Material Sight: A Sensorium for Fundamental Physics

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Often our attempts to connect to the spatial and temporal scales of fundamental physics - from the subatomic to the multiverse - provoke a form of perceptual vertigo, especially for non-scientists. When we approach ideas of paralysing abstraction through the perceptual range of our sensing bodies, a ‘phenomenological dissonance’ can be said to be invoked, between material presence and radical remoteness. This relational dynamic, between materiality and remoteness, formed the conceptual springboard for 'Material Sight' (2016-2018), a research project based at three world-leading facilities for fundamental physics, that brought to fruition a body of photographic objects, film works and immersive soundscape that re-presented the spaces of fundamental physics as sites of material encounter. The research was premised on a paradoxical desire to create a sensorium for fundamental physics, asking if photography, film and sound can embody the spaces of experimental science and present them back to scientists and non-scientists alike, not as illustrations of the technical sublime but as sites of phenomenological encounter. This article plots the key conceptual coordinates of 'Material Sight' and looks at how the project’s methodological design – essentially the production of knowledge through the 'act of looking' – emphatically resisted the gravitational pull of art to be instrumentalised as an illustrative device within scientific contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Issue number25
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2020


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