THE CLOUD CHAMBER
1911 is the year in which the first theoretical text by Wassily Kandinsky appeared, Über das Geistige in der Kunst (Concerning the Spiritual in Art), an esthetic discourse that lead to the practice of non-figurative abstraction. It is also the year in which Scottish scientist C.T.R. Wilson would create his first Cloud Chamber, a device capable of making recently discovered Cosmic Rays visible. Curiously, both creators would focus on exploring the representation –or documentation– of points and lines on planes, an area of research that would lead to Kandinsky’s second and most well-known book Punkt und Linie zu Fläche (Point and Line to Plane)
“The Cloud Chamber” is an exhibition based on the expanded practice of photography, founded in research and marked by an overwhelming phenomenological experience of space that takes advantage of the formal and temporal (1911) convergence of the first photographs of cosmic rays and the first text by Wassily Kandinsky to question the birth of pictorial abstraction as a break from representation.
LINAREJOS MORENO, 2017.
LINAREJOS MORENO. ASTRAL ELECTRICITY
ELENA VOZ MEDIANO
Despite the fact that Kandinsky demonstrated a great interest for Astronomy throughout his career -to such a degree that he considered constructing an observatory in his home in Moscow as early as 1905- it’s not clear that he was familiar with research on cosmic radiation, which was discovered in the same year, 1911, in which he moved toward abstraction. But in his Theosophy-derived ideas about the Cosmos, clearly echoed in his painting, we find intuitions that could be associated with cosmic rays. For Kandinsky, a work of art was the result of catastrophic collisions, and a product of an internal need incited by psychological “irradiations,” the sound vibrations that emanate from all the matter that surrounds us. And, as Linarejos Moreno (Madrid, 1974) has detected with great perception, there is a surprising coincidence between certain configurations in his work from the twenties -principally in the illustrations from Point and Line to Plane- and the photographs of cosmic rays taken decades later. Obviously, Kandinsky could not have seen these images, but the artist -who has been exploring a fertile line of historical connections between science and art- imagines that he might have perceived them. After all, cosmic particulates from violent galaxies pierce our brains incessantly. And that energy draws and sketches.
Linarejos Moreno recovered old photographs taken by meteorologist Charles Wilson with the “cloud chamber” that he invented in that crucial year of 1911 to make cosmic particles visible. From there, she takes two leaps through time. The first takes her to the seventies, when those other aforementioned photos were taken using “bubble chambers,” with far more sophisticated results that seem to be “negatives” of Kandinsky’s compositions. The second jump leads to the present, when she herself has become an observer of astral electricity by using the cloud chamber on exhibit in the neighboring National Museum of Science and Technology in Alcobendas to photograph and film the fleeting traces. The artist has chosen a pair of images from each of these three moments and transferred them to large burlap pieces, using her unique “photopainting” technique, in which she applies glazed layers of white over the support and the printed photographs, achieving the effect of a ghostly “apparition.” The effect echoes the dense clouds captured by Wilson’s camera, clouds in which the energy of the Cosmos is revealed.
In the video, a front recording of the cloud chamber, we witness the rain of particles directly while listening to a fragment of Three piano pieces, Opus 11, by Arnold Schönberg. With this soundtrack, which is well-suited to the electrical spectacle, Linarejos Moreno recalls the decisive encounter between Kandinsky and the composer in a concert that took place, again, in 1911, and in which the composer played the piece. Schönberg confirmed the painter’s sense of the musicality of the language of the cosmos, the musicality of those vibrations that the painter would translate into colors and abstract lines. Moreno glosses that idea through a sculptural, spatial mechanism for capturing vibrations: she has crossed the room with a giant musical instrument made of a large, heavy metal beam -on which she displays five copies of Point and Line to Plane- and one single cord that flies out to one of the burlap pieces and enters into the drawing. Taken together, it is an elegant essay on the poetry of science, the music of the spheres.
ELENA VOZMEDIANO, El Mundo, supplement El Cultural, January 26th, 2018, Print Edition.
LINAREJOS MORENO, SOBRE ARTE Y CIENCIA
Since Aristotle, art in its relation to science has been considered a type of knowledge. The difference between the two resided in the practical nature of art, next to the theoretical quality of science. It wasn’t until the eighteenth century, with the appearance of the modern concept of Beaux Arts, that art became disassociated with the utilitarian, and therefore separated from knowledge and science. As a result, art was relegated to the realm of beauty, and science to that of truth. Since that time, both disciplines have sought each other out mutually -like the divided androgynous of Aristophanes’ myth- with admiration, but with a certain perplexity. Science has used art (drawing, painting, photography, film) to illustrate and disseminate its knowledge, and art has turned to science as a pretext for its formal investigations.
The vision of Linarejos Moreno (Madrid, 1974) seems to have been captured by this relationship, trying to explore the beauty of scientific investigation. From her first work, she showed an absolute fascination with the abandoned spaces of technicians, scientists, and industry, pointing toward a sort of romantic nostalgia for the kinds of knowledge that remain there, forgotten or dormant. This fixation with science was apparent again in the superb exhibition presented in 2016 in the Botanical Gardens of Madrid, in which the artist rendered a kind of homage to the German photographer Karl Blossfeldt -one of the representatives of the New Objectivity- and his beautiful botanical volume Urformen der Kunst (1928). This admiration has even led her to create a book similar to Blossfeldt’s -almost a facsimile, recently published- for presenting her own work, with the unsettling title Art Forms in Mechanism, in which the word “nature” is crossed out and replaced with “mechanism.”
The current exhibition in Alcobendas, entitled The Cloud Chamber, is again dedicated to demonstrating the specific relationships between photography, art, and science. The Cloud Chamber is an invention of Scottish physicist Charles Wilson, created to study the behavior and trajectory of atomic and subatomic particles. By analyzing the ionization of the clouds, Wilson proved that the trajectory of certain particles could be visible in a saturated mix of water and vapor. This led him to construct a “cloud chamber” in 1911, for which he was given the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1927.
An unexpected turn
Moreno was dazzled by the beauty of the resulting images. In this exhibition, she presents the photographs of these images just as they appear in the primitive cloud chamber of 1911, along with other photos taken more recently with more evolved chambers, called “bubble chambers”. In this work, she again draws on her fascination with the connections between both disciplines, which in this case is emphasized by the surprising parallelism between these particle trajectories and Kandinsky’s first abstract works. But here the artist introduces a new turn in her work, a photographic self-reflection, when she presents us with images of images, and photographs of a photographic chamber with a beautiful and suggestive name.
MIGUEL CERECEDA, ABC, supplement to ABC Cultural, February 2nd, 2018, Print edition.