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June 2012 Issue 1


ANDREAS WANNERSTEDT Mini Big Bangs and sentient robots


When a symbiosis goes bad; an illustrated insight


Artists team up with Earth Scientists to rediscover the Jurassic coast

Photography Š Ben Swailes



June 2012 Issue 1








5 .......... Ben Swailes Comics, girls, and growing up - a cognitive map.

6 .......... Rhianna Micciche Sculpture created by sound; a vision of hidden form.

7 .......... Andreas Wannerstedt

In 2010, scientists succeeded in recreating a miniature version of the Big Bang. Within a few years, some of the universe’s deepest secrets may be unlocked.

8 .......... Daniee Paris Intimate accounts of the unfamiliar and exploring the beauty of the microverse.

10 .......... Lauren Squires Bringing order to chaos.

13 .......... Exploratory Laboratory

ExLab artists Simon Callery, Mat Chivers, Zachary Eastwood-Bloom, Simon Ryder and creative studio Proboscis team up with Earth scientists.

14 .......... Daniel Franklin

Our coral reefs are turning white. An aquatic biologist explains why.

16 .......... Kate Rowland Space exploration; “it’s human to be curious”.

18 .......... Sam Cork-Wilkinson Science fiction culture embodied through iconic props.

20 .......... Fiona Strimer Constructing art using the essence of a dying star.

24 .......... Laurie Ramsell

“A practice of the greatest passivity”: Tom Chamberlain’s response to ‘En Vogue’.


FOREWORD A WORD FROM THE EDITOR Nearly half a year from idea to conception, Synthia’s first issue makes its debut appearance. Its aim - to showcase the talents of a new generation of creative practitioners, all of whom share an interest in scientific enquiry. Over the last decade artists have firmly placed their foot in the scientific doorway. Over the course of Synthia’s completion I have had the pleasure of meeting and discussing topics ranging from chaos theory, nuclear fission, and post-humanism. One of the most exciting things I came to learn about was Big Picture’s ‘Exploratory Laboratory’ happening along the Dorset coast, an event which sees collaborations between five selected artists and Earth scientists. I would like to extend my gratitude to the generous individuals who have supported the production of this publication emotionally and financially. Special thanks to The Arts University College Bournemouth for their contribution, to its undergraduates for their professionalism and enthusiasm, and finally to all the public who brought our Tie-dye shirts and bags at our fund-raiser.

EDITOR Laurie Ramsell GRAPHIC DESIGN Laurie Ramsell Louise Byng WRITERS Daniel Franklin Laurie Ramsell Louise Byng Sarah Isaacs Jason Dungan Tom Chamberlain CONTRIBUTING ARTISTS Ben Swailes Daniee Paris Fiona Strimer Kate Rowland Lauren Squires Laurie Ramsell Louise Byng Rhianna Micciche Sam Cork-Wilkinson SPECIAL THANKS Carolyn Black Fred Nicholas Mike Griffiths Violet McClean FRONT COVER Fiona Strimer © 2011

All photographs are © of the artist unless otherwise stated.

“Science is based on hypothesis, testing, and development of truth, and most importantly, the repeatability of this procedure. Art is a singularity. Art is about what happens at that very moment when we create it or experience it.” - Eduardo Kac (Sculpture, April 2011, 50)



GROWING PAINS Ben Swailes’ work acts as a visual psychology. Intimate insights into his own behaviour bridge apathetic connections with his viewer. Phrases such as “Don’t want people not to like me”, denote misanthropic memories appropriate to the negative lexis. Other statements such as “Never know what to say” and “Don’t want to cause arguments” show the mental building blocks of Ben’s ego. Outwardly Ben is always a positive and creative individual with his interests in movies and superhero culture alluring to more understanding of the piece. Through this internal dialogue we see Ben’s soliloquies; we follow a journey of thought and share the emotional roller coaster of his life. These core sections - presented as nodes - flow by blue glow wire, showing the inter-connectivity of his pathos. The pale blue lines reinforce the works roots into consciousness, authority, and themes of masculinity. These sections, Ben says, “are as much a part of him now as they were when [he] was a child”, thinking about his future and what is to be expected of him by parents, friends, and partners. This duality of outward strength and inward tension reverberates with everyone, in their own unique circumstances, and becomes reflected in the clean cut precision of these hexagon nets, constructed using dirty Sellotape. - Laurie Ramsell


