SFB42 collaboration for STRAW-B * SFB42 collaboration for STRAW-B * 

There is a certain wonder and unease in witnessing particle physics’ abilities to surpass theoretical and geographical limits. The same wonder and unease arises once we plan to intervene artistically in such remote and extreme regions. Art too has its own modes and histories of exceeding conceptual, visual, and representational limits. SFB42’s collaboration for STRAW-B, submerged 2.6kms into the Pacific Ocean, 300 kms from the shores of Vancouver Island pushes both the limits of art and the limits of physics still further. The project UNDERCURRENTS is advancing the further entanglements of these disciplines.

SFB42 accepted the challenge to intervene in a very unique and bizarre opportunity with the Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) and the Physics Department of the Technical University of Munich. Dr. Elisa Resconi of the SFB1258 offered space on their PATHFINDER experiment which will be submerged in the Cascadia Basin region where ONC has an unprecedented underwater science infrastructure. One 444 meters tall string of optical equipment, housed in glass spheres, will test factors and qualities of the environment and water of this deep and dark region. SFB42 jumped at the opportunity to host artistic interventions that might respond to the complexities of the ocean in the time of climate crisis, the relationship that waters historically have to cosmologies and the links between the deep sky and the deep-sea. Curiously enough the deep-sea is itself an extremely unknown territory, hosting very ancient and unique creatures, yet there have been more people on the surface of the moon than in the deepest regions of the ocean.

The Cascadia Basin will hold a cubic kilometre neutrino telescope. It is the water's capacity to hold neutrino intra-actions that make it a relevant site for experimental physical observations of the imperceptible. In the last few 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 for collecting enough data that could expand the sense of physicists a bit further into the ‘dark sector’ of matter-energy. After a successful development of a neutrino detector in the ice of the South Pole, a collaboration of physicists from Germany and Canada are now testing the the waters of Cascadia Basin. "STRings for Absorption length in Water" (STRAW-B) will be deployed in the Pacific Ocean in July 2020 with our gestures submerged with it.

The message “CIAO MAMMA SONO TORNATA” (Hello mama I‘ve come back) engraved by Simona De Fabritiis in a copper 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 collective project. At the underground Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, located in the centre of the mountain, there have been several experiments detecting neutrinos, which the group visited, as a catalyst for an interdisciplinary collaboration. Now these 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 observe elementary particles of astronomical origin. 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.

The sea connects us to one another by way of our watery being, human and non human alike. But the sea also connects us to deep space - it is cosmological both technically and culturally. Jol Thoms has arranged a networked audio-sculpture that will receive and play new sound compositions from diverse practitioners interested in sending voicings and soundings of care, concern, and affection in/to oceanic space. The ‘Radio Amnion’ sculpture will quietly transmit compositions on each full moon, when the tides are high. A reverse ‘Golden Record’ of the voyager spacecraft, these ritualistic relays of care irrigate unknown plains of energy and communicate affirmations of life and cosmological entanglements between and beyond human, non-human and more-than-human scales, conditions and relations.

Reflecting on the human need to understand, quantify and explore the constant unknown, Lea Vajda’s glass piece introduces an opaque lens to one of the experiment spheres, a sculptural gesture counteracting the scientific apparatus. Due to its iridescence which emerges as light hits the lens, the half sphere could hopefully be an attractive spot for the bioluminescent creatures to hide, stay and to conceal themselves and their secrets from the machineries of science. “sea me not” proposes that not everything has to be transparent, showing that deep-sea’s secrets can prevail.

The works were enclosed in three STRAW-B spheres in January 2020, and will travel to Canada for further preparations until the deployment. These pieces will be submerged in June 2020 at a maximum depth of 2600 meters. Expecting no human viewer, besides a possible live video-feed from a submersible robot that installs the string to the sea floor, only the uncanny inhabitants of that abyss might have some impressions on these softly invasive containers of scientific tools and artistic ventures.

UNDERCURRENTS is an ongoing project from SFB42, coordinated by Diogo da Cruz with the support of Kilian Holzapfel.