NEW COMMISSION- Sarah Sparkes – GHost Formula

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-12-22-37Still from film ‘Time You Need’ by Sarah Sparkes, 2015.

My new commission, The GHost Formula, is part of the group exhibition No Such Thing As Gravity, curated by Rob La Frenais.

No Such Thing As Gravity

November 11 2016 – February 6 2017


88 Wood Street

Liverpool N1

&Williamson’s Tunnels Heritage Centre
The Old Stable Yard, Smithdown Ln, Liverpool L7 3EE

The work is located at FACT – The Foundation for Art and Creative Technology and Williamson’s Tunnels Heritage Centre. The project has been supported by FACT and the National Lottery through Arts Council England and is in association with National Museums Liverpool


No Such Thing as Gravity

Exhibition at FACT, Liverpool

11 November 2016 – 5 February 2017

Press Preview and Artist Talks: 10 November 2016, 11am – 12.30pm, The Box

The opening of the exhibition coincides with Day of Collisions, a programme of events by FACT and Arts at CERN,including talks and workshops around art and science.

This autumn, FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) presents the ambitious new exhibition. No Such Thing as Gravity , exploring the ever-changing limits of science, through art. Showing at FACT from 11 November 2016 until 5 February 2017, the exhibition will feature a wide range of works  merging art with scientific experiments, new and future technologies, and exploring the borders between life and death, as well as the limitations of our consciousness.

Curated by Rob La Frenais, No Such Thing as Gravity  will exhibit both new commissions and existing works by artists including Tania Candiani, Yin-Ju Chen, Gina Czarnecki / John Hunt, Evelina Domnitch & Dmitry Gelfand, Nick Laessing, Nahum Mantra, Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Helen Pynor and Sarah Sparkes. Artworks include a car fuelled by water, a ghost inducing robot, and portraits made of skin cells.

No Such Thing as Gravity  explores the idea of science being a continuing quest for knowledge, rather than a fixed framework. The exhibition is formed around the areas of science where the absence of established facts leave room for new theories, alternative science, conspiracy theories and irrational beliefs. The Ghost Formula  (2016) by Sarah Sparkes (UK) takes inspiration from Marcel Duchamp’s artwork, A GUEST + A HOST = A GHOST (1953), and is one of the artworks exploring mysteries surrounding the relationship between the living and the dead. Sparkes’ aim is to create a research archive which investigates the nature of ghosts and their ‘hosts’, and the conditions in which ghosts may be made.  The archive draws on Liverpool’s historical and contemporary ghost narratives with input from experts within various fields and also includes two visually mesmerizing ‘infinity portals’ inviting spectators to visit two separate locations, and a robotic machine attempting to create a ghost. Another example is the new research project The End is a Distant Memory  (2016) by Helen Pynor (AU/GB), which explores the ambiguous borders between life and death at cellular and experiential levels by studying ‘marginal’ cells that remain alive inside dead tissue, and experiences of people who have survived clinical death. Similarly, Heirloom  (2016) by Gina Czarnecki and John Hunt (UK) tests the limits of medical science and the possibility of using cell growth to recapture eternal youth. Looking at the potential impact of innovation on personal identity, and being able to ‘make’ ourselves, artist Czarnecki and scientist Hunt have created a living process of growth tissue, where delicate skin cells frame portraits of Czarnecki’s daughters. Visitors will also be able to explore the rapid prototyping used to develop the bases for these masks, and 3D print model versions of their own faces.

One of the artworks investigating the laws of physics is Water Gas Car  (2013 – present) by Nick Laessing (UK/DE), which questions what energy really is. Drawing on his research into the alternative energy community, Laessing has been attempting to build a car that is fuelled only by water. The three-channel video installation Action at a Distance  (2015) describes a universe where science and pseudoscience are simply two complementary routes to understanding human life, and is the third chapter in a series of work by  Yin-Ju Chen (TW), supported by the Taiwanese Ministry of Culture. This chapter addresses the body, governments, and state violence. The second chapter in Chen’s project, Extrastellar Evaluations II: A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems will be displayed at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) in Manchester from 21 October 2016 until 15 January 2017, partially coinciding with No Such Thing as Gravity. Inspired by and borrowed from Galileo’s book A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, the second chapter discusses the order and the meaning of the consciousness of the solar system. Curator Rob La Frenais has spent 17 years working with artists in scientific environments through the science-art organisation The Art Catalyst. Having accessed places such as space agencies and nuclear facilities, La Frenais says: “Contemporary art and science collaborations have now reached a state of unprecedented maturity, with artist residencies at CERN, European Space Agency, Antarctica stations, and other places previously closed to outsiders. Is it now a good time to examine some of the admitted fault-lines of knowledge, and for artists to work creatively with scientists to suggest some more transformative and less conventional approaches?”

No Such Thing as Gravity will be accompanied by  a comprehensive public programme of performances and talks, including  Sarah Sparkes’ continuation of her programme of research seminars – Ghost Hostings  – with an interdisciplinary seminar and performance event exploring the concept of ‘a formula for ghost making’.

