Archives for posts with tag: cosmic rays

Delighted that my film Cosmic Chiasmus: crossing the universe was screened at Contemporary Calgary Gallery for the 2022 Particle + Wave Festival

The Particle + Wave Festival is an annual media arts festival held by EMMEDIA with exhibitions, screenings and audiovisual performances by local, national and international media artists at multiple art venues around Calgary, Alberta.

The Earth is continuously being bombarded by a flux of particles called cosmic rays. Now that I have the Cosmic Ray Detectors counting particle events and flashing LED’s I am thinking about the design of the encasement for them. Trying to decide between something smooth and technical or something more alchemical looking. At the moment it is just cardboard with two printers loupe lenses.

Progress has been made getting the python script running to write the event data directly to a computer. I have Mami Fukunaga to thank for this.

Comp_date Comp_time Event Ardn_time[ms] ADC[0-1023] SiPM[mV] Deadtime[ms] Temp[C] Name

2022-04-07 11:20:50.567000 1   624                174                     29.79     726              20.90 susan1

2022-04-07 11:20:50.717000 2   775                88 2                  0.96        730              20.90 susan1

2022-04-07 11:20:51.430000 3   1487                49                    15.48     916              20.90 susan1

2022-04-07 11:20:52.437000 4   2493               403                   88.99   1102              20.90 susan1

The next step is to look at writing new script to read the recorded energy of the particle data and trigger another programme for a visual effect. The visual effect will respond the energy value of the particle.

The highest energy cosmic ray observed, named the Oh-My-God-Particle, was measured to be equivalent to a brick falling on your toe, all contained in a single proton.

There are so many ways that cosmic rays impact life on Earth and in space, from the dangers of radiation to enabling carbon dating techniques or corrupting computer processor data and new technologies are engaging with them for exploration and navigation.

Muon tomography uses cosmic ray muons to generate three-dimensional images of internal geological or manmade structures and now cosmic-ray muon radiography is being investigated to allow navigation underwater and in areas where there are not so many GPS satellites such as the Arctic.

The system known as the muometric positioning system (muPS) is in development by UK based company Geoptic along with international partners. Early technology allowed for non-invasive imaging of critical infrastructure, such as railway tunnels, to identify areas of concern such as hidden voids.

The technique is being further refined using 1 metre square scintillation detectors positioned so that when a muon shower occurs the source and time is recorded and the data triangulated using atomic clocks accurate to 10 billionth of a second to determine location. In the future muPS may even provide navigation for uncrewed submarines. Links to research here Underwater positioning system. High Latitude positioning system.

Out of studio

Visiting Tate Modern

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian Pentagon 2008

Pat Steir Long Vertical Falls – aquatint and etching 1991

and exploded bling spectacle from Yayoi Kusama in the mirror rooms

Cloud Sediments – Hyphen Lab at Ambika P3

Part of Ecological Futures collective of international researchers and artists exploring modes of togetherness in the face of adversity. More info here

Urgent works deciphering many current causes for concern emphasised by being submerged and overwhelmed by ecological, social and political crises in this cavernous underground space awash with water/world problems swelling and rising.

London Mithraeum

Who knows what went on in this boys club nearly 2000 years ago. The cult of Mithras, a mystery religion practised from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD., also known as the Mysteries of Mithras; its origins are uncertain and what is known is pieced together from archeological discoveries. A feast, a seven stage initiation, dining with the sun god and slaughter of a bull feature.

Strange in the current climate to watch the footage from the 1950’s excavation of the ruins after the bombing of London reduced the city to rubble and the Temple of Mithras was unearthed. Thousands flocked to see the archaeological site, queuing for hours to get a glimpse of the past.

I was fascinated by the lighting in this latest recreation of the Roman Cult Temple, creating ethereal walls of mist and dark smoky columns.

A visit to Greenwich

The observatory is closed at the moment but there are some beautiful astronomical treasures in the Queen’s House and the ghost of the tulip staircase to look out for.

