Philosophy was the common ground in the collaboration between cosmologist Nicolas Angelides and artist Daniele Giannetti and deep questions about the nature of the universe occupied a large portion of their early development in the If a Tree Falls project.

Dark matter had a special place in their conversations. This mysterious and elusive form of matter comprises the majority of matter in the observable universe. Its existence is accepted by the majority of the scientific community, however direct evidence has not yet been confirmed. Even though millions of dark matter particles may pass through your body every single day, it may take hundreds of years before just one particle interacted with a particle in your body. From the scientific point of view, Nicolas and Daniele were specifically interested in the methodology implemented to search for something so elusive.

The search for elusive dark matter was explored through participatory workshops in Epping Forest, near London and became the foundation for the final artwork to be exhibited at the Grizedale Forest Visitor’s Centre Project Space.

The concept of “time” was a critical factor in the conceptual development of their artwork. In special relativity time is interchangeable with space and can be bent and twisted. In nuclear physics time mandates the decay of atoms, its direction is defined through entropy, framing every single event in a continuous steam. Within each moment new possibilities emerge, as scientists we seek these moments of insight, as artists we capture and represent them.

In the search for dark matter “time” is a double edged sword. The optimists claim that it is only a matter of time until dark matter is directly observed. With bigger instruments, newer technologies and larger groups of scientist, discovery may be just a moment away. The pessimists may claim that direct detection of Dark Matter may be too rare to ever confirm with certainty. The undecided  wait in anticipation.

Daniele and Nicolas’ final artwork ‘Instance’ seeks to capture this anticipation, a potential moment which could afford a revelation or provide evidence. In creating the artwork the pair used a metaphor of water on stone to represent the impact of dark matter on physical matter. A magnified drop of water is suspended in space and time at the top of a four metre high photographic print.  On the floor of the gallery, below the water drop, a large stone chosen from Grizedale Forest sits in anticipation of that moment of discovery.

Dark Matter may be just an instance away from discovery. An instance that will transform our view of the universe, shaping our future understanding.

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