An  extensive film programme of both popular cinema and artist-made, and selected, film will also be offered throughout the exhibition. Additionally, there will be a  live programme focusing on the use of technology within music, showcasing female producers who work within this field, and the ‘magic’ of hardware and software will be unlocked through a  series of learning sessions with local coding club Liverpool Girl Geeks. Family friendly activities such as playful hands-on experiments introducing coding, arduino technology, and basic robotics will also be happening at FACT alongside the show.

The preview of the exhibition on 10 November coincides with the FACT and Arts at CERN event Day of Collisions , which will offer a range of activities investigating the relationship between art and science. The event is part of the three-year COLLIDE CERN FACT Framework Partnership, which includes workshops, events, and the International Residency Award COLLIDE, granting an artist a fully funded residency split between CERN in Geneva, and FACT in Liverpool. Day of Collisions will include an  Arts at CERN roundtable discussion with  South Korean artist Yunchul Kim, the winner of this year’s COLLIDE International Award, and his partner scientist from CERN, who will discuss Kim’s residency project Cascade and their experience of, and the possibilities for, a meaningful art and science collaboration.  This will be the first public presentation of the residency, and the revelation of Kim’s partnering scientist. Day of Collisions will also present a No Such Thing As Gravity  Artist Talk, where a number of artists will discuss their work in the exhibition, followed by a panel discussion with curator La Frenais. The yearly  Roy Stringer Memorial Lecture, sponsored by Amaze, will host writer, political commentator and broadcaster Will Self to give a typically provocative lecture on the relationship between art and science, and host a Q&A session with the audience. There will also be  opportunities to participate in the event Voyage: A session for remembering, where artist Nahum Mantra uses hypnotism to explore the possibilities of producing an intimate experience of travelling to the Moon. Additionally, a  Tarot Card workshop with artist Yin-Ju Chen will teach participants the art of tarot cards, introducing mystic symbols to encourage participants to develop their trust in their intuition. This workshop will also take place at Godlee Observatory, University of Manchester on Tuesday

18 October 6pm – 7.30pm, as part of Chen’s exhibition Extrastellar Evaluations II – A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems at CFCCA.

Exhibition highlights FACT’s Gallery 1 will host a variety of works by artists motivated by how theoretical physicists are still not in agreement about fundamental concepts, and artists who use bio-medical research as part of their examinations and artworks. A selection of works by Evelina Domnitch (NL/BY) and Dmitry Gelfand (NL/RUS) will be on display, including the new commission Quantum Lattice (2016), which is based on experiments with an ion trap, a scientifc instrument which at the end of the 20th century enabled physicists to investigate the quantum behaviour of single isolated atoms for the very frst time. Thirty years later, the ion trap has become a key instrument in experimental physics and quantum computing, and provides the only means to capture and store antimatter. Using pulsed laser illumination to reveal the ceaseless oscillations of trapped particles, this new work investigates the subtle interactions between light, electrodynamically levitated matter, and gravitational forces. Quantum Lattice was produced in collaboration with FEAT (Future Emerging Art and Technology). Heirloom  (2016) by Gina Czarnecki and John Hunt (UK) tests the limits of medical science and the possibility of using cell growth to recapture eternal youth. Looking at the potential impact of innovation on personal identity, and being able to ‘make’ ourselves, artist Czarnecki and scientist Hunt have created a living process of growth tissue, where delicate skin cells frame portraits of Czarnecki’s daughters. Visitors will also be able to explore the rapid prototyping used to develop the bases for these masks, and 3D print model versions of their own faces. It imagines and offers a cultural laboratory for the future of the face. Heirloom is created by Gina Czarnecki and John Hunt, with Saskia and Lola Czarnecki-Stubbs, and developed for display with Medical Museion as part of the EU Creative Europe funded project, Trust Me I’m an Artist. Heirloom is supported using public funding by Arts Council England and is a Forma Arts touring production.

Action at a Distance  (2015) is the third chapter in a series of work by  Yin-Ju Chen (TW), addressing the body, governments, and state violence. Like previous chapters, this three channel video installation expands and summarizes the metaphysical threads between invasive surgeries and instances of state violence. This chapter and its previous iterations ultimately describe a cohesive and interwoven universe, where science and pseudoscience are merely two complementary routes to understanding human life. The project is supported by the Taiwanese Ministry of Culture. Water Gas Car  (2013-present) by Nick Laessing (UK/DE) questions what energy really is, and if it always adheres to the laws of physics. Investigating theories about free energy, cold fusion and new forms of propulsion, Laessing has spent a decade visiting backyard inventors, and is attempting to build a car that is fuelled only by water, neither accepting nor rejecting the idea that his experiments might work.