A visit to Salisbury Cathedral

Splendid platonic solids, the world’s oldest mechanical clock and majestic cedar trees. The tomb from 1635 is of Thomas Gorges and Helena Snachenberg and the polyhedra possibly reference da Vinci’s drawings for Divina Proportione book on mathematics and a nod to sacred geometry.

Incredibly this spectacular structure is built on 4ft foundations and the ground water level must be checked regularly – hence the hole and stick.

Not only shaky foundations but adding the tallest spire in Britain caused the pillars to bow.

A visit to Kew Gardens

The proliferation of paintings in the purpose built Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens is an astonishing achievement by an amazing pioneer. Her love of botany was inspired by a visit to Kew gardens in her twenties but it wasn’t until after her Father’s death when she was forty that she began her mission to visit as many far away places as possible and paint the plants she found there. Between 1871 and 1885 Marianne travelled the world often alone capturing the scientific detail but also the beauty of the plants in their natural setting.

Zadok Ben-David Blackfield.

I remember seeing this impressive installation at Hales Gallery back in 2007, it was good to see it again and on a bigger scale. The acid etched and hand painted miniature plants are taken from 18th and 19th century botanical illustrations echoing the paintings of Marianne North in the gallery next door.

Wolfgang Buttress – The Hive is a permanent installation at Kew.

Bees communicate through vibrations. An accelerometer in a beehive at Kew senses vibrations from the activity of the bees and sends these in real-time to The Hive. One thousand LED lights respond to the vibrations along with a soundscape also triggered by signals from the real beehive. The sounds from a pre-recorded library were created when musicians improvised to a live feed of beehive sounds in the key of C, the key that bees buzz in.

Alignment at Gallery 46

Beautiful work from Mary Yacoob and Kevin Quigley exploring the mysteries of the universe that reside in the patterns and alignments of nature and human ritual.

Plus performance by Geo-metron ensemble specially commissioned for ALIGNMENT.
The Ensemble has developed work on ideas centred around Geometry, Cosmic Alignments, Earth Measurements.

From the press release:

Since 3000 BC, observers have been fascinated by the study, development and analysis of spatial relations in line, measurement, angle and shape. Through necessity, they developed techniques in the surveying and measurement of everyday phenomena.

The Greek Mathematician, EUCLID, who worked at the Library of Alexandria, described ‘10 Greek Axioms’ which he referred to as his ‘elements’. These ‘elements’ went on to form the empirical basis and foundation of science and reasoning. Euclid’s text, written in the 3rd century BC, was entitled ‘The Elements of Geometry’, or in Greek ‘Geo Metron’ (Earth Measurement). Euclid’s text continues to enlighten, and is studied today as geometry continues to sub-divide into new, advanced forms, delineating the universe around us. So important was the study of line and shape that Pythagoras and Plato often wrote ecstatically about ‘geometry’ as the key to the interpretation of the universe.  Thus, geometry gained an association with the sublime, to complement its earthy origins and its reputation as the exemplar of precise reasoning.

MARY YACOOB’S cyanotypes immerse viewers in the mysterious sensory-chromatic ambiance of star maps and the night sky. Lightboxes and colour-saturated drawings explore relations between geometry, spatial relations, and our perceptual experience. The evolution of visually complex and harmonious alignments suggest artistic creativity as a metaphor for the creativity inherent in all natural processes.

KEVIN QUIGLEY’S work is a series of drawings, mono-prints and relief printing in which he is drawing inspiration from the occult sciences of geomancy and talismanic making. Producing two sets of print works, Kevin Quigley sets out to explore the esoteric meaning of number, markmaking and alignment from ‘earth energies’ in the landscape to power sigils used throughout magic and religious traditions.

Splendid trip to Worthing to see Anne Krinsky‘s Shifting Shorelines installation on the sea front and exhibition Fugitive at Worthing Museum and Gallery followed by a passionate talk to a full house from marine ornithologist Lizzie Hibberd on the migrant bird visitors to the South Coast.

