Archives for posts with tag: magnetoreception

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. 

The fascinating and perilous journeys made by migrating birds has been a natural wonder for centuries with the first records of this phenomena made more than 3,000 years ago. The innate knowledge of migratory birds is mentioned in Job and Jeremiah and the ancient Greek writers Homer, Hesiod and Aristotle noted their passage.

Sensing the Earth’s magnetic field allows birds and other animals to determine their approximate position on the Earth. Research looking at how birds navigate over vast distances has shown many species are able to sense the compass direction of the Earth’s magnetic field and process this information. Non-migratory birds also have this ability using magnetoreception to orientate themselves in a local sense to map habitat.

There are two basic mechanisms involving magnetism used by animals; one method uses the iron based mineral magnetite found in the body’s cells and the other involves a protein found in the eye which is sensitive to light of different colours and intensities.

In plants and some animals, the light sensitive cryptochrome molecules are also involved in the control of the body’s circadian rhythms by tracking the difference between night and day. They can be found in cell nuclei of mammals and in the retina of several bird species. Ilia Solov’yov from the University of Southern Denmark has found the particular structure of cryptochrome Cry4 is unique and when light hits Cry4 cryptochromes in the eye of a migrating bird, they undergo chemical reactions that are influenced by the direction of Earth’s magnetic field, providing a signal of the bird’s orientation.

This light sensitive magnetic compass used by birds is affected by the polarisation direction of light. This was discovered by Rachel Muheim in a study where zebra finches were set the task of finding food in a maze. The birds were only able to use their magnetic compass when the direction of the polarised light was parallel to the magnetic field, when the polarised light was perpendicular to the magnetic field the birds became completely disorientated.

Researchers have put forward a theory that polarised light at sunrise and sunset accentuates the magnetic field at times when birds are ready to migrate or roost but in the middle of the day when the polarised light is approximately perpendicular to the magnetic field and less visible to them they can rely on sight to hunt and spot predators.

Magnetite is the most magnetic of Earth’s naturally-occurring minerals and microscopic particles are found in the cells of animals. Unlike the cryptochrome protein found in the eye and used by birds to perceive the Earth’s magnetic field, a magnetite-based magnetic sense does not need light to function.

Mole rats navigate their tunnels using this method which works like an internal compass. Birds also use this mechanism based on magnetite as an additional method to determine their position.

Sensing Earth’s geomagnetism is a functional ability seen in many creatures from bacteria and birds to turtles and bats. It is an evolutionary advantage to be able to orientate and navigate. Joseph Kirschvink and researchers at Caltech have completed experiments testing the human capacity to sense the magnetic field. Volunteers inside a chamber shielded from electromagnetic interference were subjected to an altered magnetic field while their brainwaves were monitored. The team found clear evidence that the subjects’ alpha brain waves were effected suggesting a rudimentary magnetic “sense”. The scientists believe that cells containing crystals of magnetite could register changes in magnetic fields and report this information to the brain. It is already known that magnetotactic bacteria have structures containing nanoscale magnetite crystals called magnetosomes that act as biological compasses, allowing the bacteria to navigate.

This research suggests that human alpha brainwaves react to a changing magnetic field. Alpha waves are always present, but are more prominent when in a relaxed and idle state of mind. Noticing a dip in the amplitude of the alpha waves would indicate the neurons in the brain becoming engaged in a task. The experiment was conducted to mimic how the Earth’s magnetic field would be experienced by the brain. The laboratory field was similar in strength to the Earth’s and the researchers moved it slowly to simulate how the field would change when turning one’s head. 

More experiments with iron filings, etchings and magnets.

Large etching on steel plate and small polymer etching.

Also some green screen filming towards the video work I am creating on this subject.

While back in the print studio I made some more prints of the mossy forest and added a little burst of colour.

