SFB42 collaboration for STRAW B

There is a certain wonder and unease in witnessing particle physics being able to overtake theoretical and geographical limits. And the same wonder and unease arises once we plan to show art in such remote spaces.

In the last couple of years the detection of astrophysical neutrinos has given physicists an incredible opportunity to observe processes that are inaccessible to optical telescopes. As neutrinos interact very weakly with matter, being for this reason faithful messengers, they interact very rarely with a detector. The size of the detector becomes extremely relevant to collect enough data, that could draw conclusions and expand the sight of humankind a bit further. After a successful development of a neutrino detector in the ice of the South Pole, a collaboration of physicists from Germany and Canada is now developing an initial experiment testing the luminosity of the waters named "STRings for Absorption length in Water" (STRAW), to be deployed in deep-sea Pacific Ocean, at a site known as Cascadia Basin.

The history of deployments of such detectors in the deep-sea is haunted with failure. The equipment has to support the high pressure conditions and the long travel until 2600 meters under the sea level, keeping the connection with the surface. After a successful deployment in 2018, the team is now working on an upgrade pathfinder that will be installed in 2020. But this time, the string can also host an art exhibition within 4 glass spheres of the STRAW-B experiment, thanks to an art-science-collective from Munich at the invitation and initiation from Prof. Elisa Resconi at TUM.

SFB42 accepted the challenge to intervene in a very unique and bizarre exhibition opportunity, in the deep-sea at the Ocean Networks Canada installation deep in the Cascadia Basin. The spheres will host proposals that work upon the complexities of the study of the ocean, as it is a relevant reference of the impact of humans on their planet. Curiously enough the deep-sea is itself an extremely unknown territory, hosting very ancient and unique creatures. And even if the detectors will be mostly “looking” at the sky, they will be placed where probably life evolved for the first time on our planet.

The message “CIAO MAMMA SONO TORNATA” (Hello mama I‘ve come back) engraved by Simona De Fabritiis in a plaster object, greets the common origin of all life forms, through the thick glass of one of STRAW-B’s spheres. An analogue and rather rudimentary gesture whose purpose perhaps remains concealed and, like a dream, its meaning may only be understood through returning the emotion to its origin.

Josua Rappl’s “ARTEFACTS” will relocate mineral and biological traces from the Gran Sasso Mountain in Italy, where the collective SFB42 went on an ethnographic field trip in 2018, as part of their first project. At the underground Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, located in the centre of that mountain, there have been several experiments detecting neutrinos, which the group visited, as a catalyst for interdisciplinary collaboration. Now this two distant times and spaces will be linked together, from the dark cave to the dark deep water, both strange and normally inaccessible places used by physicists to look at the sky. These samples are also curious talismans, providing good spirits and luck for the deployment of the detector, the collection of data, and the ONC/P-ONE collaboration.

Given the chance to communicate into and with the dark waters of the deep Pacific Ocean, Jol Thomson will arrange and transmit a monthly (lunar cycle) sound composition, ‘passage’: an amniotic hydrocommons (Neimanis, A. 2009) radio programme will be transmitted like a whispered lullaby inside one of the glass spheres. With gratitude, appreciation, and messages of care for the deep sea, its researchers and inhabitants, the sounds and voices will be assembled through a cascading invitation reaching diverse researchers and practitioners, artists and poets, dancers and scientists, philosophers and geographers from across the globe to contribute with sounds specifically nurtured for an oceanic space of care for all watery bodies.

Reflecting on the human need to understand, quantify and explore the constant unknown, Lea Vajda’s glass piece introduces an opaqueness to one of the experiment spheres, a sculptural gesture turning the entire sphere into a work of art. An iridescence half sphere is thought of as an attractive spot for the bioluminescent creatures to hide, stay, tell their luminous secrets to one another, and giving them the possibility to conceal themselves from the machineries of science. “sea me not” proposes that not everything has to be transparent to science, showing that deep-sea’s secrets can prevail.

The works will be enclosed in the STRAW-B spheres during the coming weeks, then traveling to Canada for the preparations until the deployment of the hosts of the PATHFINDER project. These pieces will be deployed sometime in June 2020 at a depth of about 2600 meters, expecting no human viewer, besides a possible live transmission by a robot-like machine that mounts some components of the string. However the uncanny inhabitants of that area might have some impressions on these softly invasive containers of scientific tools and artistic ventures.