Cambridge University – The First Cavendish Laboratory Art Exhibition





SciArt in Cambridge’s first SciArt Exhibition at the prestigious Cavendish Laboratory took place from the 19th – 24th March 2018 as part of the Cambridge Science Festival 2018.

I presented a pendulum (pictured) and a photopolymer etching of static electricity.

Artists inspired and informed by Science, working in all media, submitted work with some relationship to Physics or its language – Mathematics – and therefore tie in with the theme of Cambridge Science Festival 2018 “Making Sense of the World”.

There was a diverse array of work on show: paintings, films, photography, sculpture, installation, kinetic and wearables. The show was held in various spaces in the Cavendish Laboratory and showcased artworks produced by members of the SciArt in Cambridge Community as well as internationally.

The the private view took place on Tuesday 20th March followed by an evening of artists’ talks in the Pippard Lecture Theatre.

My MA degree show installation – ‘Kinetic Energy’



I have recently completed the MA Art and Science course at Central Saint Martins. For my degree show, I wanted to present work that mapped and visually traced a variety of processes including oscillations, Lichtenberg figures and pendulum movements using a variety of mechanisms like harmonographs and Wimshurst machines. My practice involves finding ways of visualising mathematical concepts and the nature of physical laws, from electromagnetism and sound to elementary particles. I have been researching and selecting different types of natural phenomena that can be described using equations.


I applied to show my work at Imperial College as part of the Center for Doctoral Training event. I displayed some pieces that are direct visualisations of static electricity (Lichtenberg figures, see below). During my time at the college, I spoke to MRes student Jeevan Soor about my works. He spoke to me about Maxwell’s equations and how they help to describe Lichtenberg figures. I wondered if the toner dusting process had been used in forensic science and he mentioned that footprints are recorded using an electrostatic lifter. Forensic scientists use a device that generates static charge, and the charge draws the dust from the print on to the black plastic.




I have been exploring the possibilities of using electricity as an artistic tool. Through using a Wimshurst machine, I have been charging up plastic surfaces with static then dusting powders on the surface, thus visualising the invisible Lichtenberg figures left in the plastic. I then exposed the patterns onto photopolymer plates, resulting in works that are visually similar to the piece above. The works are direct visual representations of electricity.



I demonstrated and recorded sound oscillations. This is a recording of sound oscillations on a sooted glass plate. One of the two prongs was equipped with a metal tip. I also used the tuning fork on a zinc etching plate. (below)




The artwork below depicts different phases of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction (2016). The zebrafish is a model organism for pattern formation in vertebrates. First found in chemicals in dishes, (Belousov-Zhabotinsky) then in the stripes and spirals and whorls of animals, Turing patterns are everywhere. Perhaps these patterns extend to ecosystems and galaxies. My plotting electrode and its graphical depiction of Kepler’s laws (image above, 2017) is also a visual representation of Turing inhibitors because the electrode is constantly turning on and off – hence the zebrafish texture.


I’m interested in making links between processes, using the micro to explain the macro – for example, Lissajous figures drawn in sand could be illustrative of Lissajous orbits – the orbital trajectories of planets. My work unravels like Ariadne’s thread, proceeding by using multiple means and attempting exhaustive applications of logic.
Some of the processes are mathematically chaotic in nature, and leave behind a fractal pattern. The idea of chaotic patterning is fascinating and may seem contradictory – one pendulum may represent chaotic motion, the other harmonic – the Lichtenberg figures are chaotic discharges, but may also display self-similarity.

I’m interested in the idea of the mechanical prosthesis between the artist and the art – the work being able to describe something of the natural world. The performative aspect of the work also takes the form of scientific demonstration to be able to describe something about the inventor or discoverer of the equipment or process I am demonstrating.

The delineation of time is also important – simply through visual analysis, the individual strokes of some of my pieces can be given time stamps. The marks produced by plotting electrodes change in reference to its speed – the same can be said for the tuning fork works.

How do these small (Wimshurst machine) and giant (the Large Hadron Collider) technological devices help us to understand the physical universe on different scales?

The relationships that connect this world together are mysterious, indeed, why do these relationships exist? Why and when does mathematical structure appear? Is it that the structure of physical laws is transmitted from a solitary point – the symmetry that becomes diminished and scatters as the universe unwinds itself to the viewer?

50 Unit exposure vs 25, ‘Bayer MaterialScience’

New photopolymer etching, 420 x 594 mm, named ‘Bayer MaterialScience’ (2016)

I named it ‘Bayer MaterialScience’ due to the text that becomes visualised through the process I use.

