as a plasma behaving as a solid. The inner core rotates eastward, like the surface of the planet, but it’s a little faster, making an extra rotation about every 1,000 years.  Geoscientists think that the iron crystals in the inner core align north-south, along with Earth’s axis of rotation and magnetic field and are arranged in a hexagonal close-packed pattern. The orientation of the crystal structure means that seismic waves travel faster when going north-south than when going east-west. Seismic waves travel four seconds faster pole-to-pole than through the Equator. 

The Earth is still cooling and as it does so, bits of the liquid outer core solidify or crystallize causing the solid inner core to grow by about a millimetre every year. The growth is not uniform, it is influenced by activity in the mantle and is more concentrated around regions where tectonic plates are slipping from the lithosphere into the mantle, drawing heat from the core and cooling the surrounding area. The crystallization process is very slow, and further slowed by the constant radioactive decay of Earth’s interior. Scientists estimate it would take about 91 billion years for the core to completely solidify but the sun will burn out in just 5 billion years. 

I have nervously passed the cosmic ray detectors over to programmer Jamie. It was hard to let them out of my sight after so much work to get them built but he can’t test the code he has written without them. The Breath of Stars directly interacts with cosmic rays in real time to trigger a digital reaction via a mini computer attached to a block of plastic scintillator and a sensitive photomultiplier. As each particle strikes the plastic scintillator its energy is recorded and a starburst image video relative to the energy released is projected, with the largest images representing the particles with the highest energy.

I am constructing an Obelisk sculpture in response to the concrete obelisk erected in 1955 at Hartland Magnetic Observatory, near the site’s northern boundary as a permanent azimuth mark. It is viewed via a theodolite through a window in the north wall of the Absolute Hut, its azimuth being 11º27’54” E of N and marks the point from which the magnetic north pole is tracked as it drifts westwards. Layers of torn recycled paper are stacked like sedimentary rock that holds clues to the Earth’s magnetic field reversals in its strata.

Copper contours of magnetic field lines have been lacquered to preserve the heat patina from plasma gun cutting. These shapes will be pinned to the north facing mossy wall of the Absolute Hut installation, a reimagining of the Absolute Hut at Hartland Magnetic Observatory. I will also employ a north facing window from which to observe the azimuth mark of the Obelisk sculpture.

A second research visit to RSPB Snettisham, this time to see the pink footed geese (which over winter on the mudflats here) leave their roost at dawn to fly to the fields to feed.

The walk from the car park to the viewing area is over 2km and takes about half an hour to walk. Setting out before first light the weather felt promising but just as I erected the camera tripod the rain came down hard and didn’t stop for the rest of the morning.

Made a second attempt the next morning leaving a little earlier and although it remained dry there was heavy fog over the sea. Not great for filming with my very basic kit but very atmospheric to experience as the geese emerged from the sea mists.

The noise they make is incredible, a constant chattering building to a crescendo of honking calls as they rise from the water and swarm across the sky in their hundreds. They come in waves but look like particles. At one point what sounded like a few gunshots fired out across the bay in the distant darkness. This sudden disturbance set off a slow deep rumble which drew closer accompanied by a low dark cloud growing heavily stronger building and rising as a huge tidal wave of geese rose simultaneously into the sky in panicked disarray. Extraordinary to witness.

Birds are able to “see” Earth’s magnetic field lines and use that information for navigation. Their compass ability comes from a quantum effect in radical pairs, formed photochemically in the eyes. This light sensitive magnetic compass used by birds is affected by the polarisation direction of light. Exposure to blue light excites an electron, which causes the formation of a radical-pair whose electrons are quantum entangled, enabling the precision needed for magnetoreception.

