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Here and now

(published 23 November 2010)

It is almost dusk. The light fading faster than it otherwise might as a result of an approaching cloud bank filling the previously clear sky. It has been a beautiful day, but increasing blusteriness this afternoon has been implying incoming inclemency. It feels like we may be due for gales tonight. I lit the stove a couple of hours ago so the room is warm and cosy already. Today has been a strenuously physical day of shifting logs (the dry ones to the storage shed, the as yet green ones to the drying area), clearing heaps of rotting wood, and generally trying to tidy up a little in lieu of the approaching winter. As I now sit to write my body feels grateful for the comfort of the chair. The scent of quinces is beginning to infiltrate my senses – I am making membrillo, and the pan of fruit is simmering in the kitchen. The fragrance infusing the house is reminding me of making it for the first time, a year ago; almost the first thing I did when newly arrived here.

For the last two-and-a-bit years my website has consisted of a splash page saying something along the lines of ‘there’ll be something here by November 12th, so come back and have a look sometime’. My initially accidental omission of writing the year to which the November 12th referred has served the unintended purpose of giving me licence (so I (re)assure myself) to ignore any requirement to update. (A friend of mine has subsequently referred to the process of checking to see if I had actually updated the site as being akin to going to a gallery and knowing that one’s favourite painting will always reassuringly be in the same place on the wall. I have two such rituals, one a small Dutch 17th century oil in the National Gallery, and the other a mid 20th century portrait in the National Portrait Gallery. When I’m on my pilgrimage to them I often also greet a former teacher’s favoured Piero della Francesca in the National, and a big, mysterious portrait in the Portrait Gallery, which intrigued an ex boyfriend.) But the time has come to perturb the lazy comfort of the annual inaccuracy and to update my museum of a site. Time to put forth something of my now, as I have severally promised.

Last week I spent two nights sleeping in my thirteen year old nephew’s top bunk. My intermittent life as an Artist in Residence may not be as glamorous as I could imagine, but it does have the compensations of central heating and a degree of ready urbanity; two things that shimmer with a comfortable glow as I look towards the dark depths of the approaching/ encroaching rural Cornish winter. My here and the there are rather dissimilar.

I was explaining to some friends yesterday about the residency, and realised how much I have learned already, in only a month. The conversation that initiated the application for the post was an attempt by me to understand how photomultipliers work (I still don’t, but I do now understand something of what the interconnect problem is, which at that time I hadn’t heard of). And as I now sit to write something of what that past month has included I realise it’s almost too late to be starting writing; my image of a ring resonator has already shifted from glowing glass doughnut to rigid lanes of light; my electronic engineering innocence has been corrupted with understanding.

But I am getting ahead of myself, I should introduce us all. Graham Reed and his group, based in the Department of Electronic Engineering at the University of Surrey, work on silicon photonics. My initial, uninformed, understanding of these words was of the passage of light through silicon (imaginings of rapturously luminescent glass sculptures), although they have a rather different way of explaining what it entails at I (“artist”, formerly “scientist”) am spending ten months working among and alongside Graham’s group, in an Artist in Residence post that is funded by the Leverhulme Trust ( Rather thrillingly I am based in the purportedly most hazardous building on the University campus. Before working as an artist I worked as a marine microbiologist, and so have an understanding of how research science in academia is. However, I haven’t studied physics and maths since school, so the general level of the real work that the group undertake is well beyond my knowledge and understanding. So far. But I am interested in interdisciplinarity, and the potential for catalysis of ideas and knowledge generation through integration of dissimilar skills, so I'm intrigued as to how my interaction there will shape and be shaped by silicon photonics. As artist I am making work in a range of media (drawing, photography, glass, sound, words, etc.) that are related to and impacted by the silicon photonics, but which also incorporate ideas that have previously suffused my work – light, photosynthesis, knowledge...

One aspect of the residency is that I’m attempting to document my side of the interaction; endeavouring to map my journey through the process of learning, exploring the tributaries of understanding. My primary vehicle in this effort is to be words, which I shall deposit here, dear reader, for your perusal, consideration and hopefully even enjoyment and stimulation. Written on this laptop somewhere in the mists of elsewhere, and transferred via the marvels of silicon (and myriad other processes) to you, in your here and now.

(For variously related other words and images of mine see the very gradually evolving aforementioned

Hence what follows (or maybe, in the (psycho?) geography of a blog, precedes) is to be an irregularly updated record, with varying degrees of understanding, incomprehension and sophistication, of here and there and things that happen within and between the two, from when it began, until the end of July 2011.

So here goes.

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