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Yu Chen Wang We Aren’T Able To Prove That Just Yet But We Know It’S Out There 2018 Detail

Broken Symmetries: Interview with Yu-Chen Wang

by FACT

Blog, Art and Science

Part of the Winter 2018 season

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Yu Chen Wang We Aren’T Able To Prove That Just Yet But We Know It’S Out There 2018 Detail

Yu-Chen Wang, 'We aren’t able to prove that just yet, but we know it’s out there', 2018. Image courtesy the artist.

The work of Yu-Chen Wang asks fundamental questions about human identity at a key point in history, where eco-systems and techno-systems have become inextricably intertwined. At the same time, her Taiwanese origins, combined with a London-based practice, have created a vision that is personal and autobiographical. Yu-Chen’s central practice is drawing, allowing her to explore and meditate on mechanical and biological forms, and the ways in which their bodily borderlines blur and mutate. In this blog, Yu-Chen discusses We aren’t able to prove that just yet, but we know it’s out there, the work currently on display in Broken Symmetries.

How would you describe the artwork?

I started making this piece by creating one of my usual painstaking pencil drawings with minute details of various machine parts inspired by apparatus from CERN’s archive, and of course some items which I made up. This almost 3m long drawing is displayed inside a plinth and above the plinth there's a projector overlaying moving images directly onto the drawing. The film is an accumulation of archival documentation, including photographs and footage from CERN and The University of Liverpool and footage I shot during my time at CERN. I've written a script using a first person voice capturing my own experience of visiting CERN and speaking to various physicists, a journey of discovery in this whole process of where art and science meet I suppose.

From being commissioned to make this piece of work to the actual exhibition, I only had about five months. I feel there are still a lot of materials that I would like to continue to work on, so over the next few months I will continue to work with my collaborators and the physicists that I have been speaking to in order to further develop and evolve this piece.

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

As much as I’m interested in science and technology, I find the people behind science even more fascinating. I'm very interested in how they do science, particularly in fundamental research: working with very small scales and an extremely short timespan, making the invisible observable. Whilst dealing with a huge amount of unknown factors, how do scientists continue to ask questions and how does science make progress?

I'm also interested in how science is communicated to and made relevant in people’s everyday lives, particularly when it comes to fundamental research. Because most of us are largely unable to communicate about science using a sufficient language, we’re forced to deal with abstract concepts which are far from our everyday realities. After long hours of talking about physics with various physicists from CERN, such as Maria Fidecaro, Michael Doser and James Beacham; and here in the UK, such as Jon Butterworth from UCL and Tara Shears from University of Liverpool, particularly with Mike Houlden from The University of Liverpool, who kindly gave me a six-hour intensive course in particle physics. It’s only when I began to accept that it’s actually not impossible to fully understand these abstract concepts, I started to see a way in.

How does We aren’t able to prove that just yet… relate to time spent at CERN through Collide International?

Exploring archival documentation has been an important part of my practice, as I'm very interested in the histories of people and places. Looking at archival images was another way into science for me. Thankfully, Monica Bello, Head of Arts at CERN understood my interest and specifically planned my visit to CERN's Archive so I could speak to the archivists, such as Anita Hollier and Sandrine Reyes. At the Archive, I came across documentations of the 1960’s Bubble Chambers. These photographs detected the paths of short-lived electrically charged particles. I found the whole process which surrounded the documentation and interpretation absolutely fascinating: the individuals whose job it was to produce and to interpret these images became a focal point for my work on display in Broken Symmetries - their intensive, unseen labour became a metaphor for how scientific findings are communicated to the public.

Through looking at these traditional, handmade depictions of so-called “scientific evidence”, I found that the collection of data started with the creation of these photographic images, followed by labour intensive measuring and calculating and analysing - all of which contrast to the current operation of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, which is more statistical as a result of advancing technologies. I was curious to find out more about how science is actually depicted, and I wanted to explore different ways of seeing, detecting and knowing by looking back at the Bubble Chamber images I first saw whilst at CERN - how this pictorial information fails to represent things anymore and eventually becomes obsolete.