'The Weight of Fire' Research & Inspiration
The following relates to the works that appear in the Codagraphs #1 gallery
The concept behind The Weight of Fire codagraphs evolved in the Tramuntana mountains near Deia, Mallorca, and grew out of extensive research and experimentation. Inspired by the environment and the extraordinary energy of the untamed forests, mountains and ocean surrounding my home and studio, I began a study of some of the leading figures from the worlds of science and philosophy, whose work has advanced our knowledge of the mysterious primal forces of nature.
Though it would ultimately occupy two full years, I embarked on this journey without a clear path or goal, and trusted in instinct to lead me where I needed to go. Metamorphosis has often been at the heart of my work, and I soon found myself drawn to those figures whose ideas took shape as they crossed boundaries [often breaking with the accepted codes and conventions of their time]. I then pieced together a sort of rough timeline that detailed their impact on our understanding of the universe and the 'natural' order of things.
The giants were there of course, Pythagoras, Archimedes, Einstein, Newton, but so were individuals that hitherto - due to my lack of formal education in the sciences - I'd had no previous knowledge of: Lavoisier, Leeuwenhoek, and Emilie du Chatelet to name but a few. I was also reading as much as I could about more recent developments in the related fields - the works of James Lovelock and Stephen Hawking for example - and the visionary ideas of the man who might well be called the world's first environmentalist: the forester and natural-scientist Viktor Schauberger. If his concepts and philosophy about 'living energy' had been embraced by the mainstream a hundred years ago, we might not be facing the environmental crisis we are today.
There is however progress. The environment is now front page news, and though we in the industrialised world have been marching out of step with Nature for far too long, it is not too late to stop, to forge a different path and redress the balance. To achieve that we need a new vision. We need as Schauberger said: 'To comprehend and copy Nature', rather than to blindly strip-mine her assets. And to do that, we first need to look more closely at the world we inhabit. That is exactly what my codagraphs are intended to represent: A glimpse of the essence of things; the magic, mystery, beauty and diversity of the fabric of existence.
For almost two decades now, our mutable relationship with the natural world has been the focus of my work as both an artist and writer, and The Weight of Fire codagraphs are my homage to some of the visionaries, whose insights have helped to inform and guide me along the road to a clearer understanding.
I hope that these original works stand alone, and can be enjoyed simply for their aesthetic value, but for those who wish to delve a little deeper, the following text [which accompanied the codagraphs when they were first exhibited] should give a little more insight into their genesis.
SDE Jan 2007
THE PRESENCE OF OCCAM'S RAZOR IN THE CASE OF ALBERT E.
Occam’s Razor is a principle attributed to the 14th century logician William of Ockham, and forms the basis of methodological reductionism, also called the law of economy [the simplest explanation is often the best].
The inspiration for the form of this codagraph can be found, in a literal sense, in Einstein’s Field Equation, a differential equation in Einstein’s theory of general relativity. It is a dynamical equation which describes how matter and energy change the curved geometry of spacetime.
In a rather more oblique way, the subtext, and the title, are also linked to Einstein’s philosophy and spirituality. In his essay
[reprinted in 1931] in Living Philosophies he wrote: “… A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms
are accessible to our minds – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity…”
In his later years, Einstein was offered the presidency of Israel but declined. As Hawking wrote, his reason was clear and simple: ‘… politics is for the present, but an equation is something for eternity...’
The first work I created in this series, the idea for this codagraph developed as I built a fire at El Niu de L’oronella, the costal retreat
in the Tramuntana mountains of Mallorca, that I moved to with my family, in the autumn of 2002, after six months living in the village of Valldemossa.
Mediterranean storms can whip up very quickly, and with great force, and the gale force winds that swept through the surrounding pine forest and battered our storm shutters that night, had a very dramatic effect on the flames curling from the burning logs in our fireplace; I set aside the research I’d been engaged with to photograph their movement.