RHIANNA MICCICHE When first looking at Rhianna Micciche’s sculptures one attempts to place their origin. Although familiar, they don’t quite fit our frames of reference, as crystals, as icebergs, or anything. We feel so connected yet estranged from them. In fact they are the visual snapshots of the invisible phenomena that we call sound. As part of a site-specific exhibition, Rhianna set about recording the music of Bournemouth Lower Gardens, capturing an orchestra of footsteps, conversation, and bird song. As a sound artist, Rhianna takes a large interest in vibrations and language. In her own words, “I try to turn sound into a physical form and influence the viewer to do certain things”.

Made of wax in a bespoke box filled with water – through a special process involving the addition of washing up liquid to wax droplets in order to pull them under the waters surface – their form is created by the pulses, originating from underneath the box, rippling through the liquid. Slowly the globules of wax collect together and form like an embryo in suspension. “They remind me of stalactites, caves, mountains; things that take ages to form geologically…” says Rhianna. Indeed they look like the ethereal products of an otherworldly goddess, imbued with sound, colour, and movement. For Rhianna there has been a progressive loss of sound. She ascertains that once sound was revered “traditionally, philosophically and religiously”. Centuries ago certain music even remained guarded by the Vatican, melodies we only know now thanks to the abilities of Mozart. Artist Bill Viola points out “Hindu philosophy suggests the existence of the cosmic sound or vibration ‘Om,’ which is ever-present, going without a beginning or end, everywhere within the universe and everything proceeds from it.”1 I find myself reminded of debates and discussions surrounding string theory, the leading candidate as a unified theory of all the laws of nature; an idea that infinitely fine vibrating strings make up the most basic building blocks of our universe. This idea can be argued to date back to ancient Greece, “by analysing the nodes and vibrations of a lyre string, [Pythagoreans] showed that music obeyed remarkably simple mathematics. They then speculated that all of nature could be explained in the harmonies of a lyre string.”2. Although still very infant (and with much to prove) string theory predicts that many universes exist as extra dimensions all instructed by subatomic strings. It is not hard to conceive then, that Rhianna’s landscapes made from vibrations could be glimpses into forms existing in higher dimensions, ‘sounds-scapes’ of an infinite multiverse. - Laurie Ramsell


1 Viola, B. (2005). Bill Viola Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd. Pp.61 2 Kaku, Michio. (2009) Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration of the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation and Time Travel. London: Penguin, pp.294




is another self-initiated personal project I’ve written, designed and animated single-handedly. It’s a 3-D short film with a story that revolves around a machine that has the power of creating new, miniature universes. By controlling the universe rotation, it can speed up the time and evolution of the miniature worlds, and with the help of a fancy search engine it can pin point and extract terrestrial planets. Well, it’s not very scientifically correct by any means..

you might live in a manufactured miniature world... Or is it..? Who knows,

Anyway, what would mankind do if they possessed the power of creating new worlds? Probably use it for creating some kind of decorative snow globe. Guaranteed gift of the year. Well, it’s not all science fiction, I actually got inspired after reading some interesting articles about the European science agency CERN, who designed the world’s biggest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider. This accelerator shoots beams around a freezing 27km concrete ring underground near Geneva, smashing atoms together in search of the elusive “God particle” believed present at the Big Bang. Since it began operating at the end of March 2010, CERN engineers and physicists have

billions of miniature versions of the Big Bang, revealing fundamental created

insights into the nature of the cosmos. Physicists also hope the collider will help them see and understand other suspected phenomena, such as dark matter, antimatter and supersymmetry. Also, at Lancaster University UK, physicists unravelling the secrets of how to build a universe. In fact, they have already formed one, or something very much like it. This scientific breakthrough lies in the bottom of a chamber no larger than a pinky finger, filled with helium and cooled to 0.0003 degrees Fahrenheit above absolute zero.