A paean to the fragile beauty of the South Coast wetlands under threat from pollution, bad land management and climate change.

The big excitement this month was to get the cosmic ray detector assembled and working. It may not look very exciting to see an LED flash but knowing it was caused by a tiny traveller from outer space I do find quite something to acknowledge.

The detector uses a small slab of plastic scintillator as a detection medium and a silicon photomultiplier (SiPM) for light collection from charged particles as they pass through the scintillator. Flashing the plastic block with light from a UV torch causes a big scintillation burst.

The signal from the photomultiplier is sent to an Arduino microprocessor which measures the amplitude of the signal. The small OLED screen updates every second and an LED flashes every time an event is registered.

I have the skills and patience of ABL Circuits to thank for soldering the tiny SMT components to the PCB boards and then working out which part had the fault and replacing it so that the correct voltage was supplied to the SiPM PCB. It needed to read approximately +29.5 V as anything over 30 might damage the SiPM so it was a big relief when this was achieved.

Once I had the printed circuit boards assembled I could wrap the scintillator plastic in foil, apply optical gel and attach it to the SiPM and then wrap this in electrical tape to make it light tight. I had a little bit of soldering left to do myself and then it could be slotted together.

When I had both detectors working independently I could set them up in coincidence mode to differentiate cosmic rays from background radiation particles.

The top detector is reading all local background radiation and the bottom one is just recording cosmic rays. The lights flash in unison when a particle travels through the top and bottom detector at the same time. The top detector labelled ‘M’ I will call mother and the bottom ‘S’ I will call son, (not the historical terminology suggested).

The horizontal lines record the energy of that particle – look out for the WOW particles!

So happy to have got this far with the project, now for the difficult bit translating that signal into an action triggering an interactive artwork.

Not only can cosmic rays be observed using a cloud chamber but they also trigger the formation of everyday clouds.

The Solar Wind is made up mainly of hydrogen and helium ions (ions are the nucleus of atoms separated from their accompanying electrons) known as solar protons. Travelling at up to 5 million miles per hour, the solar wind carries a million tons of matter from the sun into space every second. When massive amounts of energy stored in the magnetic fields of the sun are suddenly released in a solar flare explosion the particles are accelerated to even greater speeds.

Coronal mass ejections fire off great clouds of hot gas and the explosions are so powerful that they also rip away knots of magnetism from the surface of the sun which are sent sweeping past Earth deflecting the path of cosmic rays that would otherwise strike our planet. This effect is called the Forbush Decrease where increased solar activity results in a reduction of cosmic rays coming from outside our solar system.

Cosmic rays are super-charged subatomic particles produced by exploding stars, black holes and other phenomena many times more violent than any solar flare explosion but one coronal mass ejection can reduce cosmic rays for a few weeks and continued solar activity can keep cosmic ray counts low for sustained periods of time.

The Sun’s magnetic field goes through a cycle where north and south poles switch places about every 11 years. It then takes another 11 years for the poles to flip back again. Sunspot activity caused by the magnetic field are affected by the solar cycle but it is hard to predict how active a cycle might be. Usually at the beginning of the cycle there are fewer sunspots causing eruptions which then increase over time reaching solar maximum in the middle of the solar cycle before gradually retuning to solar minimum before the cycle begins again. The first solar cycle to be recorded was in 1751 and we are currently in cycle 25 with peak activity expected in 2025.

Research at the Technical University of Denmark has shown that the number of comic rays reaching the Earth has a significant impact on the warming of the oceans. When solar explosions deflect the number of cosmic rays hitting our planet there is a shortage of small aerosols – the chemical specks in the air that grow until water vapour can condense on them to become the water droplets of low-level clouds. The aerosol robotic network AERONETT also noticed a slight change in the colour of sunlight during times of low cosmic ray activity and found that violet light from the Sun looked brighter than usual. They put this down to the shortage of small aerosols usually provided by the cosmic rays which scatter violet light as it passes through the air. Without the growing aerosols, low-altitude clouds begin disappearing about a week after a Forbush Decrease minimum of cosmic rays. The water remains in the atmosphere in vapour form, but unlike cloud droplets it does not get in the way of sunlight warming the ocean. During solar maximum events the decline in cosmic radiation and the loss of low cloud cover persists for long enough to warm the planet.