I’d been grappling with Stephen Hawking’s book A Brief History of Time, and his explanation of the definition of a singularity:
“… At that time we call the big bang, the density of the universe and the curvature of space-time would have been infinite. Because
mathematics cannot really handle infinite numbers, this means that the general theory of relativity predicts that there is a point in the
universe where the theory itself breaks down. Such a point is anexample of what mathematicians called a singularity. In fact, all our theories of science are formulated on the assumption that space-time is smooth and nearly flat, so they break down at the space-time singularity, where the curvature of space time is infinite… “
Though many of The Weight of Fire works that were to follow have a greater sense of depth to them, the goal as this piece developed, was to capture that notion of the smooth, nearly flat curvature of space-time,coupled with the vibrant colours and movement of the flames to represent the big bang/singularity.
SPONTANEOUS SYMMETRY BREAKING
Spontaneous symmetry breaking occurs in physics when a system that is symmetric goes into a vacuum state that is not symmetric. At this point the system no longer appears to behave in a symmetric manner. It is a phenomenon that
occurs in many situations. It can be discrete, such as the space group of a crystal or continuous such as the rotational symmetry of space.
In harmony with the basic concept, I began with a large symmetrical spiral built with flat stones. As the work progressed, I then began to factor in distortion, finally placing the image off-centre, floating in a dark vacuum like
In the early 1990’s, Russian materials scientist Dr Evgeny Podkletnov claimed to have discovered a ‘gravity-shielding’ effect whilst working –
with a team of researchers at Tampere University of Technology in Finland - on experiments with spinning ceramic superconductors, cooled with liquefied gas, that were suspended in the magnetic field of three electric coils.
In Nick Cook’s book The Hunt for Zero Point, he records how Podkletnov accounts for the discovery: “… someone in the laboratory was smoking a pipe and the pipe smoke rose in a column above the superconducting disc. So we placed a ball-shaped magnet above the disc, attached to a balance. The balance behaved strangely. We substituted a non-magnetic material, silicon, and still the balance was very strange. We found that any object placed above the disc lost some of its weight, and we found that if we rotated the disc, the effect was increased…”
Further tests with a mercury barometer allegedly demonstrated that the gravity reduction did not diminish with distance. The 4mm drop in air pressure registered over the superconductor, could be found on the floor above the laboratory at the point at which the experiment was taking
place below. Podkletnov’s gravity shield went on, extending upward in a 30cm diameter column, forever.
FOR EMILIE DU CHATELET [1706 -1749]
A passionate and wildly independent free spirit, Emilie du Chatelat was one the great mathematicians of the 18th century who defied
the strict conventions of her time to devote her short life, and apply her innate talent and brilliant mind, to the advance of scientific
Her text Institutions du Physique, and her translation of Isaac Newton’s Principia are classics of their kind. The codagraph is inspired by Emilie’s interest in the nature of energy and velocity, and the experiments of the Dutch researcher s’Gravesande.
The ovoid – a recurring theme – appears once again, and Emilie’s premature demise [at the age of 43] as a result of childbirth, is represented by the translucent womb like body of the composition.
Her lover, the celebrated writer Voltaire, wrote on her passing: “… I have lost the half of myself – a soul for which mine was made…”
The inspiration for this work can be traced back to Nick Cook’s book The Hunt for Zero Point. The title relates to the codename given to a device that was central to a series of highly secret experiments that took place in a specially designed chamber, deep inside the Wenceslas Mine, Ludwigsdorf, Poland, back in
The experiments involved a mysterious bell-shaped device comprising of two contra-rotating cylinders filled with a liquid [thought to be mercury], that emitted a strange pale blue light. It is thought that the experiments related to an investigation [radical even today] into torsion fields, and the arcane properties
of space-time. “… if you generate a torsion field of sufficient magnitude the theory says you can bend the four dimensions of space around the generator. The more torsion you generate, the more space you perturb… when you bend space, you also bend time…”
Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier is often referred to as the father of modern chemistry; his experiments and theories revolutionised
18th century classical chemistry. The title of the codagraph alludes to Lavoisier’s last moments; he was a victim of the French Revolution, who was tried, convicted and executed all on the same day.