- Andreas Wannerstedt





Throughout my 35mm macroscopic shoot I have formed a strong association with the sublime through my exploration into the unknown. I wanted to promote the notion that the sublime is a very personal and intimate experience that is beyond our understanding as humans; therefore it can never be represented fully but can be hinted at. One of my initial ideas was the notion of the artist’s trace within an image. I came to the realisation that photography in its concrete form functions as a medium in which something is transmitted to the spectator, therefore I started utilising the photograph to transmit the artist trace. Early on I knew that scale was going to prove an important feature within my work, using it to de-contextualise and re-contextualise. Within my final images the viewer is transcended into abstract, unknown, alien worlds, which I have formed using the macroscope hinting heavily at the sublime. This innovative technology has allowed me to go beyond our visual abilities as humans and present a diverse perspective, one that refers to the sublime without representing it. Personal and intimate engagement is important for me as both rely almost solely on the spectator’s subjective experience. The identity of the images is concealed from the viewer. Leaving each piece untitled allows the viewer freedom of interpretation of these artificial realities, despite the truth that they are scientific fact. The colour was managed on editing software and this gave me more control of the overall effect the images had in relation to my concepts, with the form of the images remaining unaltered. I don’t seek to make statement pieces. I want to challenge the viewer in a more subtle and psychological level. - Daniee Paris



A discussion and a cup of tea with Rhianna Micciche and Lauren Squires...

R.M I understand you are the circles girl. I’ve seen you around, drawing loads of circles, come wind or rain with your little soggy cigarette. Could you explain to me what this obsession with circles is about? L.S The circle came from me struggling with the concept of the chaos theory and it gave me a simple way of showing something that is definite and absolute because when I drew around the circle shape and tried to repeat it I knew I wouldn’t be able to replicate this perfectly, however it had a non-linear aspect that allowed me to expand on this theory. It was a trial of time. Every day when I was sitting, drawing the circles, I would have an array of colours ready for the next social interaction to come along. I would then record this distraction by commencing the chosen colour where they arrived in the circle. For example if I was by myself I would use pencil or grey to draw, but when people caused a distraction I would stop the grey colour and start drawing the circles in their chosen colour. From the point where the line started I would make a complete circle with that colour. When it ended I would create the next line so it was almost touching the last line, as close as possible to replicate the last circle. Slight involuntary gestures my hand would make e.g. being right-handed, would make one side of the circle more controlled than the other. Also my hand shaking would create little indentations in the line which would become markers of time which grow and effect the shape of the next circle, and the next circle.

R.M When you are drawing what does the particular space or place mean in relation to the circles? L.S Yeah, when I first started drawing the circles I needed a very social place where I knew people would get involved and become a participant in the circle drawings. I could do it absolutely anywhere. Then when I got into it a bit more, I wanted to do it in other places to see how it would turn out, for example more private places, more public places and some places that I was not as familiar with. R.M I see that your work is obsessive and compulsive, constantly recording time and its activities, however this is a odd thing to be obsessed with considering you can’t really control it at all really. Do you think you are trying to push yourself to interact with people that you wouldn’t normally interact with? L.S I find it very interesting, its nothing strange or out of the ordinary, but what is strange and out of the ordinary? Its just life in general. I like to work with strict things that are quite difficult to do, which give a masochistic element to my practice. I am enduring time in a performative way, just like my circles endure times effect on their form. Who I meet in this time is not particularly important. They are changeable.

LAUREN SQUIRES It is an experiment. I am recording rather than testing but I feel it is an experiment because the circle drawings have constants and variables, the constant being the line and the variable being the people, the colours they choose, the environment which effects the page. It’s still an experiment in the way that I don’t know how it’s going to turn out exactly; testing the possibilities that could happen in a nonspecific amount of time. I was aiming to visually portray the environment as truthfully as possible from my point of view. However the drawing wasn’t very personal to me, I wasn’t drawing what i was thinking just what was given to me. I was an interpreter rather than the creator. The environment can affect the people that are in the space. I picked a particular space to change the variability of people that I come in to contact with, through weather, general noise, socialising etc. R.M When we look back on all the circles you have made, I find myself thinking of it as a memory map. What do they mean to you as a whole? L.S I found them becoming a diary of daily events, which are personal to anyone who has been involved and pull on the memory of the participants. I also began to put together a narrative with the drawings, which pulled the drawings together in a whole, just as time is separate and one at the same time.

