A temporary installation at the London Canal Museum, commissioned by the Institute of Physics, London and curated by Annabel Lucas
In 2012 I was invited to take part in the Institute of Physics first artists-in-residence programme, which brings together artists and physics to develop new ideas and artworks. Over six months I collaborated with particle physicist Dr Ben Still; our conversations and the installation’s realisation can be viewed on the project blog.
Covariance was a two-part installation combining an ambitious suspended sculpture and a series of light-box images. During my first meeting with Dr Still I was struck by the inherent beauty and sense of awe afforded by particle detectors. There is a magical quality to their subterranean locations, some located beneath ice, others below mountains or the sea. These are dark and inaccessible spaces, where light is used to detect the basic building blocks of everything in the universe. I also became interested in the way data from the detectors is visualised and analysed by physicists, from Dr Still’s unique digital coloured dot diagrams to the huge number of women employed in the past to manually process the information (known as the first ‘computers’).
Covariance has been created from a range of everyday materials: glass beads, diamantes, acrylic discs, brass rods, ice and metal. Some of the materials relate to women’s craft, a link back to the female computers, while others refer to the history of science, when brass was commonly used in the making of scientific instruments. The installation was meticulously hand-made from 380 clear acrylic discs, 28,000 glass beads, 36,000 diamantes and 800 metres of brass rods.
In 2014 I was invited by the Directorate of Art, Department of Culture and Information, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, to exhibit Covariance in the 17th Islamic Art Festival. In addition they commissioned a new installation, Covariance 2, which merged cutting edge particle physics with Islamic astrolabes, historical scientific instruments used for timekeeping, astrology and surveying.
A PDF of the Covariance publication, with essays by Tom Freshwater, Contemporary Art Programme Manager, National Trust and Dr Ben Still can be seen here: