One of the biggest mysteries in physics today is what exactly makes up our Universe, and why – according to the world’s leading scientists – 95 per cent of it cannot be observed.
In summer 2019, Science Gallery London will explore the elusive building blocks of the Universe with DARK MATTER, a free exhibition and events season combining art, physics and philosophy, and drawing on the latest research from the Faculty of Natural & Mathematical Sciences at King’s College London.
Normal matter – everything that we can see and observe – makes up just 5 per cent of the Universe. The rest, including dark matter and dark energy, is an unknown which scientists have been hunting for nearly a century.
As scientists approach the limits of what can be observed or known within theoretical physics, DARK MATTER at Science Gallery London highlights the critical role of artists, philosophers and storytellers in our understanding of reality.
Imagining the unseen and questioning the invisible, the new season will explore fundamental physics, matter and materiality, the concept of invisibility and infinite divisibility, and the human quest for absolute truth and knowledge.
Exhibition highlights include:
- an immersive animation installation by Andy Holden which reflects on the physics of a cartoon landscape, developed with Professor John Ellis from the Department of Physics at King’s College London;
- translucent spider webs which mimic the structure of dark matter in the universe by Tomás Saraceno;
- a new installation translating dark matter simulations into sound patterns by Aura Satz, in collaboration with Professor Malcolm Fairbairn from the Department of Physics at King’s College London; and
- a perpetually changing liquid crystal painting by Agnieszka Kurant which will transform according to the ‘energy’ of Twitter feeds of protest movements around the world.
A range of free events will accompany the DARK MATTER exhibition including Friday Lates, performances and workshops shaped by Science Gallery’s Young Leaders - 15-25 year olds who live, work or study at King’s or in the neighbouring boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth.
Season advisor Malcolm Fairbairn, Professor of Physics at King’s College London said: “Dark matter is passing unimpeded through each of us constantly and acts as a cosmic support for galaxies in the Universe, including the one we call home. Despite this we cannot see it or touch it. This season aims to investigate this contradiction, exploring not only dark matter itself but also questions of how science aims to explain reality.”
Munira Mirza, Executive Director for Culture at King’s College London said: “Science Gallery London is a place to encounter the unexpected, so it is the ideal space to explore one of the most fundamental mysteries of the Universe. We are delighted to present the third season in the Gallery, DARK MATTER, which showcases thought-provoking research from King’s College London, alongside creative responses from international artists and the Gallery’s Young Leaders.”
John O’Shea, Head of Programming at Science Gallery London said: “Scientists’ ongoing quest to understand dark matter is a lens through which to think about the human desire to reveal the unknown. The DARK MATTER season brings together scientific research, artistic expression, storytelling and philosophy to communicate and explore the limits of human knowledge and our fascination with the unknown.”
Artworks featured in DARK MATTER
Agnieszka Kurant presents Conversions #1, a liquid crystal painting shaped by algorithms reading Twitter feeds of protest movements around the world. Converting data into thermal and electrical energy, the piece was developed with Professor Stefan Helmreich at MIT and Professor Malcolm Fairbairn from the Department of Physics at King’s College London.
Tuning Interference: Dark Matter Radio by Aura Satz is a new all-encompassing sound work translating dark matter simulations into sound patterns, in collaboration with Professor Malcolm Fairbairn from the Department of Physics at King’s.
Argentinian contemporary artist Tomás Saraceno visualises dark matter as a cosmic web using ornate spiderwebs in the work Hybrid Solitary Semi-Social Instrument.
Developed with Professor Malcolm Fairbairn from the Department of Physics at King’s College London, Missing Mass by visual artist Carey Young gives sculptural form to 5461 particles of the hypothetical dark matter which are believed to regulate the mass of the Universe, posing the question, who can own dark matter?
In Even Darker Matter by Andy Holden, the concept of dark matter as an invisible and undetectable mass is explored through the illusion of depth created by 3D glasses. This new animation is presented alongside Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape which reflects on the physics of a cartoon environment which defy the normal conditions of gravity, force, and velocity. The animation has been developed through conversations with physicist Professor John Ellis, formerly of CERN and now Clerk Maxwell Professor of Theoretical Physics at King’s College London.
Drawing on conversations with physicists, There's more to it than meet the eye by Yu-Chen Wang is a large-scale intricate drawing and film will shine a light on the human stories of scientists looking for dark matter.
Higgs, Looking for the Anti-Motti is a film by Italian artist Gianni Motti in which he imagines himself as a proton, circulating the 27km of the CERN research centre on foot. It took him about six hours – in contrast, the particles studied at CERN could make the trip 11,000 times in a second.
Through the AEgIS, a film by UK duo Semiconductor looks at how antimatter responds to gravity captured by the AEgIS experiment at CERN. Flying pions, protons and nuclear fragments ionize on a photographic plate which, when developed, reveals their trajectories as different sized tracks.
A newly commissioned work by Steven Claydon will include sound samples of atoms moving and footage from A Boy and his Atom - a stop-motion animation created by IBM, made by moving carbon monoxide atoms, with each frame magnified 100 million times.
Photography by Enrico Sacchetti depicts the chamber of the XENON1T, the largest dark matter detector in the world, located below a mountain in the Gran Sasso Laboratory in central Italy.
Artists Nina Canell and Robin Watkins present Of Air, a tightly sealed glass jar containing 3800ml of air from the St Petersburg study of Dmitri Mendeleev, the scientist credited with creating the Periodic Table in the late 1860s.
Working with the European Space Agency, astrophysicist Gabi Matzeu and composer Tristan Shorr, filmmaker and visual artist Emilija Škarnulytė presents Mirror Matter, a hypnotic journey into the world of the imperceivable, including a soundscape of black hole emissions, gravitational waves and particle collisions.
In The Maps of Phantom Islands, Agnieszka Kurant presents non-existent islands that have appeared on maps throughout history, either due to human error or calculated intent, reminding us that the knowledge which we hold to be empirically true today will transform into the phantoms of the future.
Through superimposed imagery over pages from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Tavares Strachan’s A Children’s History of Invisibility highlights that while some narratives and research are brought to the fore, others are overlooked, repurposed, or made to disappear altogether.
CURATOR PRODUCER FOR DARK MATTER – SANDRA ROSS
Sandra Ross is a curator and producer with an active interest in interdisciplinary artistic practices that examine the connections, overlaps and divergences between science, art, philosophy and culture. She has worked as a curator at The Arts Catalyst and the Pump House Gallery, where she later became the Director. In 2011 Sandra co-founded the experimental space The Hidden Noise in Glasgow and has also curated and produced exhibitions, events programmes and festivals for the British Council, Film London, and the Science Museum's exhibition Cosmonauts.
DARK MATTER: 95% Of The Universe Is Missing
6 June - 26 August 2019
Science Gallery London
For further information, images or interview requests please contact Katie Barron, Communications Officer:
Tel: +44 (0)20 7848 6097 | +44 (0)7776 452899
The DARK MATTER season at Science Gallery London is supported by an Arts Council National Lottery Project Grant.
Image credit: XENON1T, the world's most sensitive detector for dark matter, located at the Gran Sasso Laboratory in central Italy. Enrico Sacchetti/INFN
April 2, 2019