12 I found, generally speaking, that the circles that were produced somewhere more private, like a bedroom, or generally indoors were a lot tighter. For me it was because of fewer distractions around me, not in a people way, but me getting bored and looking at other stuff. The busier the background, the more distractions there were, and the less tight the circles turned out. When you are recording something you record it exactly, but I cant do that because I’m a human, so instead of recording it I’m interpreting it, I’m not a machine that can exactly portray what’s happening at the time like a pin head monitoring earth quake tremors. It is like a humanistic graph. R.M Do you think of the circles as being suspended in time? L.S Yes, due to the personal view and the perception of time. Actual time is not relevant to people because when we perceive things we don’t think about it in time; if you are bored time goes slower, if something exciting, time goes faster. A disruption of the repeated circular pattern shows a slowing down of my perception of time because of my interactions and distractions, showing a physical representation of the subjectivity of time. This is process-based art because it is created through time. The size and shape of the circle grows with the events and they are never finished until a conscious decision is made to physically stop. There is always something to draw.


xLab is a ground-breaking arts programme along the Jurassic Coast, where earth scientists and artists have collaborated to reveal hidden landscapes through the lenses of art, geology and technology.

A series of research-led commissions for artists has led to the creation of fascinating new temporary artworks developed in response to the geology of the Jurassic Coast. The ExLab artists have investigated the coastal processes using geomapping and cutting-edge land-scanning technologies. Artists Simon Callery, Mat Chivers, Zachary Eastwood-Bloom, Simon Ryder and creative studio Proboscis, were selected from over 200 submissions to work with scientists to reveal new narratives about the places, the people and the landscape of Dorset. Five wild and beautiful coastline locations will be revealed and re-interpreted by scientists and artists and presented in buildings, open-air locations and galleries across Dorset. A living laboratory of science-inspired art experiences will offer visitors vivid moments of insight and wonder – field-trips and artworks combine to inspire and engage people in the coast’s past, present and future. Collaboration is at the heart of ExLab. Initiated in 2010, ExLab is the first project delivered by Big Picture, a collaboration of seven visual arts organisations in Dorset working closely with Dorset County Council, The National Trust and Creative Coast. Following an 8-month research period, the works will be installed at locations across Dorset between the 27th July and 9th September, running parallel to the Olympic events in Dorset.

Top: A CT scan of a cylinder of Portland roach stone, carried out by the University of Southampton, reveals a cloud of shells, including the spiral shape of the so-called Portland Screw ( Aptyxiella portlandica) a small snail from the Jurassic. © Simon Ryder

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- when a symbiosis goes bad Coral bleaching is when corals turn white. Corals can turn white because the tiny photosynthetic cells (dinoflagellates) that live symbiotically within the coral tissue are lost. In some cases the corals then die. Since corals are at the base of the diverse and productive reef ecosystem their death has lots of knock-on effects; biodiversity, fish production and tourism can all be affected. Coral bleaching has caused widespread concern since the ‘mass bleaching’ event of 1998 in which a substantial proportion of the world’s coral died. Several scientists have tied coral bleaching events to warmer sea temperatures and periods of high light, so-called ‘doldrum’ conditions. To add to our knowledge, we used a coral called Stylophora as a model species with which we did experiments with temperature and light. We took small fragments of Stylophora from the reef and grew them in the lab. As coral is a modular organism that’s no problem. We exposed the Stylophora fragments to four different combinations of light and temperature, ranging from low light and low temperature to high light and high temperature. We did this at two opposite times of the year at Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef. We wanted to know more about what bleaching was. Why were the dinoflagellates lost? What happened to these tiny cells that inhabit the thin layer of living coral tissue overlying the white skeleton? Some scientists had found that the dinoflagellates were, like naughty schoolchildren, expelled

from the coral whilst others said that they were digested by the coral. We hypothesized that the dinoflagellates were killed by the warm water and high light and that was the reason they were either expelled, or digested. We measured a number of different things to try and see what different combinations of light and temperature did to the dinoflagellates. To start with, we measured how many of them there were, but also whether they were alive or dead and how photosynthetically active they were. Actually, it is technically quite difficult to tell if a small brown cell about 1/100 mm in diameter is alive or dead. In order to find out, we washed the cells in a cell stain, a chemical which only crosses across damaged membranes, and in that way could tell whether the cells were alive or dead. We found that as we increased light and temperature, more of the dinoflagellates within the tissue died and also that they were less able to photosynthesize. That was what we expected and it provided a reason for the expulsion that others had observed. We interpreted our data to mean that increases in light and temperature killed the dinoflagellates. The tropical areas where coral reefs have evolved are a very harsh, yet relatively constant, environment. As immobile photosynthetic organisms, which cannot move into the shade, the dinoflagellates within corals have become tuned to the harshness but have difficulty when conditions change from the relatively constant conditions they have come to expect. We think that we might well see more coral bleaching in the future. It all depends on the ability of corals to adapt to rising sea temperatures. Sadly, we are not making much


