When art meets astronomy (UCL)

Uploaded by UCLTV on 04.04.2011

Most of my work involves nature,
ideas of space and time and distance and collapsing distance.
Most of my works
have involved collaborating with people in different fields and
We’re all astronomers, so we look at things through a particular way,
a particular methodology.
Having Katie
in the corridor has
brought a whole new life to the place. Seeing her interacting, talking to students and
staff and getting ideas and
giving us some ideas,
has been very fruitful.
It turns out that we live in
a rather dark universe – in fact, 96 per cent of it is dark.
And we belong to the four per cent of ordinary matter –
that is to say, matter made of atoms.
We at University College London
are heavily involved in the Dark Energy Survey –
it’s a way of generating a new camera – in fact, one of the largest cameras in the
world - to actually learn about the
contents of the universe -
the amount of dark matter, the amount of dark energy.
This has already stimulated Katie to think about the history of darkness.
I’ve been collecting images of darkness from
throughout the universe, kind of spanning the history of the universe.
It is an ongoing slide archive
that I’m going to work on for ages probably, so it doesn’t in a way
have a beginning or an end. I think quite a few of my works kind of
loop and circulate and inform one another. We are busy producing
a set of measurements and building a camera
and she’s looking,
essentially, at the same universe, but
with different point of view.
The scientists were very much used to framing what we understand about the
universe in particular ways, and in very specific ways.
So perhaps suddenly to have the opportunity to
think a bit more freely about our own subject – I think Katie’s been able to encourage
us to
have the courage to do that a little bit more.
The other piece that I’ve made is called 100 Billion Suns and that is a
confetti cannon.
There’s 3,216 pieces of paper
and they each correspond to an explosion called a gamma ray burst.
When it burns, it burns as brightly as 100 billion suns.
It shines so brightly, it outshines the whole galaxy –
they’re the brightest explosions to happen in the universe.
So I’ve collected and sourced all of these
3,261 images and colour-matched them,
and made this confetti cannon. So now when it’s exploded,
it’s a bit like a tiny explosion of all these universal explosions that
happen, but
making it a one-second moment
here on Earth.
There are different ways for
a celestial object to
end its life -
whether it’s a black hole or a gamma ray burst or a supernova – and in a way it’s not
really the end of life
stars as they explode,
they spread
around them
gas, which, by itself, is the
ingredient for the next generation of stars.
So, it made me think more philosophically about the kind of work we do.