A little progress with building the cosmic ray detector. I have drilled the holes in the plastic scintillator which was quite stressful as the project notes say it is easy to break. I did a test first in acrylic to gauge the size of the drill bit needed. The scintillator turned out to be much softer though and so I am hoping the holes are not too big now. I sent the Printed Circuit Board off to get the components soldered. I really wanted to do the soldering myself but am glad I went for help as there have been some issues with getting the voltage correct for the connection to the SiPM PCB.

I was lucky to grab a bargain box of Super 8 filming kit though haven’t had time yet to explore this fully and see if I can work out how to operate everything.

Out of studio

A visit to APT Gallery to see Periastra curated by Paul Malone looking at methodologies of curiosity within the fields of art and astrophysics.

I really like the presentation by Nicola Rae of a collection of fireball videos collected by the meteor watch group UKMON

I was excited to meet John Berman who was showing a muon detector he had built. He has used a Geiger Müller (GM) tube, for his detector which can be bought as a kit . A GM tube will detect alpha particles, beta particles, gamma rays and Cosmic Muons. It can be adapted to run in coincidence mode – this is when two or more tubes are connected and only when all tubes register a particle passing through at the same time can it be certain it is a cosmic particle and not background radiation. There is some downtime in a GM tube after each ionisation is recorded so it is possible not all particles are registered. When a particle passes through the tube the LED’s will flash.

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.

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.

To record data they had a series of cameras set to take automatic photographs of the dials on the different apparatus.

Analysing air captured from the stratosphere.

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

It has been clearly demonstrated that birds are able to sense the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field and that they can use this information as part of a compass sense. It may be possible humans retain some residual magnetoreceptor in our eyes that once allowed us to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. Current research suggests that some people do indeed perceive magnetic fields, albeit unconsciously.

Work in progress on navigation by magnetic receptors. Working on a soft ground etching of my iris with aquatint. Not sure yet if I will use the plate or the print in the final work which will have iron filings activated across the surface.

First components have arrived from America for my attempt to build my own cosmic ray detector to create an interactive artwork. The plastic block converts the energy of the charged particle passing through to a photon which can be read by a silicon photo-multiplier and the information fed to an Arduino processor. Daunting and exciting.

Visit to Sutton Hoo where the ever increasing accuracy of radio carbon dating has provided astonishing clues to the past history of this intriguing site. Archaeologists can determine the age of objects in decades as opposed to centuries.

Sutton Hoo is the site of two early medieval cemeteries dating from the 6th to 7th centuries near Woodbridge, in Suffolk, England. In 1939 landowner Mrs Edith Pretty asked local archaeologist Basil Brown to investigate the largest of several Anglo-Saxon burial mounds on her property. Inside, he made one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries of all time.

Past, present and future finds. Ancient trees. Burials of Kings. Amazing sword of beaten twisted wrought iron and steel. Basil Brown’s star charts.

The agency and aura of objects was investigated with the intent to generate new relations between objects and their associations with the world around them in the beautiful group show Can We Ever Know The Meaning Of These Objects curated by Sarah Sparkes and Kevin Quigley at Gallery 46.

Eileen Agar Angel of Anarchy at Whitechapel Gallery exposing the subconscious entwined with the material of nature. Enjoyed the decomposition of space into lines like foliations and contour lines. Which angel would you choose? Anarchy or Mercy?

I joined a zoom presentation from Sophie Williamson on her current project undead matter which dips into the deep time entanglement of geological ancestry. Leaving a mark in the past as a way of communicating with the future and creating a lineage for ourselves. Eras mingle with each other as ancient footprints resurface, ice melts, secreted narratives emerge. The permafrost holds vast amounts of carbon. Whole forests.

Zircon crystal contains radioactive uranium with a half-life of 4.5 billion years, which makes it useful for dating extremely old materials much much older than those containing Carbon-14. These crystals may hold clues to the origin of life. The carbon necessary for life may have arrived here in space dust from outer space via asteroids or comets.

WHAT ON EARTH group show from artists including Victoria Ahrens, Melanie King and Diego Valente using photographic processes with an emphasis on the material environment, tactility and sustainability.

Michael Armitage – Paradise Edict at the Royal Academy. Digital images do not do justice to the glow and vibrancy of these paintings. Can feel the heat pulsating with unsettling shape-shifting undercurrents.

180 The Strand with Ryoji Ikeda’s digital showcase was an intense assault on the senses using light and sound as medium to create immersive experiences. Brightness is the number of photons per second hitting your eye. Pushing the limits of what our senses can tolerate.

Took a trip to the Lake District to visit Brantwood, John Ruskin’s beautiful home to see Carol Wyss The Mind Has Mountains and Crown of Creation installations. Having seen the work that went into the printing of the large etchings at Thames-side Print Studio it was wonderful to be able to see the work finally installed and step inside the mysterious depths of the human skull; a space echoed by the surrounding mountains. The light installation is suspended in the dark chill of the Ice House vault, viewed from the top of rugged steps carved into the rock. Here the fragility of the human skeleton fades and glows accompanied by an evocative soundscape made by Natasha Lohan capturing the echoing chamber and the water that courses through everything.

2002 St Augustine's Tower

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

2002 magnetoreceptor wip 1

Some interesting research at the Max Planck Institute headed by Dr Christine Nießner has been looking at the light-sensitive molecules that exist in bacteria, plants and animals which are used for perception of the Earth’s magnetic field to aid orientation and navigation.  In birds the cryptochrome molecule is located in photoreceptors in the eyes and is activated by the magnetic field but only reacts to the magnetic field if it is simultaneously excited by light.

An additional meaning to birds eye view.

In animals, these molecules are also involved in the control of the body’s circadian rhythms. The researchers think that some mammals may also use this cryptochrome to perceive the Earth’s magnetic field. In evolutionary terms, the blue cones in mammals correspond to the blue- to UV-sensitive cones in birds. It is therefore entirely possible that this cryptochrome in mammals has a comparable function.

2002 magnetoreceptor wip 2Observations of foxes, dogs and even humans indicate that they can perceive the Earth’s magnetic field, but may perceive it in a different way, for example with microscopic ferrous particles in cells known as magnetite. A magnetite-based magnetic sense functions like a pocket compass and does not require any light.

2002 naked mole rat

Mole rats navigate their dark tunnels using this kind of compass. Birds also have an additional orientation mechanism based on magnetite, which they use to determine their position.

 

 

 

2002 dark skies forest

 

Continuing research for a collaborative event with UCLO looking at the planetary system most similar to our own Solar System which contains the bright star HD70642. It is visible with binoculars from the southern hemisphere toward the constellation of Puppis.  “The Stern”  (poop deck) was once part of the constellation Argo Navis. Argo was the ship that Jason and the Argonauts sailed on their quest for the Golden Fleece2002 star map Argo Navis

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.

At 90 light years away, extremely faint early radio broadcasts from Earth are now passing this planetary system. It was around 90 years ago when University College London Observatory first began exploring the night sky. It was also around then when my mother was born which gives a human scale to the journey time. The constellation of Puppis is only visible from the southern hemisphere but should there have been a radio broadcast about the opening of UCLO then this information would now have travelled to this potential alternative home.

2002 UCL Observatory

 

British Pathé produced a short but sadly silent (sound was not introduced until 1930) newsreel of the opening of the observatory at UCL in 1929. View here

 

 

 

 

There may be a chance to discover Earth like planets using the new high precision spectrometer technology developed by Macquarie astrophysicist Christian Schwab which collects starlight from  unimaginably distant stars and measures the subtle effect orbiting planets have on their parent stars.

2002 spectograph Kitt Peak Observatory

Further research for a future video work The Seeker, The Seer, The Scientist. Looking to the horizon, the line that separates earth and sky.  The optical horizon is what we see but is not at the same as the geometric horizon which allows for the curvature of light due to atmospheric refraction. If the surface of the Earth is colder than the air above it, light is refracted downward as it travels around the curvature of the Earth and if the ground is hotter than the air above it light is refracted upwards causing a mirage.

