Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Cornelia Parker talks about her Meteorite Artworks

Artist Cornelia Parker is fascinated by meteorites.  She has ground and incinerated them in exploding rockets in firework displays - works that almost re-enact their falling, she says.  In her kitchen, Cornelia has also scorched impact craters on resonant or significant locations on road maps, using a red-hot iron space rock.  An iron meteorite which fell to Earth on Namibia.  This piece is one I am lucky enough to have on my wall.

A Meteorite lands on Paris, Texas

Cornelia talked with Adam Rutherford about meteorites in our recent Radio 4 feature, Frankenstein's Moon.  It was a great conversation, mingling artistic sensibility and scientific context, but it had to be cut relatively short for broadcast.  However you can hear more about Cornelia's thoughts on meteorites and her creative doings with them in a fuller, longer version of the interview here.

At some point, Cornelia would love to send a meteorite back into space: to release it back into the wild.  She talked to NASA officials about the project a few years ago.  She'd also like to place a Martian meteorite on the Moon and a piece of the Moon on the planet Mars.  An idea that's more interesting than Damian Hirst's fried colour chart on poor old Beagle 2.

"If things go to Mars in the name of science, why can't they go in the name of art?"
In the meantime, Cornelia designs and executes her Meteorite Landing and Moon Landing displays.  Such as the one in the video, staged at Jupiter Artland near Edinburgh on the night of the Full Moon in May 2009.

Jupiter Artland - Nocturne (A Moon Landing) Cornelia Parker from Jupiter Artland on Vimeo.

By the way, in Frankenstein's Moon you can also hear the explosive moment that gave birth to Cornelia's most famous work, Cold Dark Matter: the stunning, suspended sculpture now in the Tate Modern.  If this artist can get the British Army to blow up her garden shed for art's sake, surely it is within her powers to place a piece of the Moon that once fell to Earth on the surface of Mars.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Canis lupus familiaris - the English Toy Terrier

For the Palaeolithic's most significant happening, forget the development of language, cave art and the seeds of agriculture.  It was the evolution of the bond between Homo sapiens and the wolf ancestors of this cheeky pup.

The apogee of that 15 000 year old relationship is the English Toy Terrier.  And this little baby is soon to join an adoring home by the seaside with me, MJC and cats, Minx and Tricky (they've been cool with visiting small dogs in the past...).  On 15th February, the young pup will be making the journey to Brighton and Hove, after waving fond farewells to his breeder Vanora and mother Teila at their Cotswold home.

Here he is again, chowing down with one of his sisters.

Update on name:  After many suggestions (some great, some perplexing) the boy is to be called Huxley. 

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Brighton Murmuration

The starling murmuration in its glory days at the derelict West Pier in Brighton.  I took these photos in winter before the fires of 2003 stripped the pier to a skeleton of girders.

Most of the tens of thousands of starlings have gone, scattered to roost elsewhere.   Now the great murmurations are spectacles only in the memory.

I post this because of a tremendous BBC Radio 4 feature that went out last week.   It is called The Ghost Roost.   I can't praise it enough.  It is built of sound recordings made inside the concert hall of the old pier before the arson attacks, by wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson and sound designer Thor McIntyre Burnie.  There is also commentary about the starlings and the pier in their respective primes.  The programme was produced by Sarah Blunt, who I want to be when I grow up.

Some birds still return to the pier to roost, as this recent video shows, but The Ghost Roost reminds me how magnificent the murmurations used to be.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Visions of the Sun - Semiconductor Uncut

Semiconductor are an artistic duo who make fantastic animations.  Their films explore our experience of the natural world.  Geek star of television and radio science, Adam Rutherford and I interviewed them for the recent Radio 4 feature Frankenstein's Moon.  We talked to Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt about their stunning film Brilliant Noise - a glorious and mesmerising sequence of the Sun's greatest visual hits, as Joe put it. 

Listen to a longer version of the conversation between Ruth, Joe and Adam here. 

The chat had to be cut quite short for broadcast, missing the part where people agree to disagree about scientific revelation and what Brilliant Noise is about.

Brilliant Noise from Semiconductor on Vimeo.

Ruth and Joe explain how this animation  is made from thousands of raw data images from space-based and ground-based telescopes to produce a time-lapse solar sensation.  A vision of the Sun far from what we see when we look at the sky.  A triumph at the art-science interface.

Frankenstein's Moon also features writer-actor Mark Gatiss on astronomical aspects of Sherlock and the marvellous contemporary artist Cornelia Parker who wants put a meteorite back into space.