DANIEL FRANKLIN progress in reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which causes the warming in the first place. Our study had one last interesting result. We repeated the experiment at two times of the year - in late summer and in late spring. That summer was a hot summer, and the corals out on the reef bleached but did not die. So the coral we used for experiments in the summer had already suffered some bleaching. We found that the summer coral was more sensitive than the spring coral, and bleached more and faster, when we exposed it to high light and temperatures in the laboratory. We think that as dinoflagellates are lost, the microenvironment within the coral tissue became even more stressful as light can bounce around reflecting off the white skeleton. This means that those dinoflagellates that are left receive even more light which combined with the warm temperatures proves too much and kills them. Our experiments, along with many others, have shown that coral can be quite sensitive to elevated sea temperatures

and that light combines with temperature to cause bleaching. It seems that the future is uncertain for corals and so also for the spectacular ecosystems they build, the great coral reefs. As a footnote, in some parts of the world scientists and conservationists have begun to experiment with reef restoration techniques. The aim of these schemes is to give a helping hand to degraded reefs to encourage reef formation and minimise degradation in the face of various human and natural pressures. Reef restoration may involve transplanting young corals and protecting them whilst they are vulnerable to grazing and disturbance. Proponents of these types of technique always point out though that such techniques are expensive and come a poor second to protection of the original habitat. At certain times and places however, reef managers have found reef restoration techniques useful and there is growing interest in such active management of the reef habitat. Daniel J. Franklin, February 2012

BLEACHING Illustrated by Louise Byng For further reading see Franklin, D.J., Cedres C.M.M. and Hoegh-Guldberg, O. (2006) Increased mortality in the symbiotic dinoflagellates of the Indo-Pacific coral Stylophora pistillata (Esper) after Summer bleaching. Marine Biology 149: 633-642 PDF available on request from



KNOWLEDGE IS FUEL: An interview with Kate Rowland by Louise Byng.


I meet Kate Rowland for an interview she is slotting identical wooden hexagons together into a surprisingly complex pattern, leading to my first question; what is she making? She tells me she is working on a model spaceship to form part of a “Take Your Own Adventure Into Space kit”. Made from rudimentary means, other components include badges, blueprints and an instruction manual which allow anyone, with a stretch of the imagination, to go into space. Despite the sophistication of the spaceship’s design, the model is made of wood and held together with blu-tack, and I see the configuration of pieces has been worked out using Pythagorean Theorem on scraps of paper strewn around her. What strikes me already about Kate is a childlike quality that imbues her creations with a sense of infectious magnetism. What she has made allows you enter the realms of child’splay where you can explore the dark

depths of space without leaving the back yard. “It’s relatively technical”, she explains “and I’m trying to find a way of making it well yet also embrace it as a hand-made object. I really like the idea of making something futuristic by hand with basic materials; I want people to see how it’s been put together.” Kate tells me she was interested in space from a young age, going to the planetarium with her dad and collecting rocks in bags, labelling them as meteorite finds. Since then her inquisitive nature and passion for the great unknown has led her to explore scientific themes through an illustrative practice. “It’s human to be curious. I always want to learn more”, she says. “I guess it’s just my way of exploring.” For Kate to draw something is to learn about it as the process of making reveals the mysteries of how it is assembled. She adds, “doing a project like this helps me

understand something I wouldn’t necessarily grasp just from reading it in a book. Knowledge is a drive for my work.” We begin to discuss the accessibility of scientific principles to a wider audience, as I believe this is something that Kate’s way of working promotes. It does not aim to baffle or turn anyone away but merely spark an interest in scientific themes to be expanded upon. Her images reflect her passion for the subjects they draw from and in turn draw others in. “I think art can aid science through engagement”, Kate details. “Visual interest makes facts more available to people, for example people responding to artefacts in a museum in different ways to in a textbook, seeing the scale of things, being able to explore things themselves; that’s really important.” A fan of Brian Cox and Sir Patrick Moore, Kate appreciates their ability to profess information about cosmology and astrology by utilising