I’m using the usual process with static electricity, discharging it onto plastic and then visualising it with toner powder. An interesting development with this process has been the discovery of text. Usually I am just able to visualise the static charge, but I also have been able to visualise the text on the plastic wrapping. As the plastic wrapping is peeled away, I already hear static clicks – and a negative of the writing is left on the plastic. I then visualise the text. Interestingly, through the photopolymer process, the writing finds itself ‘corrected’ – it is no longer back to front in the final etching. This whole process in the etching workshop is a multi-layered deconstruction and play with the printing process.


Below, I also compare the photopolymer etching produced by using a 50 and a 25 unit exposure. I am not entirely sure which look I prefer. I think some of the detail has been burned out for the 50 unit exposure – some of the richness is lacking – but I like the particularly strong contrast for the 50 unit exposure and the way the text has become slightly accentuated.


Open Studio event and performances from Kyoto Saga University of the Arts; Olfactory art

Olfactory art is somewhat uncommon. However, there is something intoxicating about the idea – humans have become fascinated by searching for heady scents – from ambergris to musk. Quite often, the most intoxicating smells seem to come from the most unsavoury sources – whale vomit (ambergris) and musk – secretions from mammalian scent glands.

It seems we value our visual and auditory senses more highly when considering art – during the performances, an artist from Kyoto Saga mentions how smell is acknowledged, then dropped immediately. We don’t really consider how subjective our experience of scent may be. According to this Ted talk, 75% of people can’t detect an unusual smell in urine after the consumption of asparagus.

There seems to be a whole world of untapped potential in the specific world of smells.

I very much enjoyed smelling the sandalwood incense and learning about Kōdō – the specific ceremony. The whole experience was intoxicating. The performance piece and interactive elements involved in the artwork documented below contained a sense of tension – spectators watched as they waited for the participants to drop pink or white flowers. Dropping a red flower would signal that the participant found a certain aroma sexually exciting. It turned out that nobody dropped a red flower. During conversation with people about the performance, one spectator noted that the interpretation of pink or red as sexual and white as pure was somewhat outdated, and that for perfume adverts, this dichotomy was almost always echoed. It is reminiscent of the blue for a boy and pink for a girl gender myth.

The Open Studio was a worthwhile event. I had many interesting conversations and have a lot of reading to do.

I was spoken to about SQUIDS (are the basis of MEG

SQUID is a very sensitive magnetometer used to measure extremely subtle magnetic fields… I want to see how I can incorporate this idea into my work.

Dr Adam Taylor Tierney — Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London

I also want to research Adam Taylor Tierney a bit more:

Dr Adam Taylor Tierney specialises in the human auditory and motor systems that provide the foundation for abilities such as language and music in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Birkbeck, University of London.

Journal of Pedagogic Development:

I also found out about stochastic processes in relation to my work, and the matter of Monte Carlo models and statistical corrections for gyroscopic motion.

Curving charged particle tracks, fluid dynamics etc.

I have been able to change the direction of the flow of particles using a magnet to ‘curve’ them. I’ve been thinking about the work of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot and Linda Sanchez.

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot

Boursier-Mougenot’s work was presented at the Abbatoirs in 2014 in an exhibition called ‘Disturbances’. The exhibition focussed on that which is immaterial, in particular information and data flow. I was interested in Celeste Boursier-Mougenot’s piece that audibly and visually represented cosmic radiation.  When these rays were detected, a cascade of water was triggered that fell onto an acoustic drum. The imperceptible was made tangible, and the audio, visuals and subatomic world were melded into something singular and elegant. This is the sort of thing I’d want to produce for my postgraduate degree show.


My documentation of the curvature of particle tracks in a Wilson chamber using a magnet, today.

How to make this into an art piece?

At the moment I’m documenting experiments, but need to make sure the visual choices made make sense in an art context.

Is there a way of lighting the experiment with UV?

I have an idea to trace the movement of particles while photographing the screen… I might do this tomorrow…

My brief chaotic pendulum animation with sounds


Above: an exchange on Twitter, Kepes, CERN



ALCOHOL WORKS BEST. Rubbing alcohol is ineffective, as is methylated spirit. I was surprised at the inefficacy of methylated spirit as it was recommended in the Griffin and George laboratory equipment manual.  

FLUID DYNAMICS -STARRY NIGHT.  Hair curvature, Da Vinci. 