In chemistry a radical is an unpaired electron which is can be highly chemically reactive. In the radical pair mechanism a pair of electrons with opposite spins have a chemical bond. Light can cause the electrons to change spin direction which can break the bond giving the electron a chance to react with other molecules. In magnetoreception two cryptochrome molecules, found in the rod cells in the eyes of birds, each with unpaired electrons, exist in states either with their spin axes in the same direction, or in opposite directions, oscillating rapidly between the two states. That oscillation is extremely sensitive and can detect the weak magnetic field of the Earth. Birds then move their heads to read the spin of the molecules and therefore detect the orientation of the magnetic field.

While in North Norfolk staying in a beach chalet away from light pollution I was able to make a couple of short time lapse videos centering on Polaris.

Birds can detect the slow arc of the sun and the rotation of the constellations across the sky which is imperceptible to humans and allows migrating birds to orient themselves using celestial navigation as well as magnetoreception.

Birds are also able to detect rapid movement such as individual flashes or flickering of a fluorescent light which humans see as a continuous light. Hawks which pursue other birds through dense forests at high speeds, follow the movement of their prey while avoiding branches and other obstacles. To humans travelling at this speed, the fleeing prey, branches and obstacles would just be a blur.

Gallery Visit

Thames-side Gallery ‘The Accurate Perception Available When Our Eye Becomes Single’ is an immersive multi-screen installation evoking the emotional specifics of place (Orford Ness on the Suffolk coast) while exploring the elasticity of time and history. It is an audio-visual collaboration between Richard Ducker (video) and Ian Thompson (sound) with no linear narrative; sound and image are not synchronised, so each viewing is a unique experience. Sarah Sparkes also makes an enigmatic performative appearance both in the video and live in the gallery.

The crashing sea on shingle, open spaces and brutalist bunker architecture of Orford Ness are echoed in the gallery with audio pitched to envelop and resonate but not overwhelm. Nicely done.

Listening

I really enjoy the Inside Science podcasts with Gaia Vince and this one interviewing cosmologist and theoretical physicist Laura Mersini-Houghton about finding evidence that supports her multiverse theory was particularly fascinating.

Multiverses, melting glaciers and what you can tell from the noise of someone peeing

According to Laura the single universe theory is mathematically impossible.

Reading

Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life. A remarkable reveal of an other world, so different yet so entwined with our own. Beautifully clear analogies help to bridge an understanding between human and fungi.

The ability to detect and respond to chemicals is a primordial sensory ability.

In humans when a molecule lands on our olfactory epithelium and binds to a receptor it causes nerves to fire triggering thoughts and emotional responses.

A mycelial network is one large chemically sensitive membrane: a molecule can bind to a receptor anywhere on its surface and trigger a signalling cascade that alters fungal behaviour.

Fungal lives are lived in a flood of sensory information.

They have light receptors, are sensitive to touch and it also looks like fungi may form fantastically complex networks of electrically excitable cells – a potential ‘fungal computer’ using electrical signalling as a basis for rapid communication and decision making which could learn and remember.

It was such a pleasure to show with Sandra Crisp and Jockel Liess at Saturation Point. We were very pleased with how our films worked together in Projected Topographies and reflected out into the night skies of London.

Sandra Crisp: E_Life uses 3D generated animation, presenting intensely textured and dynamic geometry sequenced over time.

Multiple constantly transforming organic forms, each originating from a simple 3D sphere are mapped with eclectic visuals such as emojis, fragmented images borrowed from 24-hour online rolling-news media and others downloaded via a search engine. Particle systems generate repeated, yet varied objects throughout the film which appear to have a life of their own. Overall suggesting the possibility of a simulated future/ nature.

Jockel Liess: Variations on a theme is a generative audiovisual system which starts from a point of fascination with the aesthetics of irregular organic patterns.

Visually as well as sonically the aesthetic of natural patterns thrives on their intrinsic imperfection which are never distributed even or orderly, are never replications of themselves. They are rather reoccurring variations that form a recognisable tapestry of familiarity across an otherwise chaotic and unpredictable structure. Prospering from the tension that arises between repetition and asymmetry, and playfully inhabit the border region between order and randomness.

Susan Eyre: Aóratos transports the viewer between everyday locations and terrains visually transformed via use of an endoscope, a microscope,and cameras launched in a high altitude balloon.