KATE ROWLAND relatively simple comparisons; “It’s what we know. They draw a connection” I agree this makes it a lot less intimidating to the viewer, as they do not just get swamped with scientific terminology. She also references this quality in Richard Feynman; “He just sits in an armchair explaining how things work, and it’s infectious! He’s a really intelligent guy but he can also translate it to people who aren’t as scientifically apt; crossing that line between people’s existing understanding and new information.” Currently her work explores the complexities of machines and technology, looking back at the computer rooms of the 1950s and 60s that helped put man on the moon with modern eyes. Compared to the sleekness of contemporary design their bulkiness and manual interfaces seem like a façade; simply part of a film set that has been made-up to look like a control panel, rendering us clueless as to what function it actually fulfils. In response to this she has generated a series of overcomplicated machines; “These drawings are my made-up machines. They don’t do anything of use but at first glance they

look important due to the multitude of different elements. This exaggeration expresses that it’s all nonsense really unless you understand how it functions but it is comforting to me to be the only one who does.” This concealment gives these imaginary objects an element of magic, and harks back to the wonder generated by scientific discoveries; the lightbulb, electricity; these were regarded with a type of magic. Kate goes on: “I guess I’m trying to recapture that magic, because to me it is; how we know how a cell works, how atoms behave – I find that amazing and think such things get overlooked once they are cemented as good working science; it just becomes ‘stuff you learnt at school.’” Kate’s style of working is influenced by sci-fi and imagery from popular culture such as 2001 A Space Odyssey and Twin Peaks, along with retro space graphics. “I’ve been looking at a lot of 50s children’s sci-fi book covers that I think are great because they were made when space travel was at the forefront of people’s minds. It was exciting, the space race; everyone was really thrilled with our increasing abilities to explore the unknown and

it’s nice to look back at that, and absorb some of that feeling that we can do anything, we can even go into space.” It seems that this excitement is still very alive in Kate, with these pioneers fuelling a thirst for challenging the limits of existence with a ‘why not’ philosophy that she feels is in decline. As our relationship with space travel has weakened, perhaps this reflects a society that is all too comfortable with its current state, no longer wanting to embark upon seemingly impossible challenges or intrepid journeys just to show that they can overcome the odds. Kate’s work reminds us that we should be ravenously curious; striving for better solutions, new horizons and adventure in our everyday lives. Going into space becomes a bigger metaphor for facing the unknown head on; for bravery. Finally at the close of an enjoyable talk I ask her what she thinks about when she looks at the night sky. She replies, “I find it really comforting, the fact that I’m really insignificant. It reminds me that my problems are quite local. Rather than thinking I’m on the ground I like to consider we’re on the edge of the Earth; sitting on the edge looking out.” - Louise Byng



Quintessentially curious, the work of Sam Cork would lead most people to watch in awe as his meticulously crafted ‘future objects’ blur the line between the physical occupation of space and their ability to animate that space to produce an evocative environment, as they levitate seemingly so perfectly above a plinth, or surface. Captivated by the mystery that surrounds their ability to do so; I was instantly intrigued by these sleek structures which appear to simultaneously mask the artists’ involvement in allowing the work to come into fruition, while also encapsulating our ever-growing fascination of science fiction. As I understand for Sam, the questions of what do the objects do? And what can they provide the viewer? Are particularly prevalent, and for me my perception of their reality and my encounter with them as such leads me to question how their physicality and occupation of space is indicative of the distinction between my visual and cognitive perception. I know I certainly felt uneasy at not being able to fully comprehend why I am so easily interpolated by these works, but I know for sure that it is symptomatic of the feelings I get in watching certain programmes, documentaries or films. It is within those moments that you can appreciate how art acts as a vehicle and or/platform for facilitating the things outside of our immediate scope of knowledge. In watching Prelim 2 in particular, I am propelled to recall the words of Sol Le Witt: ‘Once given physical reality by the artist, the work is open to the perception of all, including the artist’ ; principally because in the video you are able to witness Sam initiating the works beginning. Having said that, I can’t help but wonder whether his choice of the word ‘Prelim’ is synonymous of how films build up a crescendo of occurrences preceding the main event, are his ‘Prelim’ workings a sequential process of investigation that will accommodate a conclusive performance? At what point do they stop being ‘Prelim’ and become confirmations? Arguably, I could be making this connection in the knowledge that Sam works from memories of late 20th, early 21st century popular science fiction films such as Ridley Scott’s, Blade Runner or Stanley Kubrick’s, 2001: A Space Odyssey.







