Archives for posts with tag: JIm Al-Khalili

‘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

The end of summer. Time for Laboratory of Dark Matters take down at Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum.

1710 The Forms

During the six week exhibition and many trips to the north east where we were made so welcome I became very fond of all those involved at the museum and the dramatic backdrop of the North Yorkshire coastline. Sad to pack the work away and leave.

1710 Diazôgraphô

Boulby Mine became a familiar sight and distinct reminder of the surreal journey underground and project conception over a year ago.

1710 Boulby Mine

It was a genuine coming together of disciplines and communities which I think we all gained from. Pinning my hopes for the future on similar undertakings.

1710 CIMM and EU nostalgia


We are better together.




Straight onto making new work for Deptford X Fringe show Supposedly Predictable Phenomena with [ALLOY] artists.

1710 etching plates

Etching 12 plates, then screen printing the centre circles as 4 colour separations. The printed images are from crystal ball photographs taken out in the woods.

1710 screenprint over etch

A portal for the imagination as well as a folding in of space.

1710 screenprint on aluminium

Meanwhile I was invited by The Institute of Physics to speak at the INTERACT conference in Birmingham. I was able to participate in some interesting workshops alongside the physicists  and listen to Jim Al-Khalili and Alice Roberts in conversation about the shifting perspective of the academic world in relation to public outreach and the role of women in the sciences.

I was introduced to The Planeterrella, an incredible artificial demonstration of the Northern Lights. The aurorae are created by charged particles from the Sun travelling along the Earth’s magnetic field lines and exciting our atmosphere.

1710 Planeterrella

In this experiment most of the air is sucked out of a glass chamber to recreate the conditions about 100km up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The large sphere represents the sun and the small sphere the Earth which contains a very strong magnet to represent its magnetic field. A voltage is sent from the Sun to the Earth to recreate the solar wind which excites the electrons in the field enough to give off light at characteristic frequencies.

1710 Planeterrella 2

Listened to Gravitational Waves

1710 Gravitational Waves

and picked up a useful leaflet on cosmic rays which were first discovered by Victor Hess in 1912 using an electroscope to measure ionising radiation in the atmosphere 5300 metres up in a hot air balloon. The higher up the higher the radiation therefore the effect must be caused by something extra-terrestrial.

1710 Victor Hess

One high energy primary cosmic ray gives rise to a cascading shower of secondary particles that scatter across the earth, colliding and decaying in a constant stream. Mostly passing straight through us and the matter around us but sometimes there will be a direct hit at a subatomic level from a particle having travelled from outside our galaxy.  1704 Cosmic Trail 3

Lizzie Cannon ‘Liminal Matter’ at The University of Greenwich explored the constantly shifting dynamic of the shore and its material.  Through the process of art-making, critical reflection and dialogue; this exhibition continues Lizzie’s research to address questions around human and nonhuman agency, temporal and spatial flows of matter and meaning, and an ontological fluidity that allows for an understanding of materiality as a reciprocal and generative relationship between humans and environment.

1710 Lizzie Cannon In Transition Detail 1

Lizzie Cannon detail of the mighty In transition

Wandered the set at South London Gallery of Tom Phillips IRMA: An Opera Opus XIIB. This 1969 mini opera was drawn from Tom Phillips magnum opus which was in turn born from an idea that he would alter every page of the first book he came across for 3d. W H Mallock’s 1892 novel A Human Document thus became A Humument. 

1710 Tom Phillips

1710 Tom Philips Humument.jpg

Further wanderings during London Open House weekend led to the architectural hybrid of Lloyd’s Register.

1710 Lloyds Register Open House

Hidden within the Richard Rogers glass and steel is Collcutt’s palazzo with grand marble staircase leading to the ornate General Committee Landing dominated by The Spirit of Maritime Commerce 

1710 Spirit of Maritime Commerce

and the bronze frieze sculpted by Frank Lynn Jenkins, inlaid with silver, mother of pearl, turquoise, coral and pearl.

1710 Lloyds Register Bronze Frieze 2

1710 Lloyds Register bronze Frieze

The landing opens onto the Italianate opulence of general committee room with its barrel vaulted ceiling and more exposed left breasts of various symbolic maidens

1710 Night

Lloyd’s Register was founded in 1760 in Lloyd’s Coffee House as a means of registering the seaworthiness of wooden commercial ships sailing from British ports. An attempt to plan and predict.

A tight turnaround from ideas, to making work, to installation of Supposedly Predictable Phenomena at no format Gallery in time for Deptford X.

Very happy to be showing alongside Jessie Sheffield and Lauren Ilsley. 1710 SPP 8

This was new work that investigates the themes of sequence and consequence

1710 SPP

Contained Nascent
Acrylic, wood, water, powdered minerals.
Lauren Ilsley, 2017

Apparently linear processes, psychological and physical, are rendered unpredictable and essentially chaotic due to their inherent and entangled sensitivity.

‘Supposedly predictable phenomena’ relates to the concept that if all contributing factors could be mapped and understood, then the outcome, theoretically, should be predictable.

1710 Jessie Sheffield

FixPoint 36
Steel mesh, wood, acrylic.
Jessie Sheffield, 2017

The results of this is a calculable universe and suggests a trajectory that is not only logical but also predetermined.

1710 SPP 2

Tools for Transition
Ceramic, aluminium, wood.
Lauren Ilsley, 2017

This raises the question of the alternative – Chaos Theory, and in turn free will.

1710 SPP 7

Etched aluminium, screen print. 12 pieces.
Susan Eyre, 2017

Duodeci – 12    mēns – minds……or Twelve thoughts, one from each multiverse

1710 ssp exhibition

no format gallery space worked well for us, if slightly on the edge of the festival bounds. It faces onto Propeller Foundry with 4 floors of artist studios many of which invoke studio envy with their big windows and vast spaces. Found a few old friends in here. There was some opportunity to head out to see some of the other work on show around Deptford.

Ambient Occlusion was another excellent curation at Gossamer Fog. Muted as the first step towards the synthesis of human and computer, the attraction of virtual reality evident by the queues to experience Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s Terractic Animism. It was terrific. Hyper-real. Which cannot be conveyed in this image or the Vimeo link demo.

1710 Jakob Kudsk Steensen

Other mesmerising work was Alan Warburton’s 3 channel video Primitives

1710 Alan Warburton primitives

and Katriona Beales video with mixed media Working Table II

1710 Katriona Beales (1)

Bearspace was showing Bella Easton Breath

1710 Bella Easton

colours slipping from muted to monochrome, an enveloping tangle pieced from oil painted linen still scented with the mediums of its construction.

In the bare bones of St Paul’s House Tom Ireland placed three screens showing voyages across the sea or the galaxies. The Heavens (Deptford Observatory) places the local dockyards and observatory at the centre of the universe from which we embark.

1710 tom Ireland.jpg

New Scientist Live 2017

1710 naked molerats.jpg

Best thing I saw in some ways was these extraordinary fanged tubes of flesh that hold the clues to longevity but I did feel for them being thrust under the spotlight. Exposed. Naked indeed.