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Diann Bauer Scalar Oscillation

Broken Symmetries: Interview with Diann Bauer


Blog, Art and Science

Part of the Winter 2018 season

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Diann Bauer Scalar Oscillation

Diann Bauer is an artist and writer based in London. She often works collaboratively, including the work on display in Broken Symmetries, Scalar Oscillation, where she collaborated with composer Seth Ayyaz. She has recently finished a commission with Queen Mary University and the Nunnery Gallery in London for a temporary public video installation also dealing with themes of time vs temporality. In today’s blog, Diann explores the themes and thought processes behind Scalar Oscillation.

How would you describe Scalar Oscillation?

Scalar Oscillation is an installation that highlights the discrepancy between time as it functions in physics, and temporality as it is experienced by humans, in an overload of image, text and sound that pushes a viewer’s capacity to assimilate information in any given moment.

What are the main themes and subject matter of the work?

The primary theme is time. The human phenomenology of time is no longer adequate to how we organize, inflect and orient the systems we have created. As research at CERN demonstrates, these advanced systems function on scales beyond the experiential capacity of the human. Our physiology confines us to a particular temporal experience, yet science enables us to ‘know’ reality beyond this experience.

The script for the video is in part based on physicist Carlo Rovelli’s book The Order of Time. The video makes the claim that even the most stable of objects, when observed from non-human scales are processes rather than things. The apparent directional flow of time is a result of our physiology rather than something inherent to time itself and while this does not justify claims of a block universe or mean that time is unreal, it does raise the question of how much our experience of temporality and reality more generally correlates with materiality outside of the human experience of it.

This was my point of departure for the work, but through working with this material, I was lead to the question, if temporality as we experience it is a result of our physiology, how do we make sense of something like deep time? A time outside of human experience but, none the less also appears to have a stubbornly directional progression. So take as an example, if you go out and look at a star tonight that is 251 million light years away, the light you will see was emitted from that star at a time when the earth was experiencing the End Permian Extinction, when 96% of life disappeared from the earth. The beautiful thought that we are looking at the distant past when we look at the stars falls apart when we start to think about the photon itself, the particle of light that we will perceive when we look at that star. When we start to think about the photon, the concept of ‘tonight’ or of ‘251 million years ago’ has no meaning, so time no longer makes sense as a variable.

How does Scalar Oscillation relate to time spent at CERN through Collide International?

I actually have not yet been and am due to go this winter. The research I have done with regard to time thus far has been as an enthusiast and as part of an artistic and philosophical project, rather than a specialist in science, so I am enormously excited to speak with scientists working at CERN who will no doubt have some real insight to my questions. I imagine however, even if many of my basic questions are answered and misunderstandings are clarified, there is a good chance I will come away with more questions than I go in with, though perhaps this is really the point of interdisciplinary research - to be able to ask better questions. I’m really looking forward to going.