Ingrid Koenig, Artist – Vancouver
Ingrid Koenig is Artist in Residence at TRIUMF (Canada’s particle accelerator centre) and co-organizes processes of collaboration between artists and physicists. Her studio practice traverses the fields of physics, social history, feminist theory, and narratives of science through visual art and relational projects. She is the recipient of grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Goethe Institute, and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council. The latter was co-awarded for the project Leaning Out of Windows – Art + Physics Collaborations Through Aesthetic Transformations (2016-2020). Koenig’s current solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Navigating the Uncertainty Principle, is presented across the gallery’s Nelson Street façade.
TRIUMF is home to a large cyclotron that accelerates 1000 trillion particles per second to 75% the speed of light. Its beams of protons collide with heavy elements, breaking them into smaller isotopes that are led to experimental halls to replicate epic events like supernovas where new elements are created. In doing this, scientists work to understand the origins of the universe.
This research creation project explores how knowledge might be translated across the disciplinary communities of art and physics in order to develop a shared understanding of the cosmos. My co-investigator Randy Lee Cutler and I have curated over fifty Canadian artists across disciplines, with topics addressing Antimatter, and then Emergence, in relation to the large research questions that occupy physicists globally.
We move in relation to everything else. The Earth rotates, orbits, as does our galaxy, moving towards the Great Attractor, which moves with the expansion of the universe, and all is moving relative to the cosmic background radiation originating since the Big Bang (creating spacetime). What then is our own velocity as individuals moving through spacetime, relatively speaking? Physicist Carlo Rovelli says the world is not made up of things, but events or processes. Everything is in a constant state of transformation: “things that are most ‘thinglike’ are nothing more than long events.”
In 2019 I joined The Arctic Circle art and science residency in the international territory of Svalbard. Thinking about temporality, spinning in place at the pole, I considered how complex assemblages of material systems affect one’s sense of spacetime. Glaciers are the flow of time and are termed climate archives because they provide information about past climates. This area is more than 1 billion years old, but the oldest rocks in Svalbard are 3.3 billion years old. About 40% of total ice volume has been lost within a century. This loss has only accelerated in recent years.
I’m always curious to visit natural history museums when travelling. My mother told me she had a tapeworm as a child growing up in rural Romania, and when she “extruded” it after drinking vinegar, they slung it along a fence. According to biologist Clair Folsome: “If all the cells of your body, flesh, and bones were removed, what would remain would be a ghostly image, the skin outlined by a shimmer of bacteria, fungi, round worms, pin worms, and various other microbial inhabitants. The gut would appear as a densely packed tube of anaerobic and aerobic bacteria, yeasts, and other microorganisms. Could one look in more detail, viruses of hundreds of kinds would be apparent throughout all tissues.”