Negative Capability (Extraordinary Renditions)
Extraordinary Renditions: The Cultural Negotiation of Science was an exhibition and symposium that formed part of the British Science Festival in 2013. The event featured new work in development by three artists from BxNU, a research institute inaugurated within the award-winning partnership between BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and Northumbria University based at BALTIC 39 in Newcastle, UK.
Christine Borland (collaborating with Brody Condon), Fiona Crisp and Chris Dorsett are all artists whose work is, in different ways, a rendition of science outside its bio-medical, fundamental or technical parameters. This project demonstrated the compelling questions thrown up when artists negotiate scientific practices - questions that often necessitate the performance of 'Extraordinary Renditions' across the ethical and political spaces in which personal vulnerability and risk-taking is impossible to avoid.
Negative Capability (Extraordinary Renditions) 2013. Installation view showing left to right: The Ballroom, Precision Optics and COSMA.
Crisp's contribution was the installation Negative Capability (Extraordinary Renditions) that brought together works from projects spanning a number of years but produced and shown together for the first time during the Science Festival. The title references the phrase 'Negative Capability' coined by the poet John Keats in a letter* in 1817 where he describes being in a desirable state of uncertainties and doubt. Here Crisp appropriates Keats' phrase for her ongoing research that focuses on the roles that visualisation, physical encounter and doubt might play in how we culturally assimilate advances in fundamental science.
Precision Optics 2013. Single Channel digital video
Precision Optics and COSMA 2013. Single Channel digital video
The video diptych, Precision Optics and COSMA, records the visual and acoustic detail of two different laboratories involved in the advancement of vision: one screen shows the micro-machining of various moulds and apparatus at Durham University’s Precision Optics Laboratory at the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation, the second shows parts of the University’s super computer, COSMA, at The Institute of Computational Cosmology. The footage shows COSMA processing data from the ‘EAGLE’ project that aims to produce simulations of how galaxies form, including the setup of dark matter and visible or ordinary matter.
The Ballroom 2013. Archival pigment print on cotton rag from colour transparency. 112x112x5cm
The Ballroom is an image taken deep underground in an eighteenth century lead mine where a cavernous ‘room’ is found, known today as the Ballroom Flat. Although the camera has faithfully rendered the conditions (light, place, climate, time) of this space, there is, of course, no conventional image. By contrast, the video work, Boulby has been filmed by Crisp in a contemporary mine where the camera moves endlessly through tunnels under the sea-bed. Alongside the commercial extraction of potash and salt, Boulby Mine hosts a Dark Matter research laboratory where, over 1 km underground, an international team of astrophysicists and cosmologists search for the 95% of missing matter that is thought to make up our Universe.
Negative Capability (Extraordinary Renditions) 2013. Installation view showing left to right:
Precision Optics & COSMA and Boulby.
Boulby 2013. Single Channel digital video
A Symposium and Networking event took place on Monday 9th September 2013 at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art thatl contextualised the new research being exhibitied by bringing together some of the scientific collaborators that the artists had worked with on past projects as well as scientists, writers and curators they might be proposing to work with in the future. The day was characterised by a performative approach to producing knowledge, thus moving participants beyond the use of art as an instrumental or illustrative device to interpret science.
Extraordinary Renditions: The Cultural Negotiation of Science.
Symposium plenary panel, left to right: Christine Borland, Rob La Frenais (The Arts Catalyst), Alex Rogers, Alice Sharp (Invisible Dust) Mariele Neudecker, Alan Smith (ACA), Chris Dorsett, Fiona Crisp (chair).
Participants included Professor Volker Straub, Harold Macmillan Professor of Medicine from the Institute of Human Genetics; artist Mariele Neudecker and Deep Sea scientist, Professor Alex Rogers from the Department of Zoology, Oxford University working with Invisible Dust; Alan Smith, artist and director of Allenheads Conteporary Arts (ACA) who were involved in running the cross-disciplinary project “95%”; Alice Sharp, Curator and Director of Invisible Dust and Dr Rob La Frenais, then Curator at the Arts Catalyst.
Click for link to symposium presentations.