Studies in Applied Falling / Hammer and Feather (2012) by  Agnes Meyer-Brandis (DE) will also be on display in Gallery 1. The point of departure of the project is the exploration of gravity in the tradition of Galileo’s famous theory of free fall. The legendary proof, delivered by the astronaut David Scott on the Apollo15 lunar mission in 1971, serves the artist as a metaphor for the inscrutability of reality and the obscurity of scientific research methods. Agnes Meyer-Brandis sees Scott’s experiment as an artistic directive – her laboratory re-enactment of the hammer and feather experiment is just one of numerous apparent studies of objects and phenomena that oscillate between falling and floating: fallen stars, space debris, interstellar dust, gravitational interference and meteor craters. The video Hammer and Feather drop, Braunschweig was realised in cooperation with the Institute for Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics (IGEP) of the TU Braunschweig.

Gallery 2 will host the new research project The End is a Distant Memory (2016) by Helen Pynor (AU/GB), exploring the ambiguous borders between life and death at cellular and experiential levels. Working as artist in residence at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden during 2015, Pynor has studied ‘marginal’ cells that remain alive inside dead tissue, considering the implications of a breakdown between living ‘subject’ and dead ‘object’, and investigated the experiences of people who have survived clinical death. This project is supported by the Australia Council for the Arts. Gina Czarnecki’s project MyPod, by The Lastwish Company Ltd.  will be displayed on The Wall on the first floor at FACT, responding to how coffins remain as expensive, environmentally harmful and old-fashioned as they were 300 years ago, even though the rest of the world has moved on inextricably.  Czarnecki’s affordable MyPod  is the only ‘coffin’ made out of a new, strong, 100% natural and biodegradable material, whilst also being suitable for all crematoriums and burial grounds. Designed to empower people at their most vulnerable, whilst making a statement about our relationship with the world, people can personalise the MyPod, using photographs, personal messages, tickets, and mementos, helping to process grief through art, design and remembrance.

Housed on the ground floor, the new commission The Ghost Formula  (2016) by Sarah Sparkes (UK), taking inspiration from Marcel Duchamp’s artwork, A GUEST + A HOST = A GHOST (1953), aims to create  a research archive presenting an interrogation of the nature of ghosts and their ‘hosts’, and the conditions in which ghosts may be made. Drawing on Liverpool’s historical and contemporary ghost narratives, contributions have been collected in collaboration with local paranormal research groups, psychologists, neuroscientists, academics, spiritualist churches as well as the wider community. Chris French, Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, has also contributed his expert knowledge on the psychology of paranormal beliefs.  The archive doubles as an interactive installation, and includes two visually mesmerizing ‘infinity portals’ inviting spectators to visit two separate locations, and to consider the nature of their material movement through time. Williamson Tunnels Heritage Centre has commissioned Sarah Sparkes to undertake a residency, workshops and new commission on site supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, in partnership with FACT and National Museums Liverpool.  A robotic machine will also be designed by the artist, attempting to create a ghost.

The large-scale projection Machine For Flying Besnier 1673  by Tania Candiani (MX) was made in zero gravity in Star City in Russia, as part of the Matters of Gravity project. Candiani, who represented Mexico at the Venice Biennale last year, works with disappearing projects and the poetic uses of engineering. Projected onto Ropewalks Square, this new work, shown for the first time in the UK, is based on pioneering anti gravitational devices and marvellous inventions that were ahead of their time.

In parallel with No Such Thing as Gravity,  new work by Amy Worsley (UK), Fine Art student from Liverpool Hope University and winner of the 2016 FACT+Liverpool Hope Production Residency Award, will also be on display. Using the exhibition as a starting point, Worsley has worked with a scientist and a Reiki healer to develop The Chakra Chair, which uses vibrations to mimic the healing powers of touch. The project asks how scientific ‘approval’ affects our opinion of what could be considered a spiritual belief, highlighting the relationship between science and wellbeing.

No Such Thing as Gravity will tour to National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art (NTMoFA), from April until June



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About Rob La Frenais Dr Rob La Frenais is an independent contemporary art curator, working internationally and creatively with artists entirely on original commissions. From 1997 and for seventeen years onwards, La Frenais was based at The Arts Catalyst, where he developed an ambitious artistic programme and was responsible for some of the most innovative art and science exhibitions and events in the world. For example, La Frenais was the frst curator ever to experience zero gravity, and went on to enable around 50 artists and scientists to work in an environment previously only experienced by astronauts and space scientists. His last major exhibition with The Arts Catalyst, Republic of the Moon, happened in 2013-14 at FACT and London’s South Bank. More recent exhibitions include Aerosolar by Tomas Saraceno, Rubin Center, University of Texas at El Paso and White Sands Desert, New Mexico; When the Future was About Fracking, Centrespace at Dundee Contemporary Arts; Exoplanet Lot, Maison Des Arts Georges Pompidou, France; and sites throughout the Lot Valley, SW France. La Frenais is also a writer and editor, and founded the infuential contemporary cultural journal Performance Magazine in 1979. He is currently developing a contemporary project and website about Performance Magazine with Live Art Development Agency, is a visiting fellow of Bournemouth University, and a visiting curator at the Maison Des Arts Georges Pompidou, Cajarc, France. La Frenais also runs the 3-year Future of Transportation project at Srishti Institute, Bangalore.