Archives for posts with tag: Hito Steyerl

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The opposite of pathological is well-behaved.

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

Hidden in the future.

Grow the space of cooperation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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