2002 horizon

The true horizon is usually hidden.

2002 horizon sea

We each have a personal distance to the horizon based on our specific height of eye from the ground and the local elevation from sea level at which we stand. It is a distance we can never reach as it always recedes.  The seeker must send a seer to visit their horizon and report back on what it is they see, they may also send a scientist. The seer can see beyond, but is what they see real or imagined, the scientist can explain what is beyond but this is just abstract space.

My height of eye = 1.5m + local elevation

Distance to horizon = √(13 x height of eye)

2002 iris for etching

Some interesting ideas in The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, a 1909 text by Max Heindel which seem relevant to my meanderings intersecting cosmic particle trails with matter. This text, setting out a theory of seven Worlds and seven Cosmic Planes, supposes an intermingling of spirit with matter where the intersection of the material and metaphysical world are not one above another in space, but inter-penetrate each with the other.2001 cosmic planes

Beginning the process of disposing of old work and bits and pieces. Storage is a big problem for artists I think.

2002 plastic

Also reworking old prints. It’s taken a couple of years to percolate but am working on a suspended paradise.

2002 paradise suspended

Out of studio.

A brief look at what is current in Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2019 at South London Gallery

200219 new contemporaries

The Missing Day discussion on 29/02 as part of the The Habitat of Time programme at Arts Catalyst curated by Julie Louise Bacon was a cross discipline interrogation of the social, political and personal impact of how we order time.

  • Once every four years, here in the collective habitat of Earth time, 365 becomes 366 as the missing day of the leap year makes another appearance in the now-global calendar. This quadrennial occurrence foregrounds the essentially malleable nature of time. From the earliest lunisolar calendar developed in Babylon during the Bronze Age, to the invention of atomic clocks in the mid 20th century, and speculations on the quantum realm in the laboratories of today, time’s parameters have taken on new guises, shaping and regulating life in the process.

The Missing Day roundtable explores the development of human modes of measuring and understanding time, and their impact on the ways we order time as societies, individuals and a species. The discussion will bring together perspectives on observing, keeping and speculating on time from the fields of the history of science and physics. It will consider the emergence of the modern regimes of time that dominate social life, their limits and the possibilities beyond.

Chaired by the curator Emily Akkermans ‘Curator of Time’ at National Maritime Museum Greenwich spoke about the mechanics of horology and the trade and empire building that led to time keeping for navigation, transport systems, industry and financial markets. Artist Ted Hunt whose work is featured in the 24/7 Somerset House exhibition spoke about his attempts to deconstruct the clock and find alternative methods of recording time. Artist Ami Clarke from Banner Repeater had a stark message about capitalism driving our relationship to time, taking control away from the human as algorithms respond to twitter announcements and fluctuate markets faster than humans can intervene to prevent malfunction. Particle astrophysicist Cham Ghag was present to give insight into how time does not exist in physics apart from in the law of thermodynamics. All other processes are reversible but heat can only travel in one direction. He also spoke about the importance of good quality sleep and disengaging from the demands of 24/7 ordered time.

2002 habitat of time

24/7 – A WAKE-UP CALL FOR OUR NON-STOP WORLD at Somerset House. With over 50 works it was a bit of a sensory overload in itself but thankfully interspersed with meditative works that gave some respite. An urgent analysis of sleep deprivation, disrupted circadian rhythms and non-stop culture.

The current new materialisms reading group book is Posthuman Knowledge by Rosi Brandotti who writes about complex multiplicity and a global exhaustion from having to negotiate new technologies, the political landscape and climate urgencies, like surfers riding an ever increasing number and magnitude of waves. How do we position ourselves (we who are in this together but are not the same)  in a world where we must distinguish ourselves from non-human (I am not  ROBOT) yet embrace and include the non-human; confer rights to nature; dismantle dualisms?