However, I am always inquisitive of a works title, as I see them operating as an extension to the work, using the same analogy as Hal Foster would in his ‘Prosthetic Gods’ text: ‘Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God. When he put on all his auxiliary organs he is truly magnificent; but those organs have not grown on to him and they still give him much trouble at times’ . In this scenario ‘prelim’ acts as an organ; feeding the work its practical application of science, while working alongside ‘truly magnificent’ transmitters of alternative realities. The same analogy can be used to understand why earlier works such as Prelim 2 conflicted with the plinth in which it is levitated above, it had become a ‘troubled constriction’ of the work, which is what Foster explains as the ‘trouble at times’ experienced by man, in this case the artist. I think it is important to consider this idea in relation to how much or little is needed to support the work in its plight – interestingly enough I discovered similar thoughts in Sam’s diagrammatic drawings which ask such questions as: ‘What is my plinth? The world is my plinth. Is the object the final piece or is it the documentation? Disguise the plinth on a roof? The sky is my backdrop’. It is little anecdotes such as these which have a profound effect on the trajectory of the work and are the quirks which distinguish an artistic charm. I would be excited to see what becomes of the ‘future objects’, as I know that however many questions I have posed of the works I am confident in saying that they have provoked a catalyst of thoughts and feelings about our relationship to futurology. I have a lot of time for the Prelim series, particularly as each time I view them there is something else to discover. Their presence is continually evolving; a sensation that is iridescent of our human evolution and relationship with the future, and they are quite simply enchanting. - Sarah Issacs

Sol Le Witt in Niamh Coghlan, ‘Manipulating light’ (2011) Aesthetica, Issue 42, pp. 38 Hal Foster, ‘Prosthetic Gods’ (1997), Modernism/Modernity 4.2, The Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 5





There is a formal order at work, in that the materials are combined and arranged, that implies systematic thinking. But they also make me aware of fragility. In ‘fragmented line structure’ Fiona Strimer engages materials that have dual identities to explore the origin of life on earth. ‘During the various stages of a dying star it produces the essential elements to make life on earth possible’, Fiona tells me whilst manipulating sheets of steel. In the last phase it creates iron, which encouraged her to use steel within her practice. The incredible force needed for the explosion motivated her to use and push her strength as far as possible to manipulate the sheets of steel. The original state of steel (which is iron combined with another element, usually carbon) is hardly known in society. Incorporating timber, which is mainly used for construction, allowed her to structure the research about space and stars. But it also draws up the contradiction between the total deformation of a living material and the connotations of a ‘warm’ and ‘natural’ material within society.


The interest lies not only in transforming the material and to test its limits, but also to understand the fabricated condition that has converted the natural appearance into a more practical and industrial form. To do so, Fiona spends time researching into the structure and texture of each material explored by scientists in various areas. During our conversation she points out that scientific facts and discoveries are just as important within her work as well as exploring the materials, for example, by herself. “ I believe that you can develop and create a similar relationship to a material as to a person. It requires attention and observation, which is the beauty of the process.” During the process the question about the relationship between infinite space and life on earth occupied her mind and influenced the making of ‘fragmented line structure’. Connecting the installation with polyester thread (which is an infinite filament) to the physical space Fiona wants to raise awareness and question the surrounding space. Whilst she feeds every single thread carefully through the tiny holes in the steel objects it feels that the thread can easily snap. Even though she is working with materials for construction purposes the final installation is detached from stability but implicates delicacy and vulnerability. Installing fragmented line structure in a white cube space was a deliberate decision; as for Fiona the space offers a situation that is very far detached from reality. It becomes a place where eternity exists.

