This autumn, FACT presents the ambitious new exhibition No Such Thing As Gravity, exploring the ever-changing limits of science, through art. Showing at FACT from 11 November 2016 - 5 February 2017, the exhibition will feature a wide range of works merging art with scientific experiments, new and future technologies, and exploring the borders between life and death, as well as the limitations of our consciousness.
Curated by Rob La Frenais, No Such Thing As Gravity will exhibit both new commissions and existing works by artists including Tania Candiani, Yin-Ju Chen, Gina Czarnecki / John Hunt, Evelina Domnitch & Dmitry Gelfand, Nick Laessing, Nahum Mantra, Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Helen Pynor and Sarah Sparkes. Artworks include a car fuelled by water, a ghost inducing robot, and portraits made of skin cells.
No Such Thing As Gravity explores the idea of science being a continuing quest for knowledge, rather than a fixed framework. The exhibition is formed around the areas of science where the absence of established facts leave room for new theories, alternative science, conspiracy theories and irrational beliefs.
The Ghost Formula (2016) by Sarah Sparkes (UK) takes inspiration from Marcel Duchamp’s artwork, A GUEST + A HOST = A GHOST (1953), and is one of the artworks exploring mysteries surrounding the relationship between the living and the dead. Sparkes’ aim is to create a research archive which investigates the nature of ghosts and their ‘hosts’, and the conditions in which ghosts may be made. The archive draws on Liverpool's historical and contemporary ghost narratives with input from experts within various fields and also includes two visually mesmerizing ‘infinity portals’ inviting spectators to visit two separate locations, and a robotic machine attempting to create a ghost.
Another example is the new research project The End is a Distant Memory (2016) by Helen Pynor (AU/GB), which explores the ambiguous borders between life and death at cellular and experiential levels by studying ‘marginal’ cells that remain alive inside dead tissue, and experiences of people who have survived clinical death. Similarly, Heirloom (2016) by Gina Czarnecki and John Hunt (UK) tests the limits of medical science and the possibility of using cell growth to recapture eternal youth. Looking at the potential impact of innovation on personal identity, and being able to ‘make’ ourselves, artist Czarnecki and scientist Hunt have created a living process of growth tissue, where delicate skin cells frame portraits of Czarnecki’s daughters. Visitors will also be able to explore the rapid prototyping used to develop the bases for these masks, and 3D print model versions of their own faces.
One of the artworks investigating the laws of physics is Water Gas Car (2013 - present) by Nick Laessing (UK/DE), which questions what energy really is. Drawing on his research into the alternative energy community, Laessing has been attempting to build a car that is fuelled only by water.
The three-channel video installation Action at a Distance (2015) describes a universe where science and pseudoscience are simply two complementary routes to understanding human life, and is the third chapter in a series of work by Yin-Ju Chen (TW), supported by the Taiwanese Ministry of Culture. This chapter addresses the body, governments, and state violence. The second chapter in Chen’s project, Extrastellar Evaluations II: A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems will be displayed at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) in Manchester from 21 October 2016 until 15 January 2017, partially coinciding with No Such Thing as Gravity. Inspired by and borrowed from Galileo’s book A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, the second chapter discusses the order and the meaning of the consciousness of the solar system.
Curator Rob La Frenais has spent 17 years working with artists in scientific environments through the science-art organisation The Art Catalyst. Having accessed places such as space agencies and nuclear facilities, La Frenais says: “Contemporary art and science collaborations have now reached a state of unprecedented maturity, with artist residencies at CERN, European Space Agency, Antarctica stations, and other places previously closed to outsiders. Is it now a good time to examine some of the admitted fault-lines of knowledge, and for artists to work creatively with scientists to suggest some more transformative and less conventional approaches?”
A selection of works by Evelina Domnitch (NL/BY) and Dmitry Gelfand (NL/RUS) will be on display, including the new commission Quantum Lattice (2016), which is based on experiments with an ion trap, a scientific instrument which at the end of the 20th century enabled physicists to investigate the quantum behaviour of single isolated atoms for the very first time.
Studies in Applied Falling / Hammer and Feather (2012) by Agnes Meyer-Brandis (DE) will also be on display. The artist explores gravity in the tradition of Galileo’s famous theory of free fall to create a stunning film work. Also exploring gravity is Tania Candiani (MX), whose large-scale projection Machine For Flying Besnier 1673 was made in zero gravity in Star City in Russia, as part of the Matters of Gravity project, and is based on pioneering anti-gravitational devices and marvellous inventions that were ahead of their time.
No Such Thing as Gravity will be accompanied by a public programme of performances and talks, including Sarah Sparkes’ continuation of her programme of research seminars - Ghost Hostings - with an interdisciplinary seminar and performance event exploring the concept of ‘a formula for ghost making’. An extensive film programme of both popular cinema and artist-made, and selected, film will also be offered throughout the exhibition.
Additionally, there will be a live programme focusing on the use of technology within music, showcasing female producers who work within this field, and the ‘magic’ of hardware and software will be unlocked through a series of learning sessions with local coding club Liverpool Girl Geeks. Family friendly activities such as playful hands-on experiments introducing coding, arduino technology, and basic robotics will also be happening at FACT alongside the show.
The preview of the exhibition on 10 November coincides with the FACT and Arts at CERN event Day of Collisions, which will offer a range of activities investigating the relationship between art and science.
The event is part of the three-year COLLIDE CERN FACT Framework Partnership, which includes workshops, events, and the International Residency Award COLLIDE, granting an artist a fully funded residency split between CERN in Geneva, and FACT in Liverpool. Day of Collisions will include an Arts at CERN roundtable discussion with South Korean artist Yunchul Kim, the winner of this year’s COLLIDE International Award, and his partner scientist from CERN, who will discuss Kim’s residency project Cascade and their experience of, and the possibilities for, a meaningful art and science collaboration. This will be the first public presentation of the residency, and the revelation of Kim’s partnering scientist.
Day of Collisions will also present a No Such Thing As Gravity Artist Talk, where a number of artists will discuss their work in the exhibition, followed by a panel discussion with curator La Frenais. The yearly Roy Stringer Memorial Lecture, sponsored by Amaze, will host writer, political commentator and broadcaster Will Self to give a typically provocative lecture on the relationship between art and science, and host a Q&A session with the audience. There will also be opportunities to participate in the event Voyage: A session for remembering, where artist Nahum Mantra uses hypnotism to explore the possibilities of producing an intimate experience of travelling to the Moon. Additionally, a Tarot Card workshop with artist Yin-Ju Chen will teach participants the art of tarot cards, introducing mystic symbols to encourage participants to develop their trust in their intuition. This workshop will also take place at Godlee Observatory, University of Manchester on Tuesday 18 October 6pm - 7.30pm, as part of Chen’s exhibition Extrastellar Evaluations II - A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems at CFCCA.
Find out more and join us for the day-long preview event, Day of Collisions on 10 November.
Image: Still from film 'Time You Need' by Sarah Sparkes, 2015