It is not impossible that wormholes exist in our universe.

Aóratos imagines journeying through hidden landscapes, distorted spacetime and alternative perspectives. Envisaging potential encounters with cosmic strings, space foam, primordial chemistry, radioactive particles and escaping gravity the work conjectures on the enduring allure of traversing a wormhole.

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  astoundingly have even produced images of them.

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.

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.

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.

The video work explores hidden landscapes, the distortion of space and the permeability of barriers such as force fields and human skin to the unseen particles that constantly teem at near light speed across the universe.

Edge of atmosphere footage was achieved with the help of Sena Harayama, Romain Clement De Givry and Medad Newman from Imperial College Space Society supervised by senior lecturer in spacecraft engineering Dr Aaron Knoll. We also had help from the UK High Altitude Society. My ambition was to film cosmic particles at the point where most of the activity of collisions takes place, about 15km up and so we launched a cloud chamber in the payload of a high-altitude balloon. Unfortunately the prepared chamber was broken the night before the launch and the replacement was not really adequate. Also due to a turbulent launch the camera inside the payload was knocked to one side so we were unable to film this cosmic activity but did get amazing footage above the clouds, gained a height of 35km and successfully retrieved the payload from a field of horses.

Space travellers can ‘see’ cosmic rays as they pass through the retina and cause the rods and cones to fire, triggering a flash of light that is really not there. The retina functions as a mini cloud chamber where the recording of a cosmic ray is displayed by a trail left in its wake.

Aóratos translates as ‘unseen’.

It was a real treat to be invited by Alan Smith and Helen Ratcliff for a short residency at Allenheads Contemporary Arts in Northumberland as part of the Being Human Festival – a celebration of humanities research through public engagement with North Pennines Observatory at Allenheads Contemporary Arts partnering with Durham University to present an evening of discussion and potential stargazing. After a few days of conversations, preparing presentations and meeting the other speakers we were looking forward to the event but unfortunately this was cancelled at the last minute due to flood warnings in the area. We are hoping it can be rescheduled.

While the weather was clear I headed to Allenheads village for a walk and called in at the Blacksmith’s forge where I had previously shown Aóratos as a site specific participatory installation.

I am appreciative of the dark skies in this location which feels like it is on top of the planet and therefore closer to the sky. I live in south west London so it is a real treat to be away from light pollution. While there, I was keen to make some time lapse film of the stars circling Polaris as research for work about the earth’s magnetic field and magnetoreception. Birds can see the magnetic field and use this extra sense as well as the sun, the moon and the stars to navigate on their migration routes. I am also speculating about the possibility for humans to sense the magnetic field

As the centuries go by, the North Celestial Pole shifts and different stars become the North Star. It takes about 25,800 years for the Earth’s axis to complete a single wobble. Polaris became the north star in about the fifth century and will get closer to straight above the Earth’s north pole until sometime in 2102. Before Polaris was the North Star it was Thuban and next up is Vega.

The skies were clear for a few hours when I first arrived at ACA so I was able to build a short star trail sequence but after that the fog and then the rain settled in.

When reading about the history of Hartland Magnetic Observatory, established in 1955, it mentions ‘A permanent distant mark or azimuth mark was erected on a concrete obelisk 7 or 8 feet high near the site’s northern boundary. Viewed through the window in the north wall of the Absolute Hut, its azimuth is 11º27’54” E of N. It is still in use today.’ I was intrigued that an obelisk should be used for the azimuth mark. I had hoped to see it on my research trip to Hartland but found it is currently inaccessible with just the tip protruding from dense undergrowth.

I am reimagining this object as a sculpture made from stacked recycled paper to appear stratified like the sedimentary rock that holds clues to the Earth’s magnetic field reversals and am working to the dimension ratios recommended to avoid emotional unrest.

Obelisk dimensions from “The Problem of Obelisks” catalogued by Egyptologist with the Cairo Museum Reginald Engelbach, 1923.