“The effect of the solar explosions on the Earth’s cloudiness is huge. A loss of clouds of 4 or 5 per cent may not sound very much, but it briefly increases the sunlight reaching the oceans by about 2 watt per square metre, and that’s equivalent to all the global warming during the 20th Century.” Henrik Svensmark DTU

I have been testing new configurations of magnets for a large etching/drawing work looking at magnetoreception.

Also testing ideas for a magnetoreception performance mask. It became clear I will have to be careful with the iron filings around the eyes.

I was excited by the results of testing chine collé under black etching ink. It’s very subtle but I didn’t think it would show at all so was surprised and plan to try this with other ideas.

Great to see the launch of Yinka Shonibare’s new project Guest Artist Space in Lagos – this will be an international space for knowledge exchange between established and emerging artists, it will have urban and rural elements and involve local people as well as visiting artists for a true cultural exchange.

A video which I was invited to contribute to along with many artists Guest Projects has supported in the past is currently being shown as part of The Whitechapel Gallery exhibition programme A Century of the Artist’s Studio – Link to video here.

I am so grateful to Yinka Shonibare for his generosity and genuine interest in emerging and early career artists and awarding Laboratory of Dark Matters a month long residency that enabled us to achieve so much in 2017 including developing and running my first Cloud Chamber Workshops.

Exhibition Visits –

Gala Porras-Kim at Gasworks Out of an instance of expiration comes a perennial showing.

This wonderful exhibition is playful yet thoughtful, giving voice to the spirits of displaced, forgotten or overlooked fragments of history that have been institutionalised. The artworks suggest ways improve the material and spiritual conditions of artefacts stored in archaeological collections around the world such as re-aligning the sarcophagus or offering an awakening deity a more familiar prospect than the modern museum room in which it finds itself. Porras-Kim gives equal value to the dust gathering from artefacts stored in the back rooms of institutions and invites the spirits to communicate in the swirling patterns of marbling inks.

San Mei Gallery showing Laila Majid and Louis Blue Newby – not yet

Walls smeared with slime green are hung with prints on aluminium that shimmer in the low light setting with video morphing of a bubbling concoction of swamp things.

Noémie Goudal –  Post Atlantica at Edel Assanti

Luscious imagery dissecting the impact of deep time on landscape and climate.  

Berndnaut Smilde – Momentum at Ronchini Gallery

I was hoping to see a cloud produced in the gallery but had to settle for the documentation of previous clouds created in various locations presented in the Nimbus photography series. Apparently the artist very rarely makes this work as performance.

Shuster + Moseley – do not be afraid of the brilliant lights at Gallery Rosenfeld

Light bling of refraction and reflection when photons travel through a glass medium splitting and bouncing in reminder of its own physical presence

Also at Gallery Rosenfeld, Bongsu Park – in dreams we gather

Dreamscapes undulating through the darkness, echoing active brainwaves producing light within our sleeping skulls.

Rivane Neuenschwander Commonplace 1999 in Tate Tanks

Talcum powder is brushed into rectangular shapes on the floor, being remade every time it is exhibited. Simple gestures turn the stuff of everyday life into something unfamiliar and poetic.

James Freeman Gallery – Juliette Losq and Stuart Sandford in Elysian Fields

Interesting pairing of decay and perceived perfection.

Paintings rather than the layered installations I admire from Juliette Losq here. Delicate pale light seeping through these landscapes caught in the haze of a slow and gentle decomposition.

