31 October 2011

Electrons of time

It’s 5 pm on Halloween; dusk; the end of October, the eve of November and all hallows. These endings and beginnings seem only infinitesimally small marks on a continuum, rather than events with a real scope. The electrons of time. Comprehensible yet indescribable (and how apt that the last letters of that last word are so close to babble).

The donut is blown, ideas have been propagated, knowledge transferred, thoughts translated into other forms. And yet for me this process continues, with knowledge still distilling and being regurgitated in altered shapes. I continue to make things that are expressions of the time spent and information learned whilst I have woven the course of this process. Art. But this blog will end here. It is transmogrifying into another, a continuum of the work under another title. ‘Virtually resident’, the words that directly report my time as Leverhulme artist in residence at the University of Surrey, ends today. And do I have a final comment on which to close? I would caution my fellow makers against Residences that are geographically removed from their residences, it is a challenge. And what of silicon photonics? The process of science marches on. Today the population of the world purportedly reached seven billion; there is an ever increasing need for efficiency in our utilisation of resources; there is much for us to do to ease the existence of humanity. There is so much potential in seven billion people, so much that we have yet to do and discover. 

For me, part of my immediate future endeavour (my beatific vision?) is taking the form of words and images relating to science, silicon photonics, art, as a book, of which you can read more here. And so my final word here in conclusion (and which is, after all, merely the marking of a minutely transient moment)? I think it will simply be inconclusion.

12 October 2011

Blowing the dough (part 1)

I had wanted to write yesterday due to the binary beauty of the date, but the day was taken up with other Art matters, and the opportunity did not arise. More of that later, for now a report on the remarkably readily possible undertaking of the impossible.

A year ago I heard of a thing called a ring resonator. This object was at that time completely new to me, and my instantaneous, unstoppable response to hearing those words was an image of a luminous, diaphanous structure, floating in the nothingness of my mind. A glass circular form, indescribably light and fragile, imperceptibly pulsing with the energies of the universe, emitting an infinite range of coloured light from its integrally transparent curved clarity. A glass doughnut. 

And over the subsequent times that I have spent residing with the silicon photonics group this vitreous image has repeatedly reappeared, silently animate as it has been mulled in my mind. I had sought to make one, to have one made, but with no success, not least because of my stubborn demand that it must be blown rather than cast glass (to me there is a dynamism resulting from the trapped vitality of the former that is less evident in the latter). It was not possible. In a final effort to construct this wonder I set out on an impossible mission last week, blowing the last of the grant, and spent it at a glass studio on an exploration of the potential of the doughnut's formation, questioning the edges of its possible construction – is it really impossible?

And so it seems that the answer is no. It was made at first attempt through a combination of Kim’s expertise and a slightly brutish attacking of the glowing molten blob. True to say that the small leaden lump of chunky glass with rough edges that is the semblance of a glass doughnut does not exactly mirror the one in my mind, but technically it is exactly the thing I wish to construct. How easy (if a little diminutive) the impossible can sometimes be. The second go was neater but still small, and the third (again small) is as yet unseen by me as it had to be left in the annealing oven to prove when I departed. Now is the time to get excited about the fourth, which is to be constructed next week, and is to be as large as possible. Theoretically the limiting factor of this possibility is the size of the glory hole (the boxed blow torch that is used to reheat glass to enable continued working on it), so there is a technical finity to this thing that is somewhat more expansive in my head. But I am heartened that in the last week of my official time as artist in residence with the lab I have managed to construct the first thing that I envisaged. Things are looking up.