An appeal to spare his life on the grounds that his work was some of the most important of the age was met with scorn by the judge
who declared: “… The Republic has no need of geniuses… “.
Lavoisier remained a scientist to the last, and legend has it, that he arranged with an assistant to observe his severed head after he had been guillotined, to see whether [and for how long] his brain would still function. He would blink as many times as he could to signal consciousness. Though many are sceptical [and there is no Empirical evidence] it is said that he blinked up to 20 times.
The mathematician Lagrange lamented his passing: “… It took them only an instant to cut of that head, but France may not produce another like it in a century.
18 months after his execution, the French Government admitted that Lavoisier had been falsely convicted and he was posthumously exonerated.
THE SPHERE OF 'sGRAVESANDE
Author of The Mathematical Element of Physics, the Dutchman Willem Jacob ‘sGravesande was a practising lawyer, who was made Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at Leiden University in the Netherlands in 1717, and later became Professor of Philosophy. He taught and wrote many lectures on Newtonian science which he
would illustrate with physics experiments such as the ‘Ball and Ring’ experiment which he designed to show the effect of heat on metal,
and ‘Falling Bodies’ where he utilised spherical weights dropped on to a soft clay floor to investigate the properties of mass, energy and velocity.
Viktor Schauberger was a visionary Austrian inventor, natural scientist and pioneering environmentalist, who made important discoveries in various fields of research including forestry, hydraulic agriculture and free energy. His institute, the Pythagorus-Kepler-School, in Lauffen, near Salzburg, is so named,
as the harmonic theories of Pythagorus and the work of astronomer Johannes Kepler were a source of great inspiration to him.
As a young man Schauberger worked as a forester in the Alps and his acute observations of his surroundings and our place within the eco-system were to influence his life’s work Schauberger believed that the vortex – visible all around us from whirlpools, spiral galaxies, and the double helix of a DNA strand – is the most efficient conduit for the transmission of energy.
My codagraph is a homage to Schauberger’s maxim:
To Comprehend and Copy Nature, and I also worked from an entry in his personal diary – dated August 14th 1936: “… I stand face-to-face with the apparent void, the compression of dematerialization that we are wont to call a vacuum. I can see now that we are able to create anything we wish for ourselves
out of this nothing… “
LAVOISIER & THE LAW OF CONSERVATION OF MATTER
Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier’s body of work included some of the first truly quantitative chemical experiments ever performed. He showed that although matter changes its state in a chemical reaction, the quantity of matter
remains constant. He burned phosphorus and sulphur in air and proved that although the products weighed more, the weight gained was lost from the air. This provided clear evidence of the law of the conservation ofmatter.
Pondering the notion that matter and energy cannot be destroyed but shift from one state to another, this piece is intended to give form to that moment of metamorphosis.
In his book on Viktor Schauberger – entitled Living Energies – author Callum Coats writes: “… If one observes the Universe as a whole, i.e. from Big Bang to Black Hole, a form of motion
is evident that Schauberger called ‘cycloid-spiral-space-curve-motion’. He also referred to it as a ‘form creating dynamic’…
… The very word Universe signifies a single curve [uni=one, versum=curve] This curve is an energy path and the essence of energy is ceaseless movement; in its eternal trajectory from spirit to matter and from matter to spirit it permeates all creation.
THE NUMBER E
e is a ‘real number constant’ that appears in certain mathematical problems, such as those involving growth or decay and the statistical ‘bell curve’, all of which were factors in the inspiration for this piece.
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
This work is Inspired by the work of Canadian inventor John Hutchison, who is credited with the discovery of a highly-anomalous electromagnetic effect, said to cause levitation of objects, spontaneous fracturing of metals,
and the fusion of materials such as wood and metal. Though many in the scientific community doubt the validity of his claims, Hutchison’s work has been funded by the likes of aerospace giants Boeing and McDonnell Douglas.
