Thursday, 16 July 2015


The latest interdisciplinary project with scientists is upon me. I'm working with nanotechnology within the Cavendish laboratory which is within the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge.
An extraordinary afternoon of discussion - it was a joy to be in a room of bright, inquisitive, interesting people. The bonus was that they are also interested in and value what I do and think that they might learn from my presence in their lives - sounds a bit like a good learning/teaching experience.
I said that my intention for the project was that I wanted to be lost, to not know, and to fail gloriously. This was taken on board by the fellow members of my group and it will become a starting point for me. I managed to articulate this idea - that In some way I want the collaborative experience to deliver new (to me) ways of working and I hope that the people I am about to work with will contain and exacerbate my confusion, that their focused intention will bring some form of clarity to my studio.
We are going to meet and exchange in Cambridge - actually engaging in 2 experiments - something about clean rooms, electron microscopes and wave particles and then a sharing of the folding I'm involved in after a mini workshop of the history of book structures leading to hybrid combination binding and then an exploration of the multi-functional, folded, structurally articulated objects I'm working on in my studio.
As ever I started with the small question - how big is an electron? - apparently nobody knows (who knew) and yet much of our world is dependant on believing in it's existence. I'm excited to be working with people who are reforming and attempting to fold material at a 'frightening small scale' and the other project is attempting to use the waves that vibrate from everything as a source of energy - at this point I revert to science fiction and talk about Darth Vada, the death star and the dark image of evil science. I go on to ask if they are working with actual things they can see or is it evidence of existence (its exciting how much of my discussions with scientists get to philosophical thinking much quicker that my 'art' people - but what does science look like? - the idea of 'the science of looking' got me thinking about the Eye and Brain by R.L. Gregory, a book that as a student clarified my thinking around this subject. The agreement that the mainstream is as wrong and as mediocre on its coverage of science as it is on the arts felt like coming home. Other topics include the need for failure along with transgression in our lives to learn and the testing of boundaries to move forward - all good practice as far as I'm concerned.
I left full of optimism and excited to get back to my studio.
Some things for me to think about - our use of and engagement with rules - mainly through materials - us controlling them and the materials containing us and our ideas. Is this different for art and science? Yes and no - I feel that I can just change the rules as I change the work and intention - this is different within the design work I'm engaged in where there is a set brief that has specific material needs and roles for the work. The idea of the live hinge and its relationship to nanotechnology through the idea of molecular alignment. I shall be trying to not answer any questions just explore them