The question of what is it to be human is wonderfully scrutinised in Caryl Churchill’s play A Number which looks at human cloning and identity, particularly nature versus nurture in making us who we are. The story, set in the near future, is structured around the conflict between a father and his sons – two of whom are clones of the first one. The original son feeling loss of self, the second son feeling a poor copy, and subsequent sons freed of guilt or jealousy or lacking in introspection and depth.

2002 mirrors

Research Network: Ecological Sci-fi – Artist talk with Stephanie Moran and Keiken at Inniva.

Scientists have been incorporating more and more attributes based on animal perception and behaviour into media, a process that has been intensifying since the beginnings of Modernism, from steam engines to AI (Lippit, 2000; Parikka, 2010). If we are already cyborg, we are also already interspecies cyborgs, albeit in anthropocentrically instrumentalised, alienated form. As artist Jennet Thomas’ dystopian sci-fi film proposes, “The category ‘human’ is falling apart…” (Animal Condensed>>Animal Expanded#2

Stephanie Moran’s PhD research considers how to think about ourselves as part of a shared ecosystem and to consider the embodied experiences of other species that share our world but inhabit very different experience-worlds. Unfortunately I found it hard to hear and follow her talk, and keep pace with the slides. I’m sure there was a lot of interesting information that escaped me. I did pick up the mention of magnetoreception though.

2002 Stephanie Moran

Astrobiology researcher Professor Lewis Dartnell gave an interesting talk at Conway Hall Origins – How the Earth Made Us

Geological forces drove our evolution in East Africa; mountainous terrain led to the development of democracy in Greece; and today voting behaviour in the United States follows the bed of an ancient sea. The human story is the story of these forces, from plate tectonics and climate change, to atmospheric circulation and ocean currents.

2002 Cutty Sark

Slow time. Norwegian choreographer Ingri Fiksdal presented Diorama at Greenwich on a thankfully bright February lunchtime.

These performances reflect on the passing of time, on the slow change in landscape, and scenography as an ecological practice of bodies both human and non-human.

The word “diorama” often refers to a three-dimentional model of a landscape, such as displayed in museums of natural history. Another use of the word is for the French diorama theatre, invented by Louis Daguerre in 1822, where the audience were sat watching big landscape paintings transform through skillfully manipulated light, sound effects and live performers.

 

ONE FOLD, TWO FOLD, TEN FOLD, MANIFOLD at Exposed Arts Projects.

2002 manifold library

Manifold has varied meanings across context and research discipline with use in mathematics, topology and geometry.  It describes .

2002 manifold Gina DeCagna

 

Artist Gina DeCagna presented her explorations with discarded cardboard built into installations looking at layering and hierarchy. These assemblages work as symbolic means to arouse social questions around empowerment and inequality.

 

 

 

In mathematics, topology compares shapes to see if they have the same number of holes and handles and can therefore be moulded from one into the other by stretching, twisting, crumpling and bending, but not tearing or gluing.

Topologist Dr Mehdi Yazdi gave an introduction to mathematical concepts in topology, manifolds and foliations from abstract space to the expanding rings of trees found in nature. Foliation is the decomposition of shape into lines and circles. We gained visual inspiration from hands on participation with marbleised paper.

2002 marbling

Mushrooms: The art, design and future of fungi – an exhibition at Somerset House celebrating the remarkable mushroom, and all the progressive, poetic and psychedelic wonder it evokes.

2002 mushrooms (3)

Michael Pollen’s excellent book How To Change Your Mind  sets out a fascinating history of psychedelics bringing us up to date with current research and future potentials for treating addictive behaviour as well as offering well adults access to an alternative consciousness. Told through his own experiences using LSD and psilocybin under guidance and his many interviews which researchers, practitioners, therapists and volunteers one overarching theme that comes out is a feeling of transcendence to another plane of consciousness which many interpret as becoming one with the universe or feeling the presence of god and an overwhelming sense of love. Could this chemical be the catalyst to opening receptors in our brain enabling us to access a consciousness present in the universe outside our body or are the emotions, visions and dissolution of ego experienced by those taking psychedelics all taking place within the brain?

Pollen quotes from Aldous Huxley’s experiences documented in his 1954 book The Doors of Perception where he describes an unmediated access to realms of existence which is always present but kept from our awareness by a “reducing valve” of everyday waking consciousness a kind of mental filter that admits only a “measly trickle of the kind of consciousness” we need in order to survive. A bit like us only seeing certain wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The title comes from William Blake’s 1793 book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell which expresses a unified vision of the cosmos in which the material world and physical desire are equally part of the divine order. It would not be hard to imagine Blake’s visions rooted in a psychedelic experience.

2002 William Blake

Over 250 years after the young William Blake saw a vision of an angel in a tree on Peckham Rye, Flat Time House has commissioned six poets to bring their words and visions to Peckham. Each of the poets has been commissioned to write in response to the life and work of William Blake and/or in response to that other creator of cosmologies, John Latham.

Poets in Response to Blake is part of the exhibition programme The Bard – William Blake at Flat Time House. The evening I attended we gathered to hear Chris McCabe, Niall McDevitt, Karen Sandhu and Iain Sinclair read from their commissioned works. It was such a treat to hear the spoken word live. A time to listen and reflect. Each of the contributions was evocative and insightful. I like that Iain Sinclair suggested John Latham was of such an expansive mind that he spanned time and consequently predated Blake.

“Spectral Latham pre-deceases William Blake,

      while both magicians,

burning like thermal lances, are numbered among

     the chain of stars.

Curved light reaches through infinitely extended

   quantum crumbs,

Planck time, to a black metal box that flattens,

   swept by paper waves,

into a cemetery suburb on the hill. Angelic incidents

   are reported”       Iain Sinclair

 

 

 

 

 

1907 prints of 35mm at 35km 0.jpg

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

1907 35mm at 35km

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

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

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

1907 negative scan 35mm at 35km

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

 

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

1907 Aoratos clip 11907 Aoratos clip 5

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

1907 pentacoronae.jpg

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

1907 semaphore

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

ImageJ=1.46i

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

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

1907 reading stones WIP 11907 reading stones WIP 2

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

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

1907 beryl structure scale

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

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

1907 St. Augustine's clock.jpg

The nature of time itself was a concept that St Augustine of Hippo grappled with in his philosophical texts sixteen centuries ago and is still perplexing us today; namely, how to equate the subjective experience of time with an objective understanding.

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

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

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

1907 stonehenge.jpg

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

1907 Donna Haraway

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

1907 fireball.jpg

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

1907 Tunguska event

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

1907 sunlight.jpg

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

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

1907 Lee Krasner 1

Lee Krasner 

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

1907 Lee Krasner 2

Lee Krasner Imperative 1976 Future Indicative 1977

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

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

1907 race for space prom1907 race for space prom 2

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

J. Willgoose, Esq., of Public Service Broadcasting

 

 

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

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

 

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

1901 Cosmic ray decay.jpg

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

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

1901 gyroscope

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

 

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

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

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

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

1901 two way mirror

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

1901 iron filing tests (3)

 

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

1604 vision

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

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

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

1901 fresnel lens

 

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

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

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

Out of the Studio..

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

and of course I liked Helen Pashgian’s resin spheres

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

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

1901 pierre huyghe (2)

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

19010 pierre huyghe (3)

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

1901 pierre huyghe (1)

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

1901 francis upritchard 3

Left unsure if this was archaeology or evolution.

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

1901 Into The Dark.jpg

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

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

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

1901 art fair john coney 1974

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

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

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

Where are those phrenology bumps developing on our contemporary skulls?

1901 larry achiampong and david blandy 3

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

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

1901 Julie F Hill (1)