Blade Runner

Linda Sanchez

Linda Sanchez’s piece ‘Chronographie: A Teardrop Dress‘ (pictured below) is spread over 8 meters against a wall. The fine black lines in the work appear like contour lines in cartography, perhaps particularly an ordinance survey map. Sanchez explores the properties of materials. This work investigates the processes behind particle movement, in particular the movement of drops of water, the result becoming simultaneously poetic and scientific. Sanchez  observed droplets of water moving down large slides that she built over a long period of time. The video that opens her exhibition invites the audience to contemplate minute movements of water – the reflection of natural light on it’s surface, the way it rolls and accelerates when it swallows other drops, or being held back in it’s ‘race’, it’s behaviour when meeting an insect and the way it consumes dust … quite fascinating. Then the artist was interested in the traces left (like snail mucous left by a trail)… by the water when it withdrew from a space. She drew the frames of ‘water memory’ one at a time, creating graceful monochrome strips.

I’m hoping to track the movement of some of my pieces to evoke this sort of elegance. I’m already quite pleased with the subtlety of the wispy curves.

Chronographie: A Teardrop Dress





Summary of my piece of work:


Nicolas Strappini


This piece of work references Cage’s contribution to the original ‘9 Evenings’ (1966) event through the use of static and the sounds of it being discharged using a machine. John Cage applied the principle of randomness by picking up radio signals – my Lichtenberg figure patterns seen in this piece are ‘chaotic’. In radio reception, noise is the superposition of white noise and other disturbing influences. These noises are often referred to as static. I am playing with two meanings of the word static – the noun being the way Cage intended, the adjective being the way I intend it to be used in reference to my piece. I also wanted to produce a live-feed performance, referencing Whitman’s ‘Side Effects’ (2016).


Title of exhibition:


Why make it simple, when you can make it complex?


This day long event has arisen from a month long collaboration between a group of students from MA Art and Science at Central Saint Martins, UAL, and recent graduates from Goldsmiths and Farnham. The group came together as performers in Robert Whitman’s new commission ‘Side Effects‘, produced as part of Arts Catalysts current season ‘9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering Revisited 1966/2016’. In collaboration with The Performance Studio, Arts Catalyst has since hosted weekly workshops for the group to develop a practical and historical perspective on performance practice and transdisciplinary working. The resulting performative installation involves individual works, collectively mediated by the group.

‘Why make it simple, when it can be made Complex?’

‘From Simplicity to Complexity and Back Again’ [Luhmann quote]

Notes / Points:

  • How does Technology help us, how does it create disadvantages?
  • Have we made things more difficult with technology, by trying to find solutions?
  • What is the impact of technology on our culture, communication and well-being?How can Performance be interpreted/transformed into our era? What is new? What can be renewed?


  • How can we use technology to reawaken the habituated mind?
  • Does technology/automation lead to a mechanical mind in the first place?
  • Does functional transcendence (Baudrillard) where objects act beyond what we expect lead to enhanced consciousness?
  • Why do we attribute human characteristics to technological objects?
  • Does the use of technology result in a loss of individuality?


The project ‘Why make it Simple when it can be made Complex’  has arisen from a two month collaboration between students from MA Art and Science, CSM and external alumni Mary Simmons, MA Fine Art, UCA Farnham . The group was brought together as part of the recent event of Arts Catalyst revisiting the ‘9 Evenings’ 50 years after its presentation in New York. During September the artists worked together on a performance with Robert Whitman, who participated in the original event. The project exhibited on the 29th of October is showing works in progress  interpreting performance in a time of increasing technological integration in our life. The participants respond to the collective research with their individual backgrounds, such as e.g. neurology, theatre design, fine art….   The works presented aim to respond with humor and awareness to the fast forwards developments in the Anthropocene, and invite the audience to interact and participate in this open debate.


Side Effects by Robert Whitman, Part of 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering Revisited 1966/2016. A night of new cross-disciplinary performance art and an archival exhibition at Central St Martins, London, 7th October 2016




High output air ionizer    7   Pounds

Mask                               5   Pounds

Mary Suggestion

Each of us could provide a bibliography of 3 books/journals etc that give a flavour of our research interests. Eg My interests include neuroscience-pre-cognitive affect, responses to objects, and space.


Reading list =

Damasio, A. (2012) Self comes to mind: Constructing the conscious brain. London: Vintage.

Baudrillard, J (2006) The System of Objects (radical thinkers).  London: Verso Books.

Lefebvre, H. and Nicholson-Smith, D. (1991) The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.


Installation View: Below