[ISEA2016] Panel Statement: Chris Henschke — The Edge of the Singularity

Panel Statement

Panel: The Affect of Quantum Phenomena on Media Art

In my paper I will discuss my practice with art and particle physics, focusing on the panel’s central theme of “Singularity”. I will argue that the “singularity”, a point with no dimensions, cannot exist in any meaningful sense as a physical entity, yet it underpins much of quantum physics. Although it is a hypothetical entity, yet which becomes more manifest as we get closer to it, it will never be fully realized. I believe that the singularity can be understood as a “coherent” entity, to borrow from the concept of “quantum coherence” – in the interaction between the coherent entity and the physical world (i.e. as soon as we attempt to measure it) it “decoheres” from a theoretical form into the physical forms of space, time, energy and matter. Like Zeno’s arrow, the nearer we get to the singularity, the harder it becomes to get there.
I was inspired towards this position whilst undertaking an “art@CMS” collaboration at the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector at CERN. During my time at CERN I heard (as yet unsubstantiated) rumours from the coalface of the Large Hadron Collider, that the recently discovered Higgs Boson (a.k.a. the ‘God Particle’), postulated as the most fundamental particle, may actually be a composite entity, made up of other higher energy particles. This empirically suggests the concept that the journey towards the “singularity” is like a Zeno’s arrow of ever-decreasing scales and increasing energies.
I will augment my discussion by presenting one of my projects, Edge of the Observable (2014). This is an audiovisual artwork that explores the limits of materiality and knowledge through an experimental manifestation of data taken from experiments at CMS. The work seeks to manifest the sublime and dynamic parameters of particle collision event data by enhancing the formal material and energetic qualities of such data, using an experimental optical physics setup I developed. This enhances the area in the core of the collisions, which is a tiny black void-like sphere, technically termed the ‘vertex of kinematic undetectability’. Like the event horizon around a black hole, we can see the dark edge of its form but perhaps never access its heart. Thus the “singularity” becomes a symbol of our striving for ever increasing knowledge, pulling us ever closer towards what is an ultimately unattainable goal.

  • Chris Henschke, RMIT University, AU

Full text (PDF)  p. 426-428