- Jason Dungan

Science we think is fact Art we think is fiction Magnets sometimes attract Paints sometimes depiction In his studio In his Lab Master Apprentice Hawkin’s Slab Art and Science are inextricably linked Ground breaking Creative thinking Obtuse and succinct Their Ethics try test Synthetic meat to Chapman fuck fest An ear on a rat Dolly the sheep A Dali dream But you’re not asleep Hirst's dots An ear on an arm Nano bots and a Goat silk spider farm The boundaries that are broken Offer glimpses of a token, a gesture to the world That there's lots to build hope from Art can draw on what science predicts designing a future That's a much better fit. - George Bills





There are certain things to be looked at that demand something other than the analytical faculties of eye and mind. In the process of trying to figure out what thing this thing in front is, we can momentarily collapse into its resistance, be engulfed in its namelessness. This sounds attractive, but can’t be easy. Buddhist Shiva paintings take this kind of encounter, this loosing of ones head, to an extreme. These ‘artless’, anonymous ellipses are made solely in order to induce a meditative state, and so suggest an emphasis on how we attend to things, rather than why, or what they might be. The question of ‘how?’ is also science’s preoccupation, as it too proceeds on its way towards knowing something via method. In ‘Coming to Writing’, Helene Cixous says of her approach that it is ‘as if I were inciting myself: “Let yourself go, let the writing flow, let yourself steep….” A practice of the greatest passivity. At once a vocation and a technique. This mode of passivity is our way - really an active way - of getting to know things by letting ourselves be known by them. You don’t seek to master. To demonstrate, explain, grasp.’1 This concentration on method implies a slowness that doesn’t rush past the strange towards the concluded or familiar but is content to hold things near, rather than here. That attends to things, gives them their full sway, has thinking as a kind of listening. Method, having all the connotations of process and framework and all the possibilities of coercion, might eventually need to be resisted as well. As Heidegger says, ‘in thinking, the situation is different from that of scientific representation. In thinking, there is neither method nor theme, but rather the region, so called because it gives its realm and free reign to what thinking is given to think.’2 That can’t be easy either. -Tom Chamberlain

1 Helene Cixous Coming to Writing (Harvard University Press, 1991) pp. 56 2 Martin Heidegger On the Way to Language (Harper and Row, 1982) pp. 74

Photography by Michael Compton

If you think you could contribute towards future issues of Synthia, whether through artwork, prose, poetry, research, or anything in either an artistic or scientific discipline that could open up a discourse between the two, we would like to hear from you.

Contact us at

Nathan Hackett is an illustrator who works with reference to comics and storytelling to express helplessness and psychological conflict. His illustrations often feature monochromatic mark-making in pencil and ink to create intricate or three dimensional compositions that are informed by the spaces and shapes around us that endangers and suppresses individual identity. Believing deeply in pedantic catagorisation, Nathan is interested in how people come to define themselves in relation to their immediate context or space. To understand our environments, enables a justification to learn from creating, and to create from learning.


CREDITS Andreas Wannerstedt..........

Graphics/motion designer. Based in Stockholm..............................................

Ben Swailes................................

Production Designer/Art Director at Endemol.................................................

Daniee Paris...............................

Photography Undergraduate, Arts University College Bournemouth (AUCB)

Dr. Daniel Franklin...................

Lecturer in Aquatic Biology at Bournemouth University

Fiona Strimer.............................

Fine Art Undergraduate, AUCB.................................................................................

George Bills.................................

Fine Art Undergraduate, AUCB.................................................................................

Rhianna Micciche....................

Fine Art Undergraduate, AUCB

Jason Dungan...........................

Video Artist and Lecturer. Based in London

Kate Rowland.............................

Illustration Undergraduate, AUCB...........................................................................

Lauren Squires ........................

Illustration Undergraduate, AUCB...........................................................................

Laurie Ramsell...........................

Fine Art Undergraduate, AUCB.................................................................................

Louise Byng................................

Illustration Undergraduate, AUCB...........................................................................

Nathan Hackett........................

Illustration Undergraduate, AUCB...........................................................................

Sam Cork-Wilkinson...............

Fine Art Undergraduate, AUCB.................................................................................

Sarah Issacs...............................

Fine Art and History of Fine Art and Architecture Undergraduate, University of Reading

Tom Chamberlain....................

Painter and Lecturer. Based in London

Š Nathan Hackett


Synthia - Where Science Informs Art  

Synthia showcases emerging talents in the creative world who use scientific enquiry in their practice.

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