LOOKING FOR LEEUWENHOEK
In the biography Leeuwenhoek’s Legacy, Brian J Ford explainsthat the Dutchman Anton van Leeuwenhoek was the man who – in the 17th century – launched the modern era of microscopy.
Though he had no formal training in the field, Leeuwenhoek - inspired by a draper’s glass used to examine fabrics - taught himself new methods for grinding and polishing tiny curved lenses which produced magnifications on a scale which had never been seen before.
As a result, Leeuwenhoek was the first to see and describe bacteria and his studies of blood, sperm cells and aquatic microbes created the science of microbiology. He recorded his
findings in careful detail, writing hundreds of letters to the Royal Society of London.
His work was widely undervalued. Many specimens that he prepared were neglected for centuries, and some in the scientific community disputed his claims, arguing that his primitive equipment would not have enabled him to see some of the
elements he described.
The codagraph Looking for Leeuwenhoek and its companion piece Looking for Leeuwenhoek #ii are intended to echo the theme of that debate, and the ‘blue triangle’ casting a shadow relates to the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who believed that the core of the physical world was mathematical, and that the triangle represented the primary nature of all things.
HARVEST IN THE TORSION FIELD
Quantum Mechanics began in Germany with the work of Nobel Prize winning physicist Max Born, and it was a series of experiments based on quantum theory [utilising Viktor Schauberger’s Die Glocke device], that were the inspiration for this work which represents the magnetic field separation and vortex compression that were said to have been caused by the influence of a torsion field.
Chronos was the personification of Time in Greek mythology. Part homage to sculptor Brancusi, whose work The Beginning of the World features a smooth white marble form reflected in the disc of shiny steel that it rests on, this work is also a reflection on space and time - with the ovoid acting as a symbol of ourexistence within it – and the possibility of the existence of
multi-dimensions that we are not yet aware of.
In the introduction to Monadology, published in 1720, the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz wrote “… the soul is the mirror of an indestructible universe… “ A deeply religious
man, Leibniz was also an accomplished mathematician – his work rivals that of Newton – and he was one of the last great polymaths; a citizen of the whole world of intellectual inquiry, who despite his lack of qualifications, ignored the boundaries between the established disciplines and contributed fresh and important insights into a number of different fields as a result.
Like Pythagoras and the astronomer Kepler before him, Leibniz believed that our world had been created by the hand of God according to a mathematical plan, and Leibniz saw the cross
fertilisation of ideas – philosophy,mathematics, metaphysics,astronomy etc., as essential to the advance of our understanding of our place in the universe.
AT THE SHORE OF THE DIRAC SEA
When a plaque commemorating the life and work of the British Noble Prize winning physicist Paul Dirac was unveiled at Westminster Abbey in 1995, Lucasian Professor Stephen Hawking summed up Dirac’s contribution to science…
“… Dirac has done more than anyone this century with the exception of Einstein, to advance physics and change our picture of the universe…”
In 1928, Dirac combined the theories of quantum mechanics and special relativity. The resulting Dirac Equation was able to explain the mysterious magnetic and spin properties of the electron. Two years later, he formulated a theoretical model of the vacuum as an infinite sea of particles possessing negative energy; this became known as the Dirac Sea.
Dirac saw something that wasn’t there, something no-one else could see; it took shape in his imagination, and he gave it form. That was the theme that inspired this work, and the title At The Shore of the Dirac Sea, is intended to invoke the sense of a literal ocean, deep and uncharted, its waves lapping at the shore where the physicist stood.
The ovoid, or egg shape – a powerful symbol of new life and rebirth in many ancient cultures can be readily identified in the codagraph, but returning to the oceanic analogy, I was also drawn to the Syngnathidae family, in particular the seahorse, and their strange, mysterious, foetal like forms, as a touchstone for giving shape to the birth of Dirac’s visionary ideas.
As a finishing touch, I painted Dirac’s Field Equation on the reverse of the picture to echo the theme that some things are not visible to us, even though we know they exist.