directors lounge monthly screening
Thursday, 29 August 2013
Chris Henschke was artist in residence at the Australian Synchrotron in 2007-2008 and 2010, and his work has been much influenced by the desk to desk collaborations with scientists since then. Lately, he was also invited to the famous CERN in Switzerland, which hit the news for the probable discovery of the Higgs boson. Henschke sees many similarities between the work of artists and scientists, but he also sees a major difference in the perception of experimentation: "empirical science is based upon observation and measurement of repeatable experiments; however, in a phenomenological sense every experiment and observation is unique."
In his work, Henschke on one hand documents his experiences at the Synchrotron, and combines it with visual observations and re-edits the footage in experimental ways. On the other hand, he started to do his own experiments with high voltage with a diversity of objects. Third, and possibly another way of experimentation, he plays electronic music and creates visuals that combine camera images with effects driven by the music.
Already interested in obscure science and technology results, namely from the 18th and 19th century, before his visit to the contemporary particle lab Synchrotron, Chris Henschke found more obscurity in the most advanced physical research. Contemporary researcher have the problem that their research is all about equations and scrutinizing measurements, and almost impossible to describe or to picture. Remembering the ground-breaking proof of the Higgs boson at CERN, the most illustrative result the researchers had, was a probability chart of emitted particle energy, where the discovered particle kind of fell into the corridor predicted for the boson. This had little to do with the actual experiment with the collider, nor was it a in any ways connected with what a bosson "actually is".
Henschke's work started to be an experimental research about the meaning of the things going on at the synchrotron, a question usually avoided by scientists. The artist used a number of different ways for his research, the least successful of which turned out to be the use of a software for visualizing data for scientists. Moreover, he took 360° photographs and videos, he has used light and data coming from the plasma beam and he was even permitted to use the beam for his art experiments. His first experiment was to shoot the beam onto an old light bulb, and the last to date the Cicada Experiment. In this project, he had the physicists tune the fluctuation of the beam according to the sound of a cicada recorded outside of the lab. Ironically, the most successful experiments in trying to visualize "the things going on" seems to have been algorithmic processes that tweak lens-based images from the place, algorithms using reciprocal equations similar to those used to calculate the forces that accelerate the beam on its circular track; however, without using any data or actual equations from the physical machine. In that sense, the visual work of Chris also represents the contradictions of contemporary particle physics, where any attempt to picture those theories can only use metaphors.
In his more recent work, Chris Henschke continued working with algorithms, but also started to create his own physical experiments using high voltage and magnetic field aurora experiments. On one hand, he tells me, it was important for him to "do something real" in front of the camera, on the other hand, it may also be his fascination for the maverick scientist coming through. Characters like Kristian Birkeland, who researched the nature of the Aurora Borealis in the high-latitude regions of Norway and who came up with a theory of sun winds consisting of negative and positive radiation causing the famous luminance effects in the Northern sky, which was considered a fringe theory during his life time. It thus may not be surprising, that Chris in some ways is also impersonating the mad scientist, when performing as DJ and electronic musician under the pseudonym of "Captain Satan". The presentation at Z-Bar will focus on Chris Henschke's work related to the Australian Synchrotron and to CERN, but it will also iterate on a selection of his other visual work bringing together science and art.
Chris Henschke will be present for Q&A. Curated by Klaus W. Eisenlohr