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alt space

alt space (2021 – ongoing) is a long-form art project from an observer’s view into new technological developments as they unfold. alt space draws from many conversations and time immersed with engineers, materials scientists, physicists and others who are developing the newest architecture for information technologies years in advance of their commercial or industrial application. Central to the project is the Advanced Nanoscale Engineering Group (ANE) in the University of Oxford led by Prof Harish Bhaskaran who kindly invited me to observe the futuristic work of his group. ANE conducts multi-disciplinary research relating to applied nanotechnology, with particular focus on integrated photonics and nano-manufacturing.

alt space encompasses regular cross-disciplinary conversation, sculptural and multimedia installation, art intervention, prose poetry, image making, essay writing, exhibitions and other modes; as a new world mediated by advanced, new technologies is ‘unearthed.’

Please see at this link an essay of mine selected as a News Feature on the University of Oxford’s website:

Part of the project (alt space, 2022) involved creating an environment as an art intervention into the ANE lab at Oxford to reflect the abundant creativity of the group. In this historic town, festooned with dusty and ragged flags, strange pointed turrets; nameless gargoyles and stone figures watch great minds come and go as terms, years, decades, centuries pass. I thought it fitting that ANE should have their own colours and regalia. The installation is a small gesture, a wink of sorts, to the amusing contradiction of the group’s futuristic work being carried out enthusiastically in the medieval settings of Oxford. In this instance, the installation is a ‘meeting space’ of textiles, flags, seating and small abstract sculptures made using materials such as ribbon cable, copper and aluminium tape, cable sheathing, composite scientific and abstract imagery, Rexroth components and other parts. The idea was to add something subtly surprising to the day to day experience of the lab–a free and buoyant space to think–to allow the abundant creativity of this group of gifted researchers to flow. Many of the images on the flags and pouffes made for the ANE Lab were composites of scientific imagery from the group’s research. The three main, purple, medieval-style flags show imagery [credit: Bhaskaran Lab] from three publications by members of Bhaskaran Lab and colleagues:

(1) Feldmann, J., Youngblood, N., Karpov, M. et al. Parallel convolutional processing using an integrated photonic tensor core. Nature 589, 52–58 (2021). Link to publication (paywall)

(2) Z. Cheng, C. Ríos, H. P. Pernice Wolfram, C. D. Wright, H. Bhaskaran, On-chip photonic synapse. Sci. Adv. 3, e1700160 (2017). Read here

(3) Nikolaos Farmakidis et al., Plasmonic nanogap enhanced phase-change devices with dual electrical-optical functionality. Sci. Adv. 5, eaaw2687 (2019). Read here

Click on images below to enlarge:

‘Otherworld.’ 2024. Prose poem written and spoken by Méadhbh O’Connor. Commissioned by Museum of Fine Arts, Florida State University, U.S.A. as part of the exhibition ‘Talamh agus Teanga: Land and Language in Contemporary Irish Art,’ curated by Dr. Kristin Dowell. Minimalist, spoken-word artwork that fuses classical meters, mythical and Irish tropes with references to science–a contemporary play on allegorical devices. The work makes subtle allusions to a longing for timelessness and the eternal. Link to exhibition catalogue.
The Physicist (2023). Part of an ongoing series of poetic vignettes. Here, conversations with a physicist friend are vaguely recounted and placed in a surreal landscape–a recollection that circumnavigates memory, the imagined, the analytic and the poetic. It comes from personal experience of the subtle creativity that can spark from friendships between artists and scientists in ambient and indirect ways.