Before the Meridian Line was moved to Greenwich, London time was calculated from the King’s Observatory at Kew.
There are three obelisks in the Old Deer Park used as meridian marks to adjust the instruments at the Observatory built by George III to observe the transit of Venus in 1769.

As I plan to make the obelisk pyramidion in copper I signed up for the Sheet Copper Sculpture Worksop taught by Robert Worley at The London Sculpture Workshop. To begin we were shown how to beat out a bowl shape and apply a dark patina using chemicals and heat.

I was introduced to the plasma gun. Very satisfying cutting with the fourth state of matter. These shapes are based on the fluid fluctuations of the Earth’s geomagnetic field and I plan to use these on the north wall of The Absolute Hut sculpture in my show next year, tacked over moss with copper pins.

Magnetism is caused by the motion of electric charges. Electrons spinning around the nucleus in atoms generate an electric current and cause each electron to act like a tiny magnet. In most substances, equal numbers of electrons spin in opposite directions, which cancels out their magnetism. In iron, cobalt, and nickel, most of the electrons spin in the same direction which makes the atoms in these substances strongly magnetic. By rubbing a piece of iron along a magnet, the north-seeking poles of the atoms in the iron line up in the same direction creating a magnetic field and turning the iron into a magnet. A magnetic field can also be created by running electricity through a coil of wire, but the field will disappear when the electric current is turned off.

Work in progress on Breath of Stars (the cosmic ray detector interactive video) has been to convert all the .avi star burst video files to VP8.webm using Shutter Encoder software. Jamie, the programmer, has code working now to display video files with transparency so they can be layered.

Gallery Visits

Simon Leahy-Clark solo show FEED at Artworks Project Space. Painterly surfaces made from newspaper clippings have unexpected depth in palette, flow and cosmic imagery, considering the origin of each segment. Mesmerizing to study the forms like spotting patterns in the constellations. Really liked this work.

Caroline AreskogJones Tonight Rain, Tomorrow Mud at Filet Space with live sonic response from Oskar Jones incorporating field recordings gathered whilst walking in Andalucía and captured acoustics whilst making the drawings.

A thoughtfully crafted exhibition capturing the fragile landscape that turns to dust without water and mud when the rains come. The beautiful audio accompaniment from Oskar added to the meditative experience of being transported elsewhere while having time to focus of the works installed with a resonant delicacy.

Lisa Chang Lee showing HZ-0 at Enclave Projects Lake, a sensory device created in collaboration with James Wilkie that creates soundscapes responding to the void around it. Equipped with seven sensors measuring temperature, light, air pollution, sound etc data is fed into an algorithmic software based on the Lydian scale. I hadn’t heard of this scale but am interested to discover it’s connections to gravity and magnetism. The Lydian Chromatic Scale is the most complete expression of the total self-organized tonal gravity field with which all tones relate on the basis of their close to distant magnetism to a Lydian tonic. Tonal gravity is the heart of the Lydian Chromatic Concept. Simply put, the basic building block of tonal gravity is the interval of the perfect fifth. Every tone within Western music’s equal tempered tuning relates to every other tone by either being close to – or distant from – the center of gravity, which is the tonic (or “DO”) of the Lydian Scale. There are 3 states of tonal gravity: Vertical, Horizontal, and Supra-Vertical.

This is a fascinating work thinking about other ways to experience a space.

Hollow Earth: Art, Caves & The Subterranean Imaginary at Nottingham Contemporary.

Inspired by the hundreds of caves hand carved into the rock beneath the city of Nottingham this exhibition explores questions of thresholds, darkness and prehistory. ‘Every culture and religion has told stories about what lies beneath. Caves are where extraordinary events come to pass, the domain of gods and monsters, of births, burial and rebirth. Dark, dangerous and unstable, caves are places of visions and experiences both sacred and profane. More recently, they have become home to data farms, seed vaults and doomsday bunkers.’