A close encounter with a full size Narcissus is only available through scanning a QR code to be experienced via the screen. Only his small pornworld counterparts were present, cast from the idealism of the digital realm into bronze.

Haig Aivazian All of your stars are but dust on my shoes at The Showroom

Two very moving films looking at light and fire, primordial gifts and how they are used for power and control.

Geo-poetic is a great description of how these films traverse history and borders exposing who decides what is seen and what is not and who holds the flaming torch over the touch paper.

Portals at Lisson Gallery curated by Ossian Ward

Images include Susan Hiller, Ryan Gander, Rodney Graham, Shirazeh Houshiary, John Latham, Mary Corse and Sean Scully.

A mixed offering of thresholds to alternative spaces, visible, conceptual, mythical or speculative.

Richenda Court Glass Town at The Muse at 269

Luminous work reflecting a fragile crystalline world

Good to see Lisa Pettibone’s suspended sculpture Instrument of Thought – A meditation on Matter and Light. The physics of the cosmos held in delicate balance as mirrored surfaces, crystals and rocks interplay hinting at ideas such as gravity, dark matter and the speed of light.

On Hannah Arendt: The Conquest of Space at Richard Saltoun with works by Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Elaine Reichek and Carey Young considering the question Has man’s conquest of space increased or diminished his stature?

The question is central to Arendt’s essay written in 1963 which rings alarm bells on the direction science and technology may be leading the human experience. The possible future Arendt foresaw of a world remade by the curiosity of the human race but transformed into somewhere unrecognisable to the humanist where even the scientist loses some essence of human nature as the world is described in a mathematical language that cannot be experienced with human senses may be bearing down upon us.

Lots to think about from this encounter. I think writing when she did, when the first man in space was quite recent history and before the internet, her concerns about a loss of what it is to be human, driven by technology effecting every part of our lives until there is no part left that hasn’t or isn’t in some way remade by humans was very prescient. I wonder how she would feel today as we rush into space like never before and not so much for exploration as exploitation. Arendt described herself as “a kind of phenomenologist” which I understand as looking at things purely as they appear to us without trying to explain why or how and accept meaning that comes from direct sensory experience. Works of art can act as mediators between the consciousnesses of the author and the reader as a direct attempt to communicate the experience of being human and the world around. Phenomenologists are interested in the way we come to share similar understanding of the world a collective subconscious or implicit agreement about how the world looks, sometimes referred to as the life-world.

An introduction to the essay link here presented by Roger Berkowitz, director of the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College. Science transforms what it means to be human although we are still bound to our earthly bodies and subject to fate and fortune. Science does not give a human experience of the world, it confounds common sense. If our growth in understanding can only be expressed in mathematical terms then we have lost rather than gained a way of describing our world experience. Human thinking comes from metaphors and our thoughts are earthly, if we are taken off planet then the Earth becomes an object not our home.

Secret of Lightness at Parafin

Aimée Parrott, Andrew Pierre Hart, Tim Head, Andrea Heller, Laurence Kavanagh

Beautiful selection of works curated by Louisa Hunt that reflect the premise of Calvino’s text to pull against what holds us down and make a creative leap opening onto a new perspective.

‘Whenever humanity seems condemned to heaviness, I think I should fly like Perseus into a different space. I don’t mean escaping into dreams or into the irrational. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and verification. The images of lightness that I seek should not fade away like dreams dissolved by the realities of the present and future…’

Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium: Lightness (1985)

Of the Surface of Things at Alison Jacques showing works by Maria Bartuszová, Sheila Hicks, Hannah Wilke, Erika Verzutti.

Spending so much time thinking about the intangible it was refreshing to be exposed to some raw materials.

The curator refers to the 1919 poem ‘Of the Surface of Things’ of Wallace Stevens and the untethering of the imagination when exposed to the particularities of reality in simplified raw form.

In my room, the world is beyond my understanding;
But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four
        hills and a cloud. 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cosmic ray activity gives us carbon dating techniques.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are a number of uncertainties for dating shell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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