Dark Matters : An investigation into thresholds of (im)perceptibilty through cosmology, art and social science was 1 year project funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Science in Culture Innovation Award.
The project was led by Dr Rebecca Ellis, anthropologist of science, in collaboration with Dr Kostas Dimopoulos, theoretical cosmologist and Sarah Casey between 2014-2015.
This project was about radical imperceptibility. More specifically, it is about the provocations and challenges presented to theoretical cosmology, fine art and anthropology of science, by entities, forces and dimensions that currently (or perhaps will always) exceed human and technological modes of sensing and comprehension.
Encounters at the thresholds of human understanding, sensing, knowing, or the possibilities of relationship with the nonhuman - and the vulnerability and exhilaration that these cause - were intrinsic to the project's methodology. On the one hand, claims from cosmology that 95% of the universe is made up of invisible dark matter and dark energy, or that it is possible to mathematically predict the existence of many more dimensions than we are aware of in our known and knowable universe, presents immediate challenges for all three disciplines as they play at the limits of sensibility and relationality with regards to human to nonhuman encounter. How to think and practice with these provocations? On the other hand a different set of challenges are inevitably posed by the complexities and endless possibilities for (mis)understandings by interdisciplinary conversation.
For the theoretical cosmologist, when faced with the imperceptible, the imperative is to produce and contest evidence - to ultimately reveal the imperceptible or negotiate the status of the role of speculation. For the anthropologist, the category of the imperceptible provokes a questioning and further pushing of the limits of human subjectivity, experience and sensibility in relation to the inhumanly (un)manifest.
For the artist, the interest lies in interrogating thresholds between the seen and unseen, known, unknown and unknowable, through art practice to enable critical and poetic reflection.