Artists include: Hamed Abdalla, Lee Bontecou, Sofia Borges, Brassaï, The Center for Land Use Interpretation, Steven Claydon, Matt Copson, Juan Downey, Chioma Ebinama, Mary Beth Edelson, Laura Emsley, Barry Flanagan, Ilana Halperin, Frank Heath, Ed Herring, Michael Ho, Hans Hollein, Peter Hujar, Athanasius Kircher, Alison Knowles, Antti Lovag, Goshka Macuga, René Magritte, Gordon Matta-Clark, Emma McCormick-Goodhart, Santu Mofokeng, Henry Moore, Nadar, Ailbhe Ní Bhriain, Pauline Oliveros, Lydia Ourahmane, Gordon Parks, Flora Parrott, Walter Pichler, Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio, Liv Preston, Ben Rivers, Robert Smithson, Michelle Stuart, N.H. Stubbing, Caragh Thuring, Kaari Upson, Jeff Wall, Aubrey Williams, Joseph Wright of Derby.

This was a research trip with Julie Hill towards our joint show next year. The geological resonates through both our work, for Julie through the deep chasms of geology echoing those occurring cosmologically and for myself in the generation of the geomagnetic field deep in the earth which emanates out, reaching into space.

EVERY CLOUD at Bruce Castle Museum.

Nine artists celebrate the life and work of the Namer of Clouds and Tottenham resident, Luke Howard (1772 – 1864) to mark the 250th Anniversary of his birth.

Artists include Tam Joseph, Andrew Miller, Doodleganger, Gabriela Schutz, Helen Currie, Kerry Duggan, Lisa-Marie Price, Mary Yacoob, Siân Dorman with a live cloud sculpture performance from Alexander Costello.

Tam Joseph gave a heartfelt speech about his discovery of Luke Howard from seeing a blue plaque with the citation ‘Namer of Clouds’ which to him spoke of first nation peoples connection to nature and piqued his curiosity to learn more about this poetic origin; the difficulty of painting clouds – never from a photograph – a cloud is never still and a photograph loses the inherent transience; and the shared passion for the shapes and patterns found in the ocean of air above our heads.

Reading

Some history of early speculation, experiments and discoveries of three men who respectively broke new ground in understanding the Earth’s magnetic field, measuring time mechanically and mapping the hidden strata of the Earth.

Latitude and The Magnetic Earth by Stephen Pumfrey. The story of William Gilbert (1544 – 1603), a radical new thinker who questioned the perceived Aristotelian philosophy of the day, developing his own theory of magnetic philosophy of the Earth. His book On the Magnet and Magnetic Bodies, and on the Great Magnet the Earth was published in 1600 in which he concluded that the Earth was itself magnetic.

The lines of latitude and longitude remain fixed as the world flexes and shifts beneath them. Extraordinary to think these lines were drawn centuries BCC and mapped by Ptolemy in the second century on his many atlases.

The zero degree line of latitude is fixed by nature whereas that of longitude is a political decision. The founding philosophy of the Greenwich Observatory viewed astronomy as a means to an end – all the stars needed to be catalogued to chart a course for sailors to cross the globe. Ptolemy first set the meridian off the northwest coast of Africa and many countries set their own starting point for 0 longitude. Eventually, after publication of a series of star charts beginning in 1767, made by the then Royal Astronomer, that became used world wide for nautical navigation, Greenwich was declared prime meridian of the world in 1884 (except by France who took another 27 years to accept the decision).

Longitude by Dava Sobel tells the story of the battle between proponents of the lunar distance method and the mechanical clock to solve the problem of determining longitude at sea. Astronomers and engineers became adversaries spurred by a financial reward offered to the one who came up the most accurate and reliable method. John Harrison (1693 – 1776) carpenter turned clockmaker spent his life perfecting the marine chronometer.

The Map That Changed The World by Simon Winchester might have some historical merit in telling the story of William ‘Strata’ Smith (1769 – 1839) but I found it over perambulatory in the telling.