Somewhere In the Universe It Rains Diamonds (Aether)

2021

As stars die they send out cosmic rays, which bombard and pass through us invisibly. The installation Somewhere In the Universe it Rains Diamonds (Aether) makes them visceral. Inside a glass sphere the cosmic rays appear as wisps and streaks - vapour trails through mist. But they produce boneshaking sound. Sound derived from inside the body - the artist’s voice, itself passed through a medium of digital processing and then removed from the mix, leaving behind its own sonic vapour trail.

The piece is comprised of a bespoke cloud chamber and a live camera feeding images to an image recognition model trained on thousands of previous images of cosmic rays labeled with one of five types of particle. When it recognises one in real time it triggers the corresponding sound - one of the first five notes of the circle of fifths: CGDAE, setting the volume to the level of certainty the algorithm has in the categorisation. This is channeled through a 100 watt bass amplifier, which is loud enough to feel in your body.

For millennia, we’ve looked to the skies to make sense of our lives. The Ancient Greeks added Aether to the four earthly elements to explain the unseen forces pulling and pushing the cosmos, Aristotle positing that the heavenly bodies were glass spheres full of it. More recently scientists theorised that when stars collapse they fuse into massive diamonds, and that exoplanet atmospheres turn carbon into diamond rain, events we can’t see, but that provoke a double-edged desire: diamonds falling from the sky would make us unfathomably wealthy, but tear us to shreds. This past year another unseen force ravaged through us, and we yearned for human contact but knew that very contact could destroy us.

This piece seeks to evoke our vulnerability to the things we desire and to reflect our longing for transcendence as we damage ourselves and our environment. It attempts to make the invisible visceral and to connect our earthly